From the time of Adam and Eve, man has strived to preserve a written record of his thoughts, laws, customs and religion. Many mediums have been used from chiseling or scratching into stone, to clay tablets, painting figures and hieroglyphics on many objects, to papyrus to paper and so on.
Early on men like Moses wrote down the words that God instructed them to write and recording the history of His people. God’s Words were preserved in scrolls and for centuries had to be reproduced by hand, which was a long and tedious job.
In the 15th century, the concept of the printing press developed in Europe with the most famous printing press being the one created by Johannes Gutenberg. He was a stone cutter and goldsmith by trade and used those skills to develop an allow of lead, tin and antimony that was easily melted and cast into dies that were then used to set the type for his printing press. In addition to being remembered in history for his printing press, he is also remembered for being the first person to use a press with moveable type to print a book which happened to be the Bible in Latin. It took nearly 5 years to complete the first printed Bible. Of the 200 copies of the Gutenberg Bible on cotton linen paper and 30 copies on velum animal skin that were scheduled to be printed, no one really knows how many were completed. Last known, there are 22 known copies of the Gutenberg Bible, 15 on cotton linen and 7 on vellum. It is estimated that a fully complete Gutenberg Bible could be worth over $100 million. Today, a single two-sided page from a Gutenberg Bible can sell for around $100,000. The irony or tragedy about the Gutenberg press and Bible is that Gutenberg never profited from his press and died in poverty.
From the time of the printing press, a number of inventors have tried to figure out how to bring the ability to use a machine to print letters and document in the confines of a business office or home.
In 1714, Henry Mill of England, received a patent for a writing machine. His patent described it as ‘an artificial machine or method for the impressing or transcribing of letters singly or progressively one after another.’ However, it is not known if Mill was ever successful in building a workable writing machine.
In 1808, Pellegrino Turri, an Italian, invented a workable writing machine that was used by the Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano who happened to be blind. No one knows what the machine looked like or how it operated, but letters typed by the Countess still exist.
In 1829, William Burt patented his typographer. This machine used a rotating frame with the characters. It was bulky, hard to use and often proved to be so problematic that it was faster to handwrite a letter than to use the typographer.
On this day, June 23, 1868, Christopher Latham Sholes received a patent for the first workable typewriter. Sholes, along with the help of Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule, developed the QWERTY keyboard which is the standard keyboard used on English/American typewriters and computers ever since. The arrangement of the keys was done to try to help avoid the most frequently used keys from striking each other as one typed.
In 1872, believe it or not, the first electronic version of Sholes’ typewriter was invented by none other than Thomas Edison. However, the electric typewriter never took off until the 1950s.
In 1874, Remington and Sons, the gun manufacturer in New York, produced the first commercial typewriter, the Remington Model 1. Sholes had licensed his patent to Remington for the commercial production of his QWERTY typewriter.
As you sit down at your computer and place your fingers on your keyboard, look at their arrangement and remember that it all started on this day back in 1868.
Sources for the above includes: The Printing Press; Christopher Latham Sholes; Life Before QWERTY; First Typewriter Patent; A Brief History of Typewriters; Fascinating facts about the invention of the Typewriter by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1867; History Of The Gutenberg Bible.