from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A typewriter is a manually or electromechanically powered device that is used to write text with print types and to display it primarily on paper . A keyboard is primarily used to select and print the characters . However, some early models did not have the usual keypad, but a pointer with which the letter or number before the touch of just one key on a scale was selected. In her late form as " writing machine " is the forerunner of the typewriter a computer whose keyboard layoutlargely corresponds to that of the typewriter and in which many of the functions known from typewriting have been taken over for modern word processing .

Mechanical typewriter "Lettera 22" from Olivetti, design by Marcello Nizzoli , ribbon switching (black and red)

Structure and functions

Type lever typewriter, schematic.
Type lever gear (e.g. Wagner gear: button lever A, intermediate lever B, type lever C).
Ribbon D; Platen E, writing paper F.
Frame G ( pivot joints of the levers and the platen)

The essential parts of an old hand-operated type lever typewriter are (see also the adjacent figure)

  • the type lever gear, z. B. the Wagner gear :
    • the button levers A,
    • the intermediate lever B (on newer type lever typewriters the double joints to and from the intermediate lever are replaced by two pull wires with two simple swivel joints each: pull wire gear ),
    • the type carrier or type lever C,
  • the ribbon D,
  • the rotatable and transversely movable platen E.

Types C hit the ink ribbon D and the paper F held on the platen E. Several copies of a document ( carbon copies) are made using carbon paper between several inserted sheets of paper. After every keystroke (including that of the space bar) the movement of the paper carrier carriage with the roller is triggered by one writing step to the left. The carriage is pulled by a spring, which the operator tensions again when the carriage is returned to the beginning of the line. At the same time, the roller is turned one line step further with the line switch (lever on the left of the carriage). These movements, which are carried out by hand, also include switching from lower case to upper case letters, whereby the entire carriage is often lifted in order to bring the writing point in front of the corresponding type.

In electromechanical typewriters, the movement of the key levers is supported by an electric motor; In electronically controlled typewriters, keys instead of key levers only serve as a trigger ( switch ). The selection of the print type and the stop are effected by electric motors .

The electrification of the typewriter encouraged the use of new type carriers as variants of the type lever.

The type cylinder was already used in hand-operated typewriters (1893, called the Blickensderfer type wheel by the manufacturer ). It became the forerunner of the ball head . The last variant of the carrier uniting all types of printing on one body is the particularly light type wheel . Its application meant that the transverse movement of the cylinder (from right to left), which had already been omitted in some ball-head typewriters, became the standard in electromechanical typewriters. The corresponding writing unit moves transversely (from left to right) with the type carrier.

History of the typewriter

Developing writing-machine , a panel on the Olympia office machines Werke AG Erfurt with historical machines

18th century: a first patent

The first known description of a typewriter is found in a patent issued to Henry Mill in 1714 . The patent is about a machine or artificial method of "printing letters progressively one after the other as if writing, and so clearly and precisely that you cannot distinguish them from letter printing." In addition, what is written is deeper and more stable than any other Writing. It cannot be erased or falsified without leaving a recognizable trace. Technical details are not mentioned; it is uncertain whether the machine was built.

19th century: first working devices

Several experiments that have become known show that the time was ripe for the invention of the typewriter. The endeavor to “enable the blind to write as well as reading” also contributed to the courage to innovate. A forerunner of such a blind machine by the English engineer Jenkins has been preserved.

The first working typewriter was probably the one that the Italian Pellegrino Turri made in 1808 for the blind Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano. A letter dated October 8, 1808, written with this machine, has been preserved and shows that it was written with colored paper and type printing.

In 1821 Karl Drais built a machine called a writing piano for his blind father , which presumably embossed letters into a strip of paper and already had a keyboard. He chose a button for each of the 25 letters, which he arranged in a five by five square. The paper was wound up on a roller with a clockwork and pulled through the typewriter (his creation by the way). Writing samples have not been preserved. Later, when his father could see halfway again, Drais constructed a so-called high-speed typewriter, which was intended as a switchable typewriter / steno machine and punched a punched tape in spiked font. It had 16 buttons in a 4 × 4 arrangement, some of them doubly occupied.

Type levers are first known from a typewriter by the French Xavier Progin from 1832. They were attached together in a so-called lever basket and printed like stamps on the flat paper.

Up to the 40 years later Remington typewriter, however, type rods were predominantly used, for example with Charles Thurber and the blind Pierre Foucauld, both in 1843.

Léon Foucault , known for his pendulum experiment , built a typewriter in 1855.

From 1864 on, the Tyrolean Peter Mitterhofer built various typewriter models out of wood.

The last of the 1838-1884 by Italian Giuseppe Ravizza typewriters built had many characteristics of the later long-time dominant type bar typewriter : circular type lever basket, paper cylinder with a partially visible when writing font, type guide, carriage return, coloring the types by a running between two coils ribbon switch between lower and upper case letters and key arrangement according to frequency of use.

The first typewriter manufactured in large numbers, the Skrivekugle or writing ball, was built by Pastor Rasmus Malling-Hansen - the director of a Danish deaf-mute institute - in 1865. The approximately 50 type rods, guided in a spherical cap, were individually pressed down against spring force to the common pressure point in the center of the sphere (similar to earlier with Pierre Foucauld). The first models were partially electrified (carriage movement). Malling-Hansen's most famous customer was the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche . A total of around 300 of these machines are said to have been sold.

A typewriter designed by Carlos Glidden and Christopher Latham Sholes turned out to be the most useful up to that point. It was patented on June 23, 1868 (US Patent 79265). It was sold under the names Sholes-Glidden and Milwaukee from 1870 to 1873 and was mass-produced by the US rifle factory Remington & Sons (later Remington Rand ) from 1876 onwards. In 1878 Remington No. 2 appeared with a switch between uppercase and lowercase letters and an automatically transported ribbon. Like the previous model, it had a QWERTY keyboard layout . After eliminating the initial susceptibility to failure and making several design improvements and extensions (tab, interchangeable trolley, etc.), Remington typewriters became a natural aid in all writing rooms in North America from around 1885.

From 1893 - the Wagner gear

In 1893, the German designer Franz Xaver Wagner, who emigrated to the USA , patented a type lever typewriter with immediately visible writing. Together with his son Hermann, Wagner invented, among other things, the segment (type lever suspension) and the intermediate lever. Together, these components form what is known as the Wagner gearbox , which still defines the basic functionality of a lever type typewriter to this day. The patent for this new machine was filed on July 7, 1897 by Hermann and Franz Xaver Wagner and patented in 1899 under the number 633672 for the entrepreneur John T. Underwood .

Underwood was a manufacturer of inks and ribbons at the time. When he wanted to present his products at Remington, he was told succinctly that Remington made ribbons himself. Underwood replied that he would then continue to manufacture typewriters himself. The machine was developed according to the Wagners' patents and manufactured and sold by the "Wagner Typewriter Company" , which was taken over by Underwood. Only a short time later, Underwood renamed the company "Underwood Typewriter Company" . In particular with the model No. 5 from 1900, Underwood had great success in the United States. With its design, the machine set the standard for all subsequent machines from other manufacturers worldwide. In 1920 over 50 percent of all Underwood typewriters sold in the United States were.

The other major typewriter manufacturer "Smith Premier" was very successful with the Type 10 from 1889 to 1908. These typewriters were characterized by the fact that they had no shift key, but a "full keyboard", a so-called "full keyboard" (double keypad). The capital letters were arranged above the small ones. The Type 10 was also successful in Germany. A big advantage was the small number of keystrokes required to set the fairly light levers in motion. The emerging tactile writing ( ten-finger system ) ended the success of the full keyboard, which the German manufacturer Frister & Roßmann also used until 1904.

Oskar Picht invented in 1899 the first usable German Blind typewriter with braille .

1902 appeared in the USA with the Blickensderfer Electric, the first electric typewriter, a design by the native German George Blickensderfer. However, it was unable to establish itself on the market, although the technology was decades ahead of the competition. Presumably it failed because there was no uniform mains voltage in the various US states or because some places did not have electricity at all . The Blickensderfer from 1893, weighing just 3 kg, was much more successful. This machine had an exchangeable type roller (similar in shape to the later IBM spherical head from 1962) so that a wide variety of fonts could be used.

Between 1903 and 1933 AEG built 350,000 Mignon type pointer typewriters . With her, a pointer was moved over a tableau to the desired letter with her left hand and the typing key was struck with her right hand to make an impression on the paper.

In 1906, Edward B. Hess varied the Wagner type lever gear (Wagner gearbox) by inserting a pull wire as an intermediate link between the key lever and the intermediate lever and between the intermediate lever and the type lever. Wagner had implemented the transmission between the levers with a double joint (pin rotating and sliding in a fork). From then on, the Hess version was used almost unchanged in almost all lever type typewriters and after the Second World War it was used exclusively. It required less force to strike and accelerated the type lever the closer it got to the point of impact. Accordingly, it fell back more quickly after the impact in the upper area, so that the type levers hardly collided even at high writing speed. The system was patented on June 11, 1907 under number 856870 for the Royal Typewriter Company of New Jersey and was first used in the Royal 1 .

In the period from around 1890 to 1920 there were various attempts at pneumatic typewriters, with which the force required for typing should be reduced by using compressed air . Among other things, Marshal A. Weird presented a model in London in 1892  which, instead of a keyboard, had 30 small rubber balls arranged in three rows and provided with characters. A rubber tube led from each of these rubber balls to a cylinder in which a type piston was located. The type was moved against the paper by pressing the rubber ball. But despite the relatively low price, it did not establish itself on the market. A serious disadvantage was the low speed of the pistons. You couldn't reprint a certain type in quick succession. Since 1898 Max Soblik experimented with a pneumatic type wheel typewriter. As the type wheel turned rapidly, air flowed from a small opening in the keys. If the scribe put a finger on such an opening, the air was compressed and the type impact triggered. In 1912 the system was patented for Soblik Schreibmaschinen GmbH in Düsseldorf. However, it did not go into series production. The company ceased to exist around 1920. Around 1900, the typewriter J. P. Moser from St. Johann an der Saar also worked on a pneumatic typewriter with rubber balls, which, however, should not be pressed directly, but rather lie under the keys of a keyboard with 14 black and 15 white keys . The idea did not materialize.

By 1910 there were more than a hundred typewriter factories in the United States. From Dresden came from Seidel & Naumann with the Erika No. 1 the first German portable typewriter.

In 1921 the Mercedes Elektra by Carl Schlüns (1870–1936) appeared on the German market , a mechanically driven typewriter with an electric motor flanged to the side. There was also a version of this machine that had a pulley instead of the motor to enable it to be driven via a ceiling transmission (mostly powered by a steam engine). The noise in writing rooms with over 50 such machines was considerable. The resourceful manufacturer bought the rights to use the name Mercedes for his typewriter from the automobile manufacturer Mercedes-Benz , in the hope that the name alone, which at that time already stood for quality and robustness, would suggest a particularly valuable machine to the buyer having acquired.

From 1929 there were India rubber keys, two-tone pressed rubber caps that were placed on the keys to protect the fingertips.

Up until the 1930s, typewriters had keys made from a circular sheet metal plate, over which there was a piece of thin cardboard with the capital letter or the two characters on the type, on top of which was a thin piece of transparent plastic, such as celluloid, framed with a slightly protruding sheet metal ring made of metal.

After 1945 - ball head and other innovations

Small improvements have always been made over time. Most of the great innovations after World War II came from IBM . In 1947, for example, the IBM Executive was the first typewriter with proportional font . Typically, typewriter font is a non-proportional font , which means that each letter has the same width. The control of constant steps in a line simplifies the construction effort. For this, the narrow letters like the i were artificially widened with serifs . In the 1960s, Olivetti brought a type lever proportional font machine onto the market (with which even a block type can be generated semi-automatically ).

In 1950, in the USA, the multi-component injection molding process was used for the first time to manufacture solid, two-tone typewriter keys. In contrast to printed buttons, the cast, deep lettering does not wear out.

In 1962, IBM began selling the first typewriter with a ball head , the IBM 72 , and thus brought out a machine with a largely new design principle. When the IBM patent for the ball-head principle expired and other manufacturers (such as Triumph-Adler with the SE-1000 ) were also able to bring ball-head typewriters onto the market, the latter was no longer very receptive to ball-head machines. There were now typewriters with a type wheel.

At the end of the 1960s , carbon ribbons were also used in addition to conventional textile colored ribbons . These carbon- coated foils offered a uniform and sharp imprint with high color density, but with the disadvantage that only a relatively few pages could be written with such a tape. Their additional advantage was that they could be used to directly write on printing foils for office offset printing , which, compared to transfer printing and stencil printing, enabled better quality mass prints.

For these foil tapes, IBM developed machines "with a correction key" (top right on the keyboard, with a St. Andrew's cross in a square). This key led the writing mechanism back and activated a narrower, only single-track correction tape for a stop, which was led in front of the ink ribbon. When the wrong character was automatically repeated, it was lifted up and the color lifted off the paper or covered up the error.

The 1980s - combination with an electronic calculator

Typewriter robotron S 1001 of the manufacturer VEB Robotron-Elektronik from the GDR , inventory of the MEK

The development of the typewriter came to an end in the 1980s. Keyboard and writing unit were separated from each other by an electronic digital computer with electronic text memory . A screen was also added on which the entered text and any text that was corrected and changed (e.g. formatted ) by automatic word processing could be seen. Since the typeface with types continued to be used, the typeface produced with this typewriter combination was better than that of the matrix printers used at the time for the already existing electronic data processing . These advanced machines were designed for professional writing; they were too expensive for private use. In the meantime, conventional typewriters had become inexpensive thanks to the use of plastic for many components and the inclusion of electronics.

Many manufacturers began to consider ecological aspects in the manufacture and use of the typewriter. In the early 1990s, used ribbon cartridges were disposed of with household waste. Then began z. B. Triumph-Adler selling ribbon cartridges that could be returned to Triumph-Adler free of charge after they were used up. Housing parts for a special model of the electronic portable typewriter "Gabriele 100" were made from this.

The 21st century

At the beginning of 2003, the typewriter was out of the consumer price index painted after they almost completely by computer -controlled printer had been displaced.

In addition to the Twen typewriters from Triumph-Adler, there were only typewriters from the Japanese manufacturer Brother for a long time . The last LW series typewriter built, the Brother LW-840ic, was inferior to a computer in only a few ways: it was, so to speak, a laptop computer with an integrated inkjet printer .

Because of the spread of the personal computer (including printer) there is hardly any demand for new typewriters. Olympia only reported sales of 8,000 electric typewriters in Germany in 2013.

In 2015, Shanghai Weilv Mechanism Co. was the world's last manufacturer of mechanical typewriters.

List of typewriter manufacturers

The order of the listing is alphabetical and does not reflect the importance of the manufacturer on the German market. The names in brackets are individual names of typewriters or model series. A large part of the German brands were only produced until the end of the Second World War or shortly afterwards.

Different constructions

The following, incomplete presentation is arranged chronologically as far as possible.

Bumper typewriter

The first typewriters were probably bumper typewriters (eg. As the Schreibclavier of Drais , 1821). The use of type levers only began later ( Xavier Progin , 1832). The types are attached to the tip of a rod that is pushed against the paper. In the case of the writing piano , they were moved upwards; in later, push-type typewriters built parallel to type lever machines , they were moved horizontally.

The disadvantage is the "shifting" opening of the types that are on the left and right edge. The further the corresponding type bar is from the center, the more unclean the print. With this technique, only the types in the middle hit the platen vertically.

Several typewriters built according to this principle come from Adlerwerke ( formerly Heinrich Kleyer AG ). They were modeled on the Canadian "Empire" by Wellington Parker Kidder and, due to their low profile, could also be used as portable typewriters ("Klein-Adler 2").

Pointer typewriter (index typewriter)

This type of typewriter was built and sold as an inexpensive variant parallel to the type lever machines. Instead of many type lever mechanisms, only a single compact type carrier was used: a type cylinder ( Mignon ) or a type wheel.

The character is selected with a pointer on an index (field with characters to be printed) and then struck with a dedicated button or lever.

A special case is the Swiss Saturn machine , which came onto the market after the Velograph in 1897. This machine is equipped with type levers (lower surcharge), but the selection of the relevant letter is made via an index.

The model for the compact type carrier was the type roller in Blickensderfer Electric from 1903 (the manufacturer referred to this roller as the type wheel ).

Type lever typewriter

Underwood typewriter No. 5, 1900, clearly visible: "Segment" with the type levers

The type lever typewriter was essentially shaped by the invention of the Wagner gear (patent from 1893 for Franz Xaver Wagner ) as a type lever mechanism and its first use in a typewriter from the manufacturer John T. Underwood . As a result, the writing could now be seen while writing. In the Underwood typewriter, the later standard circular segment-shaped component for suspending the type lever, the so-called "segment", was also found for the first time.

Type lever typewriter with electric drive

In an electrically powered typewriter, the keystroke is supported by a motor. This reduces the effort required to write, and the type lever hits with a predetermined, even force, which leads to an almost even typeface.

Another major advantage is the lower key depth. The electrically driven typewriter only differs from the hand-operated type lever typewriter in the following three features:


A shaft lying transversely in the machine is driven by the electric motor. Pressing a write button no longer acts directly on the type lever, but triggers a drive lever that is brought up to the shaft and taken along by it. The drive lever acts on an intermediate lever which, with the help of a pull wire, moves the type lever to the tee. Immediately afterwards, the drive lever disengages and falls back into its starting position.

Originally, a toothed shaft (a very wide spur gear ) was used, which formed a form fit with the intermediate lever . Later they switched to a smooth rubber roller, which forms a frictional connection with the intermediate lever . Although this type of construction is more susceptible to wear and maintenance, it allows the appropriate stop force to be set separately for each individual type lever. The punctuation mark “point”, for example, does not have to be hit with the same force as the letter “W” in order to produce an imprint with the same density of color on the paper.

IBM electric typewriter from the 1950s.
The electric drive can only be recognized from the outside by the carriage return button (on the right with a large arrow pointing to the right).

Some keys, such as the hyphen and the underscore as a toggled character, but also "double line", "point" and "X" can be pressed a little deeper against a slight resistance behind the normally defined pressure point of the key and thus trigger an automatic repeat stroke ( Permanent function).

More expensive models also have a key lock, which prevents two type levers from being hit at the same time and thus both from jamming. If a key is pressed, the entire rest of the keyboard is blocked for one revolution of the drive roller.

Carriage return

The carriage return is also driven by a motor. For this purpose, upon actuation of the first existing in this type of machine Return key triggered a clutch instead of hand-driven carriage return lever that retracts the car with engine power and a line feed takes place. In terms of its function, this key corresponds to the return or enter key used on computer keyboards in use today.


Switching between upper and lower case letters is also supported by a motor in the electric models.

Ball head typewriter

The further development of the electrically driven type lever typewriter led to the electrically driven typewriter with a ball head as a compact type carrier. The written characters are in a plurality of superimposed circles on the circumference of a ball ring disposed. To select a character, the head is rotated around the ring axis and tilted between the type circles. Each key triggers the selection movements for the corresponding type. To print, the very light ball head is hit against the platen with the stretched paper and the ribbon over it .

The ball head was developed from the short type cylinder used by Blickensderfer for the first time in 1893 (then called type wheel ) for a typewriter introduced by IBM (Selectric typewriter) in 1961 . Because of the relatively small mass of the ball head, it was also possible for the first time in this typewriter to move the types instead of the platen in the direction of the lines.

IBM ball-head typewriter:
The cap with the red locking lever can be seen from the ball head.

A technical advantage over the lever type typewriter was the typing comfort. Since there were no longer any type levers, they could not get caught in each other if you wrote too hastily. Letters that the writing mechanism did not immediately print were stored mechanically so that writing could continue while the writing mechanism was reversing. The compact design with a movable writing unit instead of a paper carrier enabled the use of ribbon cassettes, which were very easy to insert. In addition to fabric color ribbons, carbon ribbons could be used, which enabled an evenly deep black typeface. Due to the fixed paper carrier (platen) instead of the so-called carriage, the space requirement was less than with conventional typewriters.

Another advantage was the very easily exchangeable ball head. For the first time it was possible to change the font of a typewriter very quickly and relatively inexpensively. Bold type was also possible on some models, whereby the type that was attached, mechanically controlled, hit the paper twice, slightly offset.

Ball-head typewriters, however, were no faster than lever type typewriters. As output units of automatic typing machines ( ball head printers ) they reached a speed of approx. 900 strokes per minute in contrast to 1200 strokes per minute with type levers.

The main disadvantage of the system was the complex mechanisms for the multi-dimensional movement of the head. The consequence was a high device price and high maintenance costs. The market was essentially shared by IBM and, after the expiry of their patents, Olivetti and Triumph-Adler . As with conventional typewriters, Olivetti constructed movable paper transport trolleys with the head in a stationary position. This made the ball head mechanism more stable because it was heavier and less maintenance-intensive.

The electronically controlled ball-head typewriter had essentially the same mechanics as the only electrically powered machine. The only difference was the electronically controlled access to the individual types and the possibility of saving the typed text and printing it out later. In the course of time, the mechanics were continuously improved: the central drive gave way to individual stepper motors for carriage movement and head rotation and electromagnets for head tilt and impact. The ball-head typewriter was thus faster and slightly less prone to failure. At the same time, automatic corrections (via a delete key), multiple printing of a document and text storage on floppy disks were offered. In the case of the last models, an advertisement was added in which a line of text could first be written and also corrected before the machine put this line on the paper. There were also ball-head printers: ball-head typewriters without a keyboard.

Type wheel typewriter

Type wheel typewriter
Olympia ES 205 (type wheel in front of the platen on the left)
Type wheel typewriter writes "Wikipedia" (a typo is corrected)

The type wheel typewriter is to be seen as a further development of the ball-head typewriter. It is easier to manufacture and maintain (price advantage), and you can write faster with it than with a ball-head typewriter. The reason for this is the lower weight of the wheel-shaped type carrier and the fact that it only has to be turned, not tilted, to select a type.

Type wheel typewriters were built in all classes, from the large office machine to the small portable typewriter. It was the last type of what was considered a typewriter: a sheet of A4 format had to be writable across to the edge. As the so-called last type of typewriter, it was particularly based on the development of the electronic typewriter to the typing computer with screen and electronic text memory. Ultimately, it was supplanted by the personal computer and a printer controlled by it .

The type wheel is so light and so easy to drive that it can be moved in line with a light electric motor. As with the ball-head typewriter, the platen is simply rotated around its axis.

When turning the wheel to select the type, two different construction principles are used, there are two different type wheel printing units.

Endurance printing unit

In the endurance runner used first , the type wheel rotates constantly at a constant speed. In the simplest version, one of the type carrier rods is extended. With every rotation, his nose passes a sensor (e.g. fork light barrier ) and generates an impulse. The constant time intervals between the pulse and the writing position of the types are electronically stored so that the pen can hit the stick with the selected type at the right moment. The stop pin strikes very quickly and quickly returns to its starting position, so that the type wheel does not have to stop and the imprint is nevertheless sufficiently clear. In order to save energy, the "endurance runner" can be switched off during writing breaks. This technology was only used on very early type wheel printers.

Inverting printing unit

When used later change direction printing unit a is used by most manufacturers stepping motor used for rotating the print wheel located on its axis on the shortest path forward or backward to the next required type and then stops.

The type wheel sits directly on the axis of the stepper motor. This has as many step positions around the circumference as there are types on the bike. This means that each type can be clearly approached by turning the type wheel. With the motor control of the typewriter, the shortest rotation to the next letter to be attached is found by changing the direction of rotation and thus the highest possible writing speed is achieved. The letter to be printed is always turned up to 0 °. The stop is made by a so-called hammer, a lever that is triggered by a lifting magnet and uses its kinetic energy to push the type on the ribbon and paper backwards. A favorable starting position is always assumed in the idle state. In the case of Triumph-Adler, for example, this is the point in writing. All types of the type wheel are distributed from here to the left and right according to the frequency of their occurrence in the language to be written.

Thermal typewriter

In 1984 IBM introduced the thermal transfer typewriter IBM 6750 "Thermotronic". This melted the characters out of a ribbon and was able to make them invisible again for correction by the action of heat. In the event that the latter was undesirable, there were document-proof ribbons without the possibility of correction. The very quiet, slightly dragging writing noise and the enormous speed of the printout were typical. The multiple world typewriter , Nicole Buschina from Rodalben , achieved over 900 keystrokes per minute in full text on one of these thermal transfer typewriters.

The typewriter could also be used as a PC printer via an interface (which was also possible with most type wheel typewriters on the market). Disadvantages were the high cost of the consumables and the impossibility of copies. This is one of the reasons why the machines did not prevail. This also applied to the EP-20 developed by the Japanese manufacturer Brother for private use.

Inkjet printing and Chinese characters

At the beginning of the 1980s, Olympia International developed the Model 1011, an electronically controlled memory typewriter with an inkjet printer. Instead of type printing, tiny ink or paint droplets were sprayed onto the paper from twelve nozzles arranged one above the other. In order to achieve the best possible display of 24 × 24 dots for a character or to close gaps from the first run, the writing head moved twice over the paper per line. For a concept printout, a grid of twelve could be chosen, which only required one pass per line.

What was special about the Olympia 1011 was the ability to display almost any number of Chinese characters on a typewriter keyboard. The classic Chinese typewriter had, instead of the usual keys for Latin scripts, a type of case with around 2500 types, from which the characters were picked up and printed on the paper with a lever. With the 1011, four letter keys on the normal typewriter keyboard had to be pressed in order to display a Chinese character and, if necessary, to save it before printing. The correctness of the representation could be checked in a small display on the left above the keyboard.

The machine worked almost silently and printed from memory at a speed of up to 18 Chinese characters per second. In concept printing, Latin script was displayed at up to 100 letters per second.

In the late 1990s, Brother also offered models in the LW series with inkjet instead of the type wheel printing mechanism, initially only with black ink, later also with color ink. The models came onto the market too late to assert themselves against the triumphant advance of the PC. The innovation of inkjet typewriters comparable to computer printers remained a brief episode in the history of the typewriter. Only the simpler classic typewriters with type wheel printing units are still represented on the market as niche products.

Electronic typewriter (general)

In electronically controlled typewriters, keystrokes are electronically entered into a memory and immediately output as an action on paper via the respective printing unit. As a rule, microprocessors are used for this , which are controlled by a program ( firmware ), so it is an embedded system . The program enables preprocessing of the characters entered and their storage z. B. in a line memory. The latter, in turn, enables functions that are only possible with an electronic memory typewriter, such as left or right-aligned flutter , centering or even justification . An electronic typewriter can therefore be viewed as a special computer system. Peripheral devices such as floppy disk drives, modems or additional displays made it possible to expand a typewriter into a teleprinter , printer or electronic typewriter and word processing system.

In principle, an electronic typewriter can be equipped with any type of printing mechanism. The most common, however, were character wheel and ball head systems, although some manufacturers recently relied on inkjet printers or thermal printing processes. The printing unit only needs to be able to move the print head to the current writing position in order to print any character there. This is usually done by stepper motors that can be positioned very precisely. The motors are controlled by independent electronics, the motor controller, which has a fixed set of stored actions. These actions, in turn, are specifically called up directly by the actual typewriter program. This construction enables the machine to perform different actions in parallel.

The keystrokes are temporarily stored in an input buffer until they are processed by the processor. In the early years of electronic typewriters, electronic memory was extremely expensive and therefore only scarce. Since the mechanics of the machines are set to a specific printing speed due to the design, it could easily happen to an experienced typist that they filled the buffer if they hit keys faster than the machine could print them.

In addition to the horizontal tabs described elsewhere, there are also vertical tabs on such devices , especially on pure computer printers such as the Epson FX-80. They support the filling out of forms by allowing freely definable line numbers to be jumped directly to. Accordingly, there are separate command codes for these vertical tabs in the form of an escape sequence , in ASCII code and in the Unicode block symbols for control characters .

Advanced electronic functions and integrated text systems

Before the typewriter was displaced by the computer , numerous typewriters with extended correction and storage options were in use. A memory buffer made it possible to enter text faster than the machine could print with a hasty keystroke, or to continue writing while line breaks. Errors could be removed with a delete key without entering the wrong characters again. For models with a display, it was possible to write an entire line of text and, if necessary, correct it before it was printed after pressing the line break. As a result, correction tapes were almost unnecessary. Extended formatting such as B. right-aligned or centered writing, the use of text modules or multiple printing of a document to different addressees was possible due to the larger memory . Various models made it possible to save texts on standard floppy disks. These concepts were used for the first time in connection with ball-head typewriters and were later transferred to character wheel models.

Later there were type wheel typewriters with multi-line displays. These were marketed as integrated or mobile text systems and could hold their own against the configuration- intensive DOS -based computers up to the use of graphical interfaces . In the early days of the PC, they were an inexpensive alternative to office programs, as they usually also support the creation of form letters, tables and, in a few models, simple spreadsheets. Some models (e.g. Samsung) support background printing (printing a prepared document while the user is already creating the next document). The file formats are proprietary , however , and compatibility with today's office programs is possible either using unformatted text files (e.g. Brother) or using elaborately programmed conversion programs. The latest Brother models have an inkjet printer.

Many of the large office typewriters had a mostly proprietary interface for expansion to integrated word processing systems. These consisted of a special computer with a floppy disk drive and a screen. The typewriter only served as an input and output unit. The program in the computer was executed directly from a ROM and was available immediately after switching on without any significant loading time. With many models (e.g. VS series from Triumph Adler) it was even possible to display proportional font on the screen, which for a long time was a not insignificant advantage over the emerging text programs for personal computers under DOS.

While some machines provided such a text system as a retrofit option, there were also typewriters that were manufactured from the outset as an integrated "screen writing system". These had already integrated the computer and the floppy disk drive into the machine; only a screen was connected to the typewriter (e.g. Triumph Adler BSM-100). The successor models were already integrated computer systems (e.g. Triumph Adler BSM-200 and BSM-300) with an attached typewriter, which were also able to run programs from other manufacturers under DOS or the first versions of Windows. Even if this development led to extensive compatibility with PC systems when exchanging data, these machines were extraordinarily more expensive compared to a PC system with a connected printer.

Finally, with some typewriters (with or without a text system) it is possible to use them as a printer via an RS232 or Centronics interface on PC systems. This option was interesting when dot matrix printers were common for PCs , but the clear, "beautiful" typeface of a ball-head or type wheel typewriter was expected for business correspondence. However, these typewriters were only able to gain acceptance where the intended use could justify the high purchase price. Standardized serial or parallel interfaces, if they are still available on today's PCs, make their use possible. Due to the now very high availability of inexpensive and high-resolution - and above all much faster - laser printers, their use is now relatively uneconomical.

Typewriters in Music

The American composer Leroy Anderson created “The Typewriter” in 1950, a “ work for orchestra and typewriter” . The piece is actually arranged for orchestra and a typewriter and was first known to a larger audience in 1963 through the film Der Ladenhüter with Jerry Lewis . German television viewers are familiar with The Typewriter as the theme music for the 1983 television series Büro, Büro .

In 1964, Rolf Liebermann composed the “Symphonie Les Echange” for the economic pavilion of the Swiss National Exhibition in Lausanne , a work for 156 punched-card-controlled office machines, including 16 typewriters.

The Berlin rapper Prinz Pi published the song Typewriter on his album Donnerwetter in 2006 , which is underlaid with machine typing noises.

At the Donaueschinger Musiktage in October 2018, the Swedish composer Malin Bång performed an orchestral concert combined with the clatter of a typewriter. This piece, specially written for the opening concert with the SWR Symphony Orchestra , is called "splinters of ebullient rebellion".

See also


  • Leonhard Dingwerth: Small encyclopedia of historical typewriters in 5 volumes , Historical Typewriter Archive, Verl 1997, ISBN 3-921913-12-8 .
  • Leonhard Dingwerth: Historical Typewriters - History, Technology and Fascination 1st Edition. Battenberg-Verlag, Regenstauf 2008, ISBN 978-3-86646-041-6 .
  • Ernst Martin (pseudonym of Johannes Meyer): The typewriter and its development history. Pappenheim 1949. (Reprint): Kunstgrafik Dingwerth, Delbrück 2003, ISBN 3-921913-15-2 .
  • Alfred Waize: The world of typewriters - stations in a history of development. Desotron-Verlags-Gesellschaft, Erfurt 1998, ISBN 3-9803931-9-4 .
  • Typewriter and Bureau-Zeitung - A magazine for interested parties and collectors of historical typewriters, calculating and office machines . Official organ of the IFHB, International Forum on the Historical Office World. Editor and editor: Leonhard Dingwerth Historical Typewriter Archive. - Published 1997-2001.
  • Wolfgang Köntopp: Electric typewriters - rocker arm, ball-head writing core . (From the textbook series for office information electronics technicians). 11th edition. Verlag Köntopp, Leopoldshöhe 1988, ISBN 3-9801485-0-5 .
  • Friedrich Müller: Typewriters and Font Duplication . Hofmann, Berlin 1900. (Unchanged reprint: Edition Libri Rari by Verlag Schäfer, Hanover 1986, ISBN 3-88746-125-8 ).
  • Robert Walter Kunzmann: Hundred years of typewriters in the office - history of machine writing . Merkur-Verlag, Rinteln 1979, ISBN 3-8120-0373-2 .
  • Herbert FW Schramm: List of the manufacturing dates of German and foreign typewriters with important technical data . 11th edition. Burghagen, Hamburg 1962.
  • Erich Bürger: Investigations on manually driven typewriters. Dissertation from the Technical University of Dresden from June 16, 1958, DNB 480751595 .
  • Karlheinz Vielhauer: The German typewriter industry. Dissertation from the University of Frankfurt (Main) from December 15, 1954, DNB 480478023 .
  • Werner Kniehahn: The German noiseless typewriter - a milestone in the history of precision engineering . [Lecture from April 25, 1934 in the Hotel Kaiserhof, Berlin, following a cultural-historical exhibition of typewriters]. VDI-Verlag, Berlin 1934. (From: Journal of the Association of German Engineers. Vol. 78 (1934), No. 18).
  • Oskar Leimgruber: About the introduction of a new line break in typewriters . Revue internationale des sciences administratives, Brussels 1930.
  • Carl Teege: General instruction book for typewriter mechanics . 14th edition. Verlag Wochenschrift für Papier, Berlin 1940.
  • Ewald Lassnig: Peter Mitterhofer 1822–1893 - a pioneer of the typewriter . Publishing company Athesia, Bozen 1993, ISBN 88-7014-752-5 .
  • Shuying Zhang: New concept of a typewriter for Chinese writing. Dissertation from the Technical University of Munich, 1981.
  • Hermann Harald Koch: About the power transmission in a motorized typewriter. Dissertation from the Technical University of Braunschweig from February 25, 1963.
  • Werner von Eye: Brief history of the typewriter and machine writing . 2nd Edition. Achterberg publishing house, Berlin-Lichterfelde 1958.
  • Rolf Vorteilmann: You and your typewriter - building, using and maintaining the typewriter . Fachbuchverlag, Leipzig 1955, DNB 453615872 .
  • Hermann Popp: Kinematic and dynamic investigation of the typewriter. Dissertation from the Technical University of Munich, 1930.
  • Hermann Reinecke: About the hand-operated stop gears of the typewriter. Dissertation from the Technical University of Braunschweig from July 29, 1953.
  • Jürgen Helfer: Construction elements of the typewriter (= office market specialist books, volume 1). Basten, Aachen 1949. (Completely revised and expanded edition by Philipp Müller Aachen. Basten 1963).
  • Musical note typewriter with normal keyboard . Nototype Rundstatler G. mb H., Berlin 1937.
  • Alfred Kring: The graphology of the typewriter on a scientific basis. Handbook for graphological and criminological research . Albis-Verlag, Zurich 1936.
  • Hugo Neumaier: Typewriter - development, construction and maintenance of the typewriter . R. Oldenbourg, Munich 1926.
  • Ludwig Brauner: The typewriter in technical, cultural and economic importance. (= Collection of charitable lectures No. 555/557). German Association for the Dissemination of Public Benefit Knowledge, Prague 1925.

Web links

Wiktionary: Typewriter  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Typewriters  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Typewriter museums

Individual evidence

  1. Bennett Woodcroft: Reference index of patents of invention, from 1617 to 1852. 1855, pp. 49 (English, limited preview in Google Book search). (Accessed Feb. 21, 2013).
  2. Werner von Eye: Brief history of the typewriter and machine writing , Apitz, Verlagbuchhandlung, Berlin, 1941, p. 7.
  3. a b c Werner von Eye: Brief history of the typewriter and machine writing , Apitz, Verlagbuchhandlung, Berlin, 1941, p. 8.
  4. Hans-Erhard Lessing : Karl Drais - two wheels instead of four hooves. G. Braun Buchverlag, Karlsruhe 2010, ISBN 978-3-7650-8569-7 , pp. 87/88
  5. Hans-Erhard Lessing: Karl Drais - two wheels instead of four hooves. G. Braun Buchverlag, Karlsruhe 2010, ISBN 978-3-7650-8569-7 , pp. 94-97.
  6. a b c Werner von Eye: Brief history of the typewriter and machine writing. Apitz-Verlagsbuchhandlung, Berlin 1941, p. 9.
  7. ^ Albert Neuburger: Inventors and Inventions. 1921
  8. Werner von Eye: Brief history of the typewriter and machine writing. Apitz-Verlagsbuchhandlung, Berlin 1941, p. 10.
  9. Stephen van Dulken: Inventing the 19th century. 100 inventions that shaped the Victorian Age. From aspirin to the zeppelin . New York University Press, New York 2001, ISBN 0-8147-8810-6 , p. 201.
  10. Werner von Eye: Brief history of the typewriter and machine writing. Apitz-Verlagsbuchhandlung, Berlin 1941, pp. 11-14.
  11. 633672
  12. Sketch of a pull wire gear
  13. Werner von Eye: button - lever - norm . Georg Achterberg, Verlag für Berufsbildung, Berlin-Lichterfelde 1958, p. 12.
  14. Typewriters.ch: Royal Standard . Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  15. 856870
  16. Martin : The typewriter and its history of development. Pp. 392-394.
  17. ^ Friedrich Johannaber, Walter Michaeli: Manual injection molding. S. 26, (1st edition 2002) 2004, ISBN 978-3-446-22966-2 (partial view, books.google.at ).
  18. The legend lives on: Olympia typewriters continue to be popular. Retrieved July 10, 2018 .
  19. Will Davis: Portable Typewriters Today. In: Davis Typewriter Works. February 2015, accessed January 5, 2018 .
  20. 50 years ago: IBM introduces Selectric ball-head typewriter , report at heise.de, July 31, 2011.
  21. ↑ Printer manual Epson FX-80 (English) with vertical tab coding from p. 122 (PDF; 2.2 MB).
  22. Donaueschinger Musiktage: Wilder Griffin die Keys by Jens Jessen on www.zeit.de, October 24, 2018 ( Die Zeit No. 44/2018, October 25, 2018).