Week 13: Blickensderfer typewriter

What do you notice that's unusual about this typewriter?

Why are the letters on the keys all jumbled?

Blickensderfer typewriter

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Answers:

What do you notice that's unusual about this typewriter?

It might look like a broken typewriter, or just part of one, but that's because it uses a simpler design than earlier typewriters. When you push a key, instead of thin metal arms that spring up to the page, it uses a cylinder. The Blickensderfer No 5 typewriter was unveiled at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, 19 years after the first mechanical typewriter, and was in production from 1895 to 1919.

Why are the letters on the keys all jumbled?

A big problem that early typewriters had was that, when you type two neighboring keys too quickly, the arms would jam together. In 1874 the first QWERTY layout was introduced, and went through version after version in an ongoing effort to decrease jams. But because the Blickensderfer didn't use metal arms, the inventor, George Canfield Blickensderfer, was free to use any layout he wanted. So he made a scientific study of the English language and found that about 70% of words used the letters DHIATENSOR, and he put those letters on the bottom row of the keyboard. That way, your fingers ended up moving less, making typing faster. Because of his scientific approach his keyboard layout was called the "Scientific" layout. Although it was popular, it didn't catch on enough to be adopted by other companies, and today we still use the less-efficient QWERTY layout.