Just over 300 years ago, in 1714, Queen Anne of Great Britain granted a patent to Henry Mill.  Mill, who was an engineer, had come up with the idea of a machine that could write. The patent application suggests that the machine was a sort of early typewriter. But credit for the first modern typewriter or more specifically, the keyboard, goes to an American named Christopher Latham Sholes, a newspaper editor and printer who lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His colleagues in the venture were Frank Haven Hall, Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule.

The keys on Sholes’ keyboard were arranged alphabetically – this caused problems as the keys of commonly used letters kept clashing. That is, until a new keyboard was introduced with the most commonly used letters kept as far apart as was possible. Thus, in the early 1870s, the Qwerty keyboard, still is use today, on typewriters, phones and computer keyboards, was born.

What did Sholes do next?  He sold his idea to E Remington and Sons and the modern typewriter quickly became an indispensable tool for practically all forms of writing other than personal handwritten correspondence. It was widely used by professional writers, in offices, and for business correspondence in private homes. Typewriters were a standard fixture in most offices up to the 1980s, when they were jostled out of position by computers.

Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, is said to have written The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, on a Remington typewriter with a Qwerty keyboard in 1876.

More information on the Qwerty keyboard can be found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QWERTY


Martin Pollins
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