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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Handling Typewriters With Kid Gloves

In the early 1960s, a Dr Alex Dingwall, of London, suggested printing letters and figures on the fingers of plain white gloves as an aid to typing. "I couldn't type, so I taught myself - and this seemed the only way I could do it," said Dr Dingwall.
Many methods have been employed to teach typing, and also to avoid typebars jamming.
In New York in 1950, Russell R.Porter, a high school drop-out, devised "fences" to keep fingers from straying all over the keyboard. He called the method the Potter Type-N-Guide. "With this method," it was reported, "it is practically painless to ASDF ;LKJ, and, JUJ FRF, KIK DED, LOL SWS. Easy, huh?"
As it happens, on this very day in 1950, William A.Gooch, of Istrouma, Louisianna, applied for a patent for just such a thing - but called it an "Antijamming attachment for typewriter".
Gooch said, "When a typewriter is used, and especially when used by other than highly skilled operators, it frequently happens that two adjacent keys will be depressed at the same time, thereby elevating two type bars simultaneously and causing the outer or distal ends of the type bars to bind together or jam adjacent the ribbon guide. This not only causes delay while the bars are being freed and returned to their normal positions, and errors in the type copy, but frequently bends the type bars out of alignment so that frequent adjustment and repair of the typewriter is necessary." Gooch said his device could "be quickly and easily applied to and removed from a conventional typewriter or similar key-operated machine."
"Blind" typing - with cloth or a shield covering the keyboard - and colour-coded keyboards were other successful methods of teaching typing. Perhaps the best example of colour coding was the late 1930s Remington Bantam. This nice example is up for sale right now - God forbid that the keycutters should get hold of it:
A far more rare example of a Remington portable with colour-coded keys is this one, also up for sale at the moment:
One much coveted 1930s typewriter is the Corona "animal keyboard", specifically designed to teach youngsters to touch type. My animal keyboard Corona was purchased from Charles Gu at, but unfortunately I do not have the matching rings. Collectors with both the typewriter and the rings are, I believe, exceedingly rare.
Colour-coding, by way of covering keytops with plastic caps, was adopted by Willy Scheidegger in his Swiss typing schools (covered in an early post).
Failing any of these methods, one could always try finding a very small instructor:
Or a bride with nothing better to do:
Or even a dancing troupe:
And if the typebars jam, just pull a lever and switch typewriters:
And remember to take time out for a lifesaver:
But this is taking colour-coding a little too far:

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