Mechanised writing

Brand label: Titania typewriter
German brand label with the Titania wordmark and typewriter, undated
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig

Mechanised writing

From the hand to the machine

A significant individual example (...) is the typewriter; writing, an extremely practical act which in each case has an individual and characteristic form throws this overboard in favour of mechanical uniformity.

Georg Simmel, Philosophie des Geldes, 1900

The writer of texts internalised every single character in its consummate form by practicing for such a long time that he could write it down freehand at the right place when needed. The first step towards mechanising writing was to establish the most perfect written form in stencils and other resources. These made it possible to bring to paper the design of any character in its perfected form as often as needed and in any order. The typewriter was a mechanical solution to this problem. Replaceable cylinder-like wheels, typewheels and type balls made multiple fonts possible even before the era of digital fonts.

Typewriters and linotypes became mechanised step for step: in 1961 the type ball was introduced as a replaceable font bearer for electrical typewriters. While the type ball in “golf ball” typewriters not only had to turn, but also tilt, all of the characters on a daisywheel could be brought to the right position by simply turning. In the phototypesetting method, characters were exposed onto film and the light shone through the type disks designed for this purpose.