Horse and buggies, hoop skirts, steam engines, bustles … oh, yes, life around the turn of the previous century was a delight of simplicity and workmanship. But that doesn’t mean that the artisans and engineers of way-back-when didn’t at least have their hearts and minds in the right place.
Linear Index Typewriters and “Typewritors”
One of the earliest of those bright bulbs was William Austin Burt who, in 1829, created what he called a ‘typewritor.’
If Burt’s machine was, in fact, the first is a matter of much debate – as another, similar, machine had also been built by Pellegrino Turri around the same time. Some even say the crown of ‘first’ should go to Henry Mill, who created a writing machine way back in 1714.
All of these devices represented just baby steps: more potential than actual ability to help with clear, concise and fast writing. There were a lot of others after these early pioneers, but none of them were ever a real commercial success.
Looking at them you can see why: in many of these very early models – called ‘index typewriters,’ by the way – the typing was done by selecting the letter to be used on a slider and then pressing it against the paper.
To call these early monsters ‘slow’ is being kind.
Changing the alphabetical slider to a disc version helped a bit but not enough to make any of these machines easy or popular.
Here is a “Linear Typewriter”: one look at this machine and you can see why it was never a big hit. Just think about transcribing anything on this beast: