Wednesday, July 26, 2006

So it begins only little more than a century ago, with the fifty-second man to invent the typewriter. Christopher Latham Sholes was a Milwaukee, Wisconsin printer by trade, and a mechanical tinkerer by inclination. Helped by his friends, Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule, he had built a primitive writing machine for which a patent application was filed in October 1867. -- Paul A. David: "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY", The American Economic Review, Vol.75, No.2 (May 1985), pp.332-337.

A printer? Mr. Christopher Latham Sholes was? No. He occupied the government position of Collector of the Port of Milwaukee at that time in 1867 (cf. "Removal of Collector Sholes", Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, Vol.24, No.247 (October 26, 1867), p.1, l.6). He was one of the first Senators of Wisconsin in 1848, and an editor of Wisconsin newspapers including Southport Telegraph, Kenosha Telegraph, Kenosha Tribune & Telegraph, Free Democrat, Milwaukee Daily News, and Milwaukee Daily Sentinel. He might have occupied himself in printing in 1840's, but he seems to have quit it after the scandal on printing the Revised Statutes in 1849 (cf. "The Printing Job", Milwaukee Sentinel and Gazette, Vol.4, No.302 (April 7, 1849), p.2, l.3).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

In 1873 Christopher Latham Sholes designed, and the Remington Arms Company put on the market, the first workable typewriter. ... The keyboard arrangement of Sholes' 1873 typewriter was typically the product of its time. ... Sholes' primary problems were mechanical. The action of his machine was so sluggish that to avoid the clashing of typebars being struck in succession he purposely sought to locate in different quadrants of the typebar circle the letters most frequently used together in words. -- August Dvorak: "There Is a Better Typewriter Keyboard", National Business Education Quarterly, Vol.12, No.2 (December 1943), pp.51-58,66.

If Dr. Dvorak was true, the keyboard arrangement of Sholes' 1873 typewriter should be totally different from the one of Sholes' 1872 typewriter. Since the 1873 commercial model (U. S. Patent No.207559) was different from the 1872 trial model (U. S. Patent No.182511) in its mechanism to connect keys with typebars. Keyboard of Sholes' 1872 trial modelHowever, in fact, the key­board arrange­ment of the 1872 model (shown right, taken from "The Type Writer", Scientific American, Vol.27, No.6 (August 10, 1872), p.79) were very similar to QWERTY of the 1873 model. Furthermore, in the 1873 model, the letters E and R were in the same quadrant of the typebar circle (cf. Richard E. Dickerson: "Did Sholes and Densmore Know What They Were Doing When They Designed Their Keyboard?", ETCetera, No.6 (February 1989), pp.6-9), though "er" and "re" are very frequently used in English words. Here we conclude that Dr. Dvorak's hypothesis, in which he insisted that QWERTY was intended to avoid the clashing of typebars, is false.

Additionally, Remington Arms Company was formed in 1888, and it has had nothing to do with typewriter business. In 1873 the company name was E. Remington & Sons. In 1886 E. Remington & Sons sold its typewriter division to Wyckoff Seamans & Benedict, then the division was named Remington Standard Typewriter Manufacturing Company. The company was renamed Remington Typewriter Company, Remington Rand, Sperry Rand, and now Unisys.