5 Jan,2018 By Jagabond
Let’s dissect the title of this blog. Yes, I did recommend you visit a typewriter museum. And yes, the site of this museum is Trani, a quaint seaside town that presumably has nothing to do with typewriters. What is it doing here? I never found any explanation, but speculate a wealthy, deceased resident donated his collection. The result is an impressive educational display on the precursor to the technology of today.
I won’t call this list my favorites, as I never thought of typewriters in such a way. However, these definitely piqued my interest, and before I realized I had spent two hours here.
The prisoner machine
Why build a see-through typewriter? So you can’t hide knives and cigarettes in it, of course. Not surprisingly the primary buyers of this model were U.S. prisons for use by inmates. This clear, easy-to-inspect machine manufactured by Swintec was the topic of an interesting article in the New Yorker earlier this year.
The double keyboard
This portable typewriter from the 1930s had a unique double keyboard. This could’ve been a popular typewriter for Russian-American double agents during the cold war.
Developed by a Dutch inventor in 1935, this machine allows you to touch multiple keys which produce syllables instead of individual letters. The skilled user typed up to 750 characters per minute. During World War II it helped Allied forces to send and receive coded messages.
The most infamous typewriter
This model is the Olympia Robust, which had a specially designed ‘SS’ character mounted on the 5 key. The souls of the Nazi regime were so dark that they even turned typewriters evil.
The Jewish typewriter
The Hermes 3000 first came out in the late 1950’s and was an instant sensation throughout Europe, scoring points for its portability and versatility. This is a Hebrew language model, in direct contrast to the aforementioned Nazi typewriter.
The Braille typewriter
This interesting looking Danish machine is for the vision impaired. Pressing on each of the keys would make a dot, and the combination of the six keys made up a Braille cell.
The first ultrathin
People have always wanted their gadgets thinner…just look at the evolution of mobile phones. This was also the case for typewriters, and Leopoldo Pascher patented the first ultrathin version in the 1950s. This was a subsequent model of his called the Kolibri, that was thin enough for a briefcase but with a firm, heavy frame. This progressive machine was also the primary typewriter used in otherwise regressive East Germany.
The first portable electronic
In 1982, the company Brother launched the world’s first and smallest electronic battery-powered typewriter. This was revolutionary…similar to moving from desktop computers to laptops.
What about the smallest typewriter in the world with a full keyboard? The Bennett pocket typewriter emerged in the early 1900s. Although a novel idea, the keys were so close together that people complained of often hitting the wrong letter.
The ‘literary genius’
Hemingway used many typewriters, including this one, the Hermes Baby. Steinbeck also swore by this model for a period of time. Maybe if I had this it would inspire me to finish the ‘Of Mice and Men’ sequel I’ve been working on for years (plot hint…Lennie returns from the dead).
This is the model I would really use, given a choice. Doesn’t it just look majestic, especially with the royal crest in the upper right, and the beautiful black and gold motif? Named after the famous novel, its marketing slogan was ‘The Good Companion brings fame to writers.’
The ‘golf ball’ typewriter
This classic known as the IBM Selectric first debuted in 1961. Despite the horrendous red color, it employed a novel ‘golf ball’ typing element. Switching out the ball allowed for multiple fonts in the same document.
Mignon model 3
This is more of an index machine from the early 1900s. For typing, place the needle over the desired character and press down to print on the paper. Although it seems tedious, skilled operators could supposedly reach speeds exceeding 100 characters per minute.
The James Bond model
This might look like just another gold-plated typewriter, but Ian Fleming used this model to write most of the 007 books and short stories. He later sold it for $90,000 making it the most expensive typewriter ever.
The first typewriter
A sewing machine served as the prototype for the first commercially successful typewriter. Remington purchased the idea and released the machine to the public in 1874. The first model could only write in uppercase, which these days would be rude like you were shouting. Also, you couldn’t see what you were typing while entering.
The pretty typewriter
Aesthetically speaking the Franklin is the model that wins for me. Built in the late 19th century, the curved keyboard highlights the trademark design. Interestingly it was the first typewriter to ever have a ‘shift lock’ key.
My hometown typewriter
The ‘Pittsburg Visible 9’ was constructed in the late 19th century. It features a single piece for the keyboard, drum and hammers, allowing for easy swapping of different languages. Why no ‘h’ in Pittsburg? The company who made this typewriter was one of the few local institutions to drop the ‘h’ in accordance with the U.S. Board of Geographic Names. This board wanted to return to the Germanic spelling of city names, though after many protests they reversed course in 1911.
Early on in the typewriter’s history, people often complained of the noise. Much research went into how to dampen the annoying typing sounds. This Underwood model was the first to figure it out, employing a mechanism that stopped the hammers just as they hit thus reducing the sound.
B.S. – ‘before shift’
Early typewriter models couldn’t figure out how to have both uppercase and lowercase letters. Before the realization of a ‘shift’ key, this was the most simple idea…just use a double keyboard!
The QWERTY keyboard has been around forever and seemingly receives no competition. The Hammond model from 1884 challenged the dominance of QWERTY, offering the ‘ideal keyboard’ instead. This revolutionary keyboard ended quickly in failure, so much so that I can’t even find out online how it was supposed to work. If anyone has any insight I’d be curious to know.
Not sure how fun a typewriter is for a kid. Maybe it was part of a communist strategy to familiarize children with mundane office work.
How to get there: Trani is a 2-3 hour drive from Naples. Set on the country’s east coast, it’s best to combine this with other coastal cities of interest like Bari and Ostuni. The typewriter museum is next to Trani’s famous cathedral.