A Wave of Nostalgia in Oslo


It is easy to forget how important typewriters were for the development of our modern society. Easy to forget what they meant for the development of the press and typography. And, not less, easy to forget how important they were for the entry of women into the workplace.

By learning “touch-typing”, a method which allows text to be written fast and accurately, the modern typist was born, indispensable in any modern office.

Veltman and Michelson 1842. Design by Russel G. Thompson
Veltman and Michelson 1842. Design by Russel G. Thompson

Touch or not, the arrival of the electric typewriter onto the market was a huge step forward. For that we can thank Russell G. Thompson, who invented it as far back as 1923.

We can also thank IBM, who launched the golfball typewriter in 1961, thereby putting an end to keys that were always getting jammed together. Ink cartridges also replaced ink ribbons. You know, the ones that were red at the top and black at the bottom.

I still have my first typewriter in my desk. But if you would like to see these old wonders, take a trip to the Museum of Science and Technology in Oslo and follow the rest of the story – from the first golfball machines to modern computer systems.

Rasmus Malling-Hansen 1887
Rasmus Malling Hansen 1887

Pastor Rasmus Malling- Hansen constructed this ‘typing ball’ to enable blind people to write more easily. It is one of the first typewriters to be mass produced. The machine cost USD 35, hugely expensive in its day. Although they were originally sold as a help for the blind, they were also bought by a number of companies for business correspondence.

Rasmus Malling-Hansen writingball
Rasmus Malling-Hansen writingball

Malling Hansen was head of an institute for the deaf and mute in Copenhagen. His prototype was finished in 1867. The typewriter was  the first to be industrially produced (a total of 100 machines).

A Wave of Nostalgia in Oslo, written for Daily Scandinavian by Hans Helmersen

All photos Wikipedia