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Thursday, February 10, 2011


Can't typecast with the cat on my lap (and an incomplete letter in the carriage), so I'm posting again.

I'm not collecting electric typewriters so I haven't had much chance to touch or even really look at them.  I took a photo of one and something struck me.  This electric SCM Coronet 12's keyboard has some things in common with computer keyboards (that I'd noticed on the library's Selectric), notably, the apostrophe/quote (or minute/second if that's how you see it) is to the right of the semicolon.
I'm sure I'm the last person to notice this but why did the introduction of electricity cause that specific change to th keyboard?  I may have to buy one to see if the typebars are also arranged differently. They could be anywhere on an electric, which may be the point.  Maybe that key got stuck on manuals?  If anyone knows I'd be happy to learn more.
I've superimposed classic 12 keys in their positions where they differ.
 These were not far apart in time, why the differences?  


  1. My main girl is named Phoebe, a 1968 Classic 12. So I know the layout of the Classic as well as the Coronet quite well...I actually have the same Coronet (as well as another in blue with an automatic return). That said, I can only really offer insight into the typebar situation. They are arranged differently - this is because the electric action is much swifter than the manual action, so there is next to no chance that they will bind. The timing is set as such that one bar will only move when the previous has returned to its resting position. Hope that helps!

  2. thanks it's interesting. so do you think they always wanted the ' over there but only electrics could do it or what? hey is the platen the same as the classic 12?

  3. Not totally sure, but I know that they both share the same length (hence the "12", for 12 inch), but I'm not certain that the diameter is the same. Good question about the layout...I prefer it on the 8...I even find myself doing a "Shift 8" on my MacBook!!

  4. My selectric is basically the same as my contemporary computer keyboard. None of my manuals have the same layout as my selectric.

    The double-quote, quote, backspace and exclamation point end up being in different locations (or lacking, it he case of the ! key) depending on the brand and year.

    Now, IIRC, my French-Swiss Hermes 3000 actually has the single quote to the right of the semi-colon. So, maybe there is a reason based on frequency of the language?

  5. something was different about elctrified typers that made them change key positions. Even way back in the late 50's the SCM 5TE had the ' key over to the right. There are plenty of pics around like these:

  6. There's a discussion about this now on Yahoo, and we'll see if anyone can get to the bottom of it. But, from a purely amateur POV, I don't think there is something special about electrics that made this possible. You can put whatever characters you want on any typebars you want, changing the keyboard accordingly; this would be possible with either a manual or an electric (assuming we're talking about normal, monospaced typewriters).

    Besides, if you mean that on an electric, any key could trigger any typebar, I don't think that's true. Remember these are not electronic typewriters, with circuits that are easy to reconfigure; they have mechanical linkages. The electric assistance is provided by a roller that spins continuously in the base of the machine, and connects to the base of a typebar when you depress a key. Making a key on the right of the keyboard trigger a typebar in the middle of the typebasket, for instance, would require some complicated and awkward linkages, just as it would on a manual typewriter.

    As I mentioned on the forum, some late manuals switched to the modern apostrophe/quote location too. I had an Olivetti Linea 98 like that.

  7. As you may have guessed I started that Yahoo discussion. This is the kind of business history that gets lost when they clean up offices, merge, come and go. I've thought of going for an MBA with lost history as my thesis. I bet there's some unsung engineer who made this change and never got credit for it.
    Nowadays they'd sue each other for copying it and it would go nowhere.


Let me know if capcha comes back. Thanks for commenting.


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