Mechanical Writing

Underwood Typewriter II

Hello everyone, my name is Jeff Miller, and I am one of the authors and instructors of ETEC540. Welcome to the community weblog space that will quickly grow with your postings and assignments over the coming weeks. You can find out more information about me in the instructor bio section in the Prefatory Module in the course website.

I selected this image, a keyboard from an old Underwood typewriter, in part because I am attracted to all manner of old machines (from typewriters, to old printing presses, and telegraph keys). I was also drawn to this image because it so nicely captures both the aesthetic care we bring to a technology as intimate as writing, as well as the way that technology fades into the background as we become accustomed to using it. All we see in this photograph are the letters on the keys while the gears and linkages that actually drive the keys to leave an imprint on the page are hidden from view, even though they do all of the work, make all the noise, and provide both annoyance and an odd pleasure when it comes time to separate jammed up keys!

Even now, when there is no need for mechanical linkages and gears to mark our pages, there are still traces of this early QWERTY keyboard configuration on the multi-touch devices that print (?) to a screen, not paper. And if you really want the nostalgia of an earlier age of writing, you can find odd assemblages of old and new technologies like the iTypewriter (a somewhat whimsical proof of concept). While highly impractical, such historical pastiches show how difficult it is for newer technologies to be completely cut off from the past, and this is a topic that we will explore from a variety of theoretical perspectives in the modules in ETEC540.

Jeff

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