The Typewriter 


Y O U.

Every morning, she found the same three letters etched onto the piece of paper on her dusty old type writer.

The presence was too big to ignore. She felt it. In the air. Something calling out to her…

Another writer with a busy life. She was torn in between making a living and wanting to live.

© Abirami

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Birth of Computers


Abacus Counting System

Who invented the computer, which is part of everyday use?  To get to this point we need to start back at the time, where it all began!

The earliest form of counting device would be the Tally Stick, but the one we all remember from our childhood days would be the Abacus first used in Babylonia in 2400BC.

The Astrolabe and the Antikythera Analog Mechanical Computers, were used in Ancient Greece in 150-100BC to perform astronomical calculations.  The Panisphere in AD1000 by Abu Rayhan al-Biruni. The Equatorium by Abu Ishaq Ibrahim al–Zarqali in AD1015 and the Astronomical Clock Tower of Su Song during the Song Dynasty AD1090.

Napier Bones

Napier Bones

In 1617, John Napier Scottish mathematician and physicist invented the Napier Bones, a device similar in appearance to that of an abacus, which could perform multiplication and division calculations.  In the 1620’s the Slide Rule was invented, a device to allow multiplication and division, using the basis of distances and line intervals to create the answer.  The use of the slide rule, faded out with the invention of the Pocket Calculator.

Wilhelm Schickard, A German designed the Calculating Clock in 1623, but it was destroyed by fire during construction in 1624, and the clock was never rebuilt.

In 1642 Blaise Pascal invented the mechanical calculator, and duly named it; Pascal’s Pascaline.

The Stepped Reckoner was invented by Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz in 1672, and came about, whilst using Pascal’s Pascaline machine.

The Frenchman, Joseph Marie Jacquard invented the Powered Loom in 1801.  It used Punched Wooden Cards, which defined the weaves pattern.  These wooden cards in relation to today’s world of computers would be the equivalent of a software program.

The Arithmometer invented by Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar, was to become the first mass produced mechanical calculator in the 1820’s.  For it could add, subtract, multiply and divide.In 1837 Charles Babbage invented the first Mechanical Computer, using his Analytical Engine.  The device was never finished during his lifetime, and it was left to his son Henry, to complete the work in 1888 in a simplified form: The Mill.

Ada Lovelace daughter of the poet, Lord Byron, was analyst of the Babbage analytical engine, and went on to create the first computer program between 1842-1843.  For it was her vision that computers would be capable of performing more than basic arithmetic calculations.

Herman Hollerith invented a machine to read and record punched cards; the Tabulator, and Keypunch machines towards the end of the 1880’s, like the Hollerith Desk, used by the U.S. to carry out the 1890 census.  He went on to open a Tabulating Machine Company on the back of its success, which eventually became International Business Machines (IBM).

Alan Turing considered by many as the father of computer science.  For it was in 1936 he provided the concept of algorithm and computation with the Turing Machine, and the blueprint for the first electronic digital computer.

Just think, when you turn on your computer, your actually using a design based on the brain child of Alan Turing.

In 1947, one Howard Aiken had been commissioned by IBM to determine how many computers it would take to run the United States… His answer was six.  How wrong had he been, who would have believed most homes would have at least one computer, some sixty-six years later.

In 1936 the first computer was built by Kenrad Zuse the Z1, believed to be the first electro-mechanical binary programmable computer.

In November 1937 whilst working at Bell Labs George Stibitz invented the Model K relay based calculator, which used binary circuits to perform calculations.

John Atanasoff a Physics professor from Iowa, built the first electronic digital computer in 1937, assisted by graduate student Clifford Berry.  It hadn’t been constructed as a programmable machine, for its main purpose was to deal with linear equations.

Konrad Zuse who built the Z1 back in 1936, took his invention to the next stage in 1941, by building the first program controlled electromechanical computing machine; the Z3.


Colossus Computer

Thomas Flowers joined the Post Office Research Branch in 1930, where he became Head of Switching Research. During the 1930s Flowers pioneered large-scale digital electronics.  Then in 1943 he designed and constructed the British Computer; Colossus.

Harry Fensom joined Flowers’ inner circle of engineers at the Research Branch of the British Post Office in 1942. He participated in the construction of the code breaking machine, Colossus, and was responsible for keeping it in continuous operation at Bletchley Park.

It was the world’s first electronic programmable computer, consisting of a large number of vacuum tubes.  Even though it had its limits, when it came to programming, its main use was in breaking German wartime codes.

In 1939 development started on the Harvard Mark I, an Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator.  In fact it was a general purpose electro-mechanical computer by Howard Aiken and Grace Hopper, and financed by IBM.  It came into use in May 1944.

The ENIAC Mark I computer was the brainchild of John Presper Eckert and John W Mauchly in 1946.  The architectural design required the rewiring of the plug board to change its programming.  It was capable of adding and subtracting five thousand times a second, and had the added ability to perform, multiplication, divide and square root calculations.  It weighed in at thirty tons, used two-hundred kilowatts of power, and contained eighteen thousand vacuum tubes, fifteen hundred relays, and hundreds of thousands resistors, capacitors and inductors.

The Small-Scale Experimental Machine, also known as Baby, was completed in 1948 at England’s; University of Manchester based upon the stored-program architecture.  On the 21st June 1948, it made its first successful run of a program, using 32-bit word length and a memory of 32 words.

The Manchester Mark I, a more powerful machine was built to supersede the Baby with expanded size and power, using a magnetic drum for auxiliary storage.

Later that year, Cambridge University built the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, which was fitted out with a built-in-program.

The Government requested Ferranti to build a commercial computer based on the design of the Manchester Mark I in October 1948.  The Ferranti Mark I, included enhancements making it more powerful and faster.  The first machine was rolled out in February 1951.

John Presper Eckert and John W Mauchly, who designed and built the ENIAC Mark I computer, updated their design in 1951, with the release of the UNIVAC, for use by the U.S, Census Bureau.  It used 5,200 vacuum tubes, and consumed some 125kw of power.  Storage was by way of serial-access mercury delay lines.

In the early 1950’s Sergei Sobolev and Nikolay Brusentsov two Soviet scientists designed the Setun, a ternary computer that operated on a base three numbering system, (-1,0,1) rather than the conventional binary numbering system.  The computer was used within the Soviet Union, but its life short lived, and the architecture was replaced with a binary system.

In 1952, IBM released their first Electronic Data Processing Machine; IBM701, and its first mainframe computer.  Then in 1954, the IBM704 came onto the market, using a magnetic core memory.  During 1955-1956, IBM developed the Fortran programming language, for use with the IBM704, which was released in 1957.

In 1954, IBM produced a smaller computer the IBM650, weighing in at 900kg and the power unit at 1350kg.  At the time of construct it had a drum memory unit which could hold 2,000 words, later increased to 4,000 words with a maximum of ten letters per word.  The IBM650 used; SOAP (Symbolic Optimal Assembly Program).

Microprogramming was invented by Maurice Wilkes in 1955.

Then in 1956 IBM created the disk storage unit; the IBM350RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control).  It used fifty 24-inch metal disks, with one hundred tracks per side, capable of storing five megabytes.

John Presper Eckert and John W Mauchly, recognized the limitations of the ENIAC, even before construction had been completed in 1951.  They started researching the possibilities where programs and working data, could be stored in the same area, on the same disk, at the time this would have been considered rather radical.

Equipment of the mid-1950’s transmitted data by acoustic delay lines using liquid mercury or a wire.  It worked by sending acoustic pulses represent by a “1 or 0” causing the oscillator to re-send the pulse.  Other systems on the market at the time used cathode-ray tubes, storing and retrieving data on a phosphor screen.

The Magnetic Core Memory, where each core equals one bit, was created in 1954, replacing many forms of temporary storage, and would go on to dominate the market for many years to come.

The Bipolar Transistor of 1947 went on to replace vacuum tubes from 1955.  The early versions were the Germanium Point-Contact Transistors, consuming less power, but reliability was an issue.

The University of Manchester, built the first transistorized computer in 1953, and the updated version was running by 1955.  It used two-hundred transistors, thirteen-hundred solid-state diodes, with a power consumption of 150 watts.  Whereas the Harwell CADET, had no tubes it had a tendency to crash every ninety minutes, but by changing to a more reliable bipolar junction transistor, they found crash times were reduced.

Upon comparing vacuum tubes and transistors, the transistors had many advantages, being smaller in design, requiring less power, which gave off less heat.  Transistorized computers contained tens of thousands binary logic circuits in a compact space.

With the creation of transistorized electronics, we saw the Central Processing Unit, within would be the ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit), which performed arithmetic and logic operations the first of many devices which would show enhanced improvements.

In a sense new technology had opened the flood gates to improved parts for the computer, where once they would have taken up the space of a large room, technology had seen them reduced in size, capable of sitting upon a table.  One invention would be the Data-Disk Storage Unit, capable of storing tens of millions letters and digits, alongside removable data disk storage units.  Input/output, a means by which a computer exchanges information.

Telephone connections went on to provide sufficient speeds for early remote terminals like the Teletype or Telex machine.

Who would have believed, that these stand-alone computers, one day would be the basis for the Internet.

Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce, designed the Integrated Circuit (Microchip) in 1958 which led to the invention of the Microprocessor.  Then in 1964 IBM released its Solid Logic Technology modules in Hybrid Circuits.

Intel opened its doors in 1968, and in their early days produced the semi-conductor memory, and went on to create DRAM and EPROM.  Intel developed their Microprocessor in 1971, and crammed an entire computer on a single chip.

They produced the Intel 4004, the first microprocessor consisting of 2300 transistors and clocked at 108 KHz.  They followed up with the 8008 and 8080 models.


Altair Computer

The 8080 was used in MITS Altair computer kit.  This machine attracted one Bill Gates a Harvard freshman to drop out of college and write programs for the computer.

Alan Shugart and IBM invented the Floppy Disk in 1971, and nicknamed it the “Floppy” based on its flexibility of use.

The idea of computers co-ordinating information between one another had been around for years, using telecommunication technology.  Then in 1973 Robert Metcalfe and Xerox created the Ethernet Computer Networking System.

Olivetti, a company more associated with typewriters, presented to the world, their first personal computer the P6060 in 1975.  It had a 32-character display, 80-column thermal printer, 48 Kbytes of RAM and used BASIC language, weighing in at 40 kg.

In 1991 Bill Gates and Microsoft, supplied the world with MS-DOS an operating system to run the computer.  That same year IBM released their home computer, and so the home computer revolution had started.


Apple 1983 Computer

In 1983 Apple released their home computer with a graphical user interface.  In 1984 Apple Macintosh released a more affordable home computer with graphical user interface.

In 1985 Bill Gates and Microsoft released their new Operating System which would revolutionise the computer for decades to come; Microsoft Windows, which has been upgraded over the years.  We have now reached Windows 8.

With the 1990’s came E-mail and the World Wide Web … and computers and the Internet would change our world for ever.

computer 1

Desktop Computer

Wikipedia Images

Typewriter Creation

Gutenberg Printing Press

John Gutenberg, a name that will go down in history, for he invented the printing press using a loose tile system in the mid 15th century.  The exact date is unknown, but it is believed to be around 1440.

The next stage in development would be a machine capable of impressing letters and numbers onto paper.


It was to be nearly three hundred years before; the early development of the typewriter would take place.

In 1714 Queen Anne of England approved the patent of an early typewriter design to inventor Henry Mill.

In 1808, Pellegrino Turri an Italian invented an early design of the typewriter, and took it one step further by the invention of carbon paper, as a means of ink supply.

In 1829, William Austin Burt patented his machine the “Typographer” but it was better known as an “Index Typewriter” as it uses a dial to select keys.

By the time the mid 19th century had arrived businesses needed communication, and mechanisation had become the word when it came to the writing process.  Inventions in this area were released, but none reached commercial production… For their ideas and practical uses did not pan out.

1843 – Charles Thurber patented the Chirographer.

1855 – Giuseppe Ravizza patented the Cembale Scrivano Typewriter prototype.

1861 – Father Francisco Joa de Azevedo built a typewriter from wood.

1865 – John Pratt patented the Pterotype.

1864/1867 – Peler Mitterhofer (de) patented several functioning prototypes of the basic design of a typewriter.

In 1865 we turned a corner, when the Hansen Writing Ball typewriter was invented by Rasmus Malling-Hansen of Denmark, and went into commercial production in 1870.  It was a successful design.

Early designs, attached paper to a cylinder, which was located within a box, by 1874 the cylinder had been replaced by a carriage.

In 1868 Christopher Scholes, Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule of America invented a typewriter which was destined to become commercially successful.  Its patent was sold, and Remington & Sons commercialised the “Sholes and Glidden” typewriter.

Thomas Edison invented a “Universal Stock Tickler” in 1870, which printed letters and numbers on a paper tape, as used with the telegraph line.  For his basic idea coupled with Sholes prototype typewriter, attracted the attention of Edison himself, believing power would one day run the typewriter.


On 1st March 1873, Remington produced its first typewriter using the QWERTY keyboard layout, which is still around to this day.

By the year 1910, the manual typewriter had reached a standard design, using inked ribbons for supply of ink.

1902 – Blickensderfer Manufacturing, released their electronic typewriter, but failed partly due to the fact, electricity voltage differed from city to city.

1910 –  Charles and Howard Krum filed a patent for their Teletypewriter, which used a wheel rather than type bars.  It became the first of its type to come into production, and was used by the Postal Telegraph Company on lines between Boston and New York.

1914 – James Smathers invented a power-assisted typewrited.

1920 – James Smathers produced a successful power-assisted typewriter based on his early design.

1923 – Northeast Electric Company developed Smathers design, using the typewriter and their electric motors into a commercial venture.  By 1925 Remington Electric Typewriters were powered by Northeast’s motors.

With Remington, not willing to place further orders for Northeast’s motors in their typewriters, as they were in talks in the creation of a new company: Remington Rand.

Delco, a division of General Motors, bought Northeast Electrics in 1928, thus creating Electromatic Typewriters which was sold to IBM in 1933, who in 1935 released the redesigned Model 01 Electric Typewriter.

In 1941 IBM released Model 04, with a new dimension in typewriter design.  It contained proportional spacing, which was enhanced by the use of a typewriter ribbon.

In 1961, IBM’s development had changed much since the early days of the typewriter, with the release of the “Selectric Typewriter.”  For out went the type bars, and moving carriages, and in came a sphere with characters, numbers and punctuation symbols fitted on a metal rod.

The “Selectric Mark II” was released in 1971, with pitch control and a ribbon housed within a cartridge and by 1973, it also contained an erasing tape.

1974 the “IBM Memory Typewriter” came into production, giving the user the ability to save and recall their work, and by 1977 they introduced the “Memory 100 Typewriter” which included a 100 page built in memory file.

The electronic typewriter was replaced by the Word Processor, with its own screen, spelling and grammar checkers, and removable storage devices, with a daisy-wheel mechanism by the early part of the 1980’s.  As sales plummeted IBM got out, selling its typewriter business to Lexmark in the 1990’s.

Who would have believed in the early days of typewriter design that people would type at lightning speeds or have capabilities of storing 100 pages of memory text?

So the typewriter and word processor market would give way to the rise of the personal computer, and so technology moves forward…

If you want to read the next stage of development, why not read my article: “The Birth of Computers.”

Wikipedia Images

Printing History: Augustus Applegath

Applegath Bank Note Print

Applegath Printed – Bank Note

Augustus Applegath was born on the 17th June 1788 in the Parish of Stepney in East London.  His father was a sea captain, who worked for the East India Company.

From an early age, Applegath showed an interest in that of finding out how things worked, which would lead him to become an inventor in his time.

He will be remembered, for an invention, the brainchild between himself and his brother-in-law creating a double-sided printing press, known as the “Applegath and Cowper Royal.”

Applegath caught the attention of the “Bank of England,” and in 1818 they allowed him to print £1.00 and £5.00 forgery proof notes.  Millions of £1.00 notes were printed, but none were released to the general public.  The idea being that paper as a medium had been used and that William Bawtree of the Bank could produce reasonable copies, even in the six colours of Applegath’s version.

The project was cancelled, and Applegath and Cowper received £4,000 in remuneration for the time spent on this venture, and neglect in their other business interests.

Applegath designed a printing press for “The Times” which would be capable of printing some 5,000 newspapers an hour.  The first version reached its target of 5,000 and the four-feeder version introduced in 1846, saw “The Times” print a daily circulation of some 28,000 copies.  Then in 1848 the newly improved eight-feeder version was able to print 8,000 copies per hour.

His inventions did not stop there, for he invented a successful method of silk printing, by using curved copper plates rather than traditional handblocks.

Not all of his inventions were successful.  For it was in 1848 he built a traction engine which was road tested.  On one attempt it landed in a ditch, and he was so disgusted with it, that he left it there, gathering rust.

Augustus Applegath died on the 9th February  1871 aged 82, knowing his inventions would help those following up behind.

Printing History: John Baskerville

John Baskerville

John Baskerville

John Baskerville was born on the 28th January 1706 in Wolverley, Worcestershire, England.

From an early age, he loved to see beautiful lettering in written works, this passion would take over his life, and by 1723 he had become a skilled engraver.  His early engravings were upon tombstones, and from there he moved forward.

Around 1725/26 he moved to Birmingham, and became a writing master by 1738 adding new innovations to his skills, such as early forms of enamelling.

In 1750 set-up his foundary and printing works and experimented with typography, paper-making and ink manufacturing, and in 1754 produced his first ever typeface.

In 1757, printed his first book, “Virgil” and in 1758: “Paradise Lost by John Milton.”  He showed his true abilities in the printing world, and was duly appointed printer to the University of Cambridge, where he printed “Book of Common Prayer” and the “New Testament” in a Greek typeface.

John Baskerville and Benjamin Franklin created a lasting friendship as fellow printers only separated by the waters between their two countries.

John Baskerville left for his successors new innovations in the art of printing, paper and ink development.  He created a smooth white quality paper to showcase his Baskerville Typeface in a strong black colour with improvements in ink type and colour.  His style of typography changed the way text appeared upon paper, with wider margins and line spacing.

John Baskerville died on the 8th January 1775 aged sixty-nine, but his burial was not straight forward by any means.  Under Church law, as a confirmed atheist, he could not be buried on holy ground.

Therefore he was buried in a mausoleum erected in his garden, and upon the death of his partner Sarah on the 21st March 1788 the house was sold.  In 1791 John Ryland moved in, and left it to his son Samuel upon his death, who bequeathed it to Thomas Gibson.  Part of the land was turned into a wharf with a canal, which resulted in the destruction of the mausoleum, with Baskerville’s coffin left buried underground.

In 1821, the coffin was discovered, and placed in storage at Gibson & Sons until 1829, then moved to John Marston’s Shop (Plumber & Glazier).  An application was made by Marston to move Baskerville’s body to his family vault at St.Philips Church, but the request was denied by the church.  Yet the body was moved to Mr.Nott’s family vault at Christ Church, a friend of Marston’s without the permission of the church.

In 1892, Talbot Baines Reed, started a search for Baskerville’s body, and upon discovery at a vault in Christ Church, had it cemented behind bricks.

Some years later all coffins held in vaults were removed and interred in the Church of England cemetery in Warstone Lane, within a vault, located under the chapel.  Later the chapel was demolished and the entrance blocked up forever.

John Baskerville became famous in life as he did in death.  I wonder what the man himself would have thought about being carted here and there all because of his beliefs.

Printing History: William Caslon

William Caslon

William Caslon was born in 1692 in Cradley, Worcestershire, England.  In 1706 aged just 14, he undertook an apprenticeship as an engraver for a London based harness-maker.

In 1716, he set himself up as a self-employed engraver, and his early works included engraving government marks on gunlocks.  He was commissioned by London printers and booksellers, to undertake a printer’s font of Arabic in English format for a Psalter and a New Testament for oriental use.

It wasn’t long before Caslon was creating and cutting his own font designs, yet still modelled on the Dutch designs but more delicate and exotic in appearance.

In 1720, he designed the English Arabic typeface, and in 1722 produced Roman, Italic and Hebrew versions for the printer William Bowyer.  In 1725 he set-up his own typeface foundry and in 1726 produced the Roman typeface, later known as the Caslon type faced.  His typefaces became an instant success.  Then in 1734, Caslon produced a specimen page, illustrating forty-seven of his typefaces.

His lifelong work was culminated, when one of his typefaces, was used for “The Declaration of Independence,” of the USA in 1776.  Sadly he died in 1766, before seeing it in print.

Yet he left his mark, one that would carry on what he and his predecessors had started all those years ago… the age of printing…

Printer: William Caxton

William Caxton and King Edward IV

William Caxton and King Edward IV

William Caxton’s exact date of birth is unknown, but history dictates his birth be around 1422 in the Weald of Kent.

In 1438 aged 16, Caxton became an apprentice to Robert Large a London merchant, and upon the death of his employer, he moved to Bruges, and spent some thirty years working there as a merchant.

His success as a merchant was shown, when he became “Governor of the English Nation,” at Bruges in Belgium.

In 1469, he entered the service of Margaret, the Duchess of Burgundy who was the sister of King Edward IV of England.  Where he undertook the translation of “Raoul le Fevre’s history of Troy” into English, which he undertook in 1471-1472 in Cologne, where he learnt the trade of printing.

Upon his return to Bruges, joined up with Colard Mansion, using his new found knowledge and set up a printing press.  Their partnership lasted for two years and in that time many publications were undertaken including; “The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye,” and “The Game and Playe of the Cheese” a moral treatise on government that he dedicated to the Duke of Clarence.

1476, William Caxton left Bruges, and came home to England, setting up a printer’s shop in London, with Wynkyn de Worde as his foreman and his successor upon his death.

This was the first printing press in all England.  In his lifetime he printed in excess of one-hundred books; Chaucer’s – Canterbury Tales, Gower’s – Confession Amantis and the list goes on.

He was much more than a mere printer, he translated many books, using his knowledge of French, Latin and the Dutch language.

William Caxton died in the early months of 1492, and left one daughter, who married Gerald Crop.  William Caxton was buried in St.Margaret’s churchyard in the borough of Westminster.  It was not until 1820, that a memorial was erected, the work of sculptor Henry Westmacott.  The inscription read:  “To the memory of William Caxton who first introduced into Great Britain the art of printing and who AD 1477 or earlier exercised that art in the Abbey of Westminster.  The tablet of remembrance of one to whom the literature of his country is so largely indebted was raised Anno Domini MDCCCXX by the Roxburghe Club, Earl Spencer K.G.President.”

On the 30th April 1882, a stained glass window was erected in St.Margaret’s Church, but this was damaged in 1940, during World War Two.  Yet a marble tablet still remains, recording its erection.

In 1954, close to Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, a memorial was unveiled to William Caxton.

William Caxton and his successors had carried on the early works of printing by Johannes Gutenberg.  They would carry forth much to stabilize English literature for future generations.

Wikipedia Image

Printer: Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg

Early inventions in Europe, led to the start of a new era, which would see early experiments involving the transferring of calligraphy styled text placed upon wooden blocks in reverse form.  The next stage of development would see the wood removed from around the lettered text, and printer’s ink applied to the letter.  Then paper or vellum would be applied to the block, which transformed the shaped text onto the surface.

From this small but unique beginning, was the start in a new era; the printing revolution had begun.

Johannes Gutenberg was born in the late 1390’s to parents Friele Gensfleisch zur Laden and Else Wyrich, and lived in the German city of Mainz.  His father’s trade was that of a goldsmith, employed by the Bishop at Mainz and working within the ecclesiastic mint.  So it was, young Johannes grew up knowing only the goldsmith trade.

It is understood, that his surname was derived from the house they inhabited and his ancestors; zu Laden and zu Gutenberg

In 1411, there was an uprising in Mainz, and hundreds of families fled, fearing for their lives.  The family fled to Eltville am Rhein, where his mother had inherited an estate.

Young Johannes is believed to have attended the University of Erfurt under the name of Johannes de Altavilla in 1418 (Altavilla is the Latin for Eltville am Rhein).

In 1419 his father Friele Gensfleisch zur Laden died, bequeathing him an inheritance.  What Johannes did over the next fifteen years is unknown, but one can only assume he trained in the art of a goldsmith, as in March 1434 he was living in Strasbourg, and a goldsmith by trade, and in 1437 taught the art of polishing gem stones.


The Gutenberg Bible

When we think of the name Johannes Gutenberg one thing comes to mind the “Johann Gutenberg Bible.”  Thought to be the most famous Bible in the world; the 42-line Bible as it is referred to and printed using movable type as invented by himself.

In 1439 was involved making polished metal mirrors and selling these to pilgrims, claiming they could capture holy light, this was one of his many money making schemes.

When we think of the name Johannes Gutenberg one thing comes to mind, the “Gutenberg Bible.”  Thought to be the most famous Bible in the world; the 42-line Bible as it is referred to has 42 lines per page and was printed using movable type as created by himself.

He was no different to other inventors, always running out of money, and coming up with short term innovative schemes, to make a quick profit, to invest in his original idea.

In 1448, Johannes returned to Mainz, where he arranged a loan from Arnold Gelthus, an investment for the next stage in his idea for a printing press with moveable blocks – moveable typefaces.

In 1450, the printing press was up and operational.  Gutenberg had created the printing press, a lifetime achievement for him … but it would not end there.

Gutenberg’s venture provided additional finance from Johann Fust the moneylender in the sum of 800 guilders.  Peter Schoffer had worked as a scribe in Paris, and joined in this financial venture, and is believed to have been responsible for some of the early typeface designs.

Gutenberg set-up his workshop at Hof Humbrecht and at this time borrowed a further 800 guilders.  Early publications included Latin grammars and works for the church.  Then in 1452 Gutenberg started the printing of his legendary work: “The Gutenberg Bible” also known as the “42-line Bible” which took three years to complete.

Johann Gutenberg’s dream was falling apart before his very eyes, when Fust the moneylender took him to court, demanding repayment of the loan.  In November 1455, the court sided in favour of Fust, handing over to him full control of the Bible printing workshop and half of the printed bibles as a settlement of the debt.

Gutenberg had been forced into bankruptcy, but it wasn’t long before he was up and running once again.  In 1459 in the town of Bamburg, he had a small print shop, and printed bibles yet again.

The Fust-Schoffer partnership, were the first in Europe to print books, with printers name and date; MainzPsalter – August 1457.  Johannes Gutenberg who had designed and created the press, which made all this possible, was not mentioned.

In 1462, conflict between two archbishops, saw Gutenberg exiled from Mainz, and so he moved to Eltville.  Everything changed in January 1465, when he was recognised for his achievements, receiving the title “Hofmann” (Gentleman of the Court) and an annual stipend, by Archbishop von Nassau, the very same person who had exiled him.

Johannes Gutenberg died in 1468, and was buried in the Franciscan Church at Mainz in Germany.

Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable blocks – moveable typefaces never made him rich in his lifetime, but he left a legacy that will never be forgotten; “The Gutenberg Bible.”

As the centuries have gone by, his printing press innovation has made books cheaper to produce, making them more financially available to the man or woman on the street.  What started out as one man’s idea … became a reality?

Wikipedia Images

Writing Instruments

Fountain Pen Set

The Fountain Pen:  The idea of writing instruments designed to carry their own ink supply had been a theoretical idea, but it was not until the beginning of the 1700’s, that the theory was being put into practice.

The first fountain pen was designed by M.Bion a Frenchman in 1702, but it was more than a 100 years later in 1809. When American Peregrin Williamson, patented his design in 1809.

John Scheffer obtained a British patent for his design of 1819, for his idea of a half quill – half metal pen.

Then in 1831 John Jacob Parker patented his design of a self-filling pen, but it was the design of Lewis Waterman, who patented the first practical fountain pen in 1884.

If it had not been for early fountain-pen inventors; using the hollow channel of a birds feather to create an ink reservoir, to replace the constant use of dipping into an ink well. The Romans created a reed style of pen, from the hollow tubular-stems of marsh grasses. By cutting one end to create a nib or point, with which to write with, they filled the stem with ink, and squeezed the stems, thus forcing the fluid into the nib. We would never have started a creative revolution in the design of new pens. Another design was to use a reservoir made of hard rubber, and fit a metal nib at the bottom. Unfortunately this did not have the required effect of producing a smooth writing instrument.

It was Lewis Waterman an insurance salesman, who was inspired to improve upon the early fountain-pen design, by adding an air hole in the nib, and three grooves into the feed mechanism.  His mechanism consisted of the nib, which made contact with the paper, a feed to control ink flow.  The aim of the barrel was to hold the nib, protect the reservoir, which in turn the writer holds.

By now we had reached a stage in pen designs, where they all contained some form of internal reservoir to hold ink.

The pens would have an internal reservoir, which would consist of a self-filling rubber sack, opened at one end.  To fill with ink, the reservoir was squeezed by using an internal plate, and then the pen’s nib inserted into the ink.  As pressure was released so the reservoir would fill up.

The period between the late 1800’s through to the mid 1900’s, saw a battle as pen companies, each sought to become the brand leader in reservoir pen designs.  The earliest known design of that time would be the Eyedropper, which had no internal filling mechanism.  Most open by unscrewing a section of the pen, after which the barrel is filled with ink using an eyedropper.  As long as the seal was tight, no ink should leak out.

Parker introduced the Button Filler, which had an external button connected to the internal pressure plate.  Then Walter Sheaffer responded by designing the Lever Filler, a slight variation on the Button Filler, for it used an external lever, that fitted flush with the pen.  Back came Parker, not to be outdone, with their Click Filler, using two protruding tabs, to deflate reservoir, and they clicked when reservoir was full.  Then Waterman introduced the Coin Filler, with slot in barrel, and by use of a coin, one could deflate and fill reservoir.

Other companies came up with their own variations on the main design, but the main companies of that time and still in existence to this day are: Parker, Sheaffer and Waterman.

Some of the early inks were known to corrode the steel nib tips, which led to the introduction of a gold tip.  However, gold also had its problems; it was too soft, for the purpose of writing.  To overcome this design flaw, they used Iridium (A hard yellow-white chemical element that occurs in platinum ores) on the tip of the nib.

Early nibs were available in straight, oblique and italic designs.  As the years went by, and the need to communicate grew, so did the demand in pens, and a larger selection of pen nibs; wider, longer and shaped.

Everything changed in the early 1950’s, with the introduction of a new range of fountain pens, without the need of a reservoir.  They would revolutise the design for the future.

The reservoir had gone, to be replaced with a disposable ink cartridge, originally made of glass, then later of a rubbery plastic.  When they arrived on the scene, they were an immediate success … sixty years on and they are still going.

Ballpoint Pens - Wikipedia

The Ballpoint Pen:  Laszlo Biro a Hungarian journalist, observed newspaper ink dried quickly, and was smudge free.  His creative juices were activated, and by 1938 he had invented the first Ballpoint pen.

The thicker ink used for newspapers would not flow unaided, which led to a small ball-bearing being fitted to the pens tip.  The idea was, as the ball rotated it collected ink from the reservoir and placed it on the paper.  So simple, yet so clever.

In 1940, Laszlo Biro and his brother George emigrated to Argentina, and applied for a new patent in 1943, and sold licensing rights to the British, as the Royal Air Force needed a pen that would not leak at high altitudes.  The success of this pen brought it to the forefront of pen design.

Laszlo and George Biro went on to form the Eterpen Company and commercialised the Biro pen, which was hailed as an ultimate success.  One of its main advantages was that it only needed re-filling once a year.

The Biro brothers neglected to apply for a U.S.Patent.  As World War Two was coming to an end, so a new battle was just starting: The Battle of The Ballpoint Pens.

For it was in May 1945, the Eversharp Company joined forces with Eberhand – Faber acquiring Biro Pens of Argentina and rebranded the product as Eversharp CA (Capillary Action).

Milton Reynolds saw the Biro Pen whilst in Buenos Aires, and returned to America with a few of them.  By October 1945, Reynolds had copied the Biro design, thus breaking Eversharp’s patent rights, and started the Reynolds Pen Company.  The release of this pen was an overwhelming success.  It was released on the 29th October 1945 priced at $12.50 and went on to sell $100,000 worth on the first day.

Eversharp sued Reynolds for breach of patent rights.

By December 1945, England’s Miles-Martin Pen Company had stepped in releasing their own design of the Biro Pen.

Advertisers claimed these pens would write for two years before the need to refill.  Sales rocketed, but it was not long before problems arose; some leaked, some worked some of the time, and others were known to fail all together.

The consumer was dis-satisfied with the ballpoint pen, and sales nose dived, and by 1951, the ballpoint pen died a consumer’s death.

In January 1954, Parker Pens tossed their hat into the ring, by introducing their version of the Ballpoint Pen, known as the Jotter, which worked, so the battle for the ballpoint pen had been won.  Then in 1957 they introduced a tungsten carbide textured ball bearing in their pens.

A French Baron named Bich, removed the h from his name, and started the BIC Pen Company in the 1950’s, and by the end of the 50’s had acquired 70% of the European market.

By 1958, BIC a major player in the pen market had acquired 60% of Waterman Pens and by 1960 owned Waterman Pens outright.

BIC Ballpoint Pen Company dominates the market, selling cheap pens, whilst the likes of Parker, Sheaffer and Waterman sell the expensive Ballpoint Pens.

Pencils Rubbers Sharpeners

The Pencil:  In 1564, in an area of Seat Waite Valley in Borrow Dale, England; Graphite which is a form of carbon was discovered, and so the first pencils were produced.

The main break through into the world of pencil technology came in 1795, when French chemist, Nicolas Conte used a mixture of fired clay and graphite before housing it in a wooden case.

Pencils got their name from the old English word meaning ‘brush’.  Conte’s method of Kiln firing powdered graphite and clay allowed pencils to be made to any hardness or softness.  The variations have changed over the years: H – 2H – 3H – HB – B – 2B – 3B and so the list goes on.

Birth of Writing

Cave Painting

Cave Man – Paintings

When we look around to-day, at how things are, and how much our daily lives rely on the art of writing.  We have to wonder how difficult it must have been in those early times, before writing and the alphabet came into existence.

Primitive man, a nomadic race of people, whom we are descended from, lived on this world of ours some 30,000 or more years ago.  They left their story for future inhabitants to find, on the walls of caves, made up of pictures and symbols, cut into stone using shaped stone tools and bones, often coloured by natural dyes.

They moved around, following herds of animals; as their food moved, so did they.  Only when they became less nomadic in their lifestyle, and learnt to cultivate crops and raise herds of cattle, would some form of early language develop… the first steps in communication.  So the evolution of man had started; pictures to symbols and symbols to letters as the alphabet was developed.

When I think back to my early years, and being taught how to write, creating my first o then adding a side line and a tail to the right and creating an a.  It must have been a thrill to those men of learning who went on and created the very first alphabet.

They produced an early form of writing instrument, made out of stone, and sharpened, so they could scratch Rock Art pictures on the walls of caves and dwellings.  It could be anything from, family life, their offspring, crops and victories with cave men or animals.

With the discovery of clay, early traders were able to record details of their trading using clay tokens with pictographs.

Writing forms started out in 3500 BC, when the Sumerians, created their own unique style of Pictograms, which consisted of people or objects.  They found they needed more forms of images to express their meaning, which led to the Ideogram.  In time these symbols represented a word; Logograms.

An example of the changes:  You had four people, standing by a camel.  Instead of showing four separate images for each person and one for the camel, this would be replaced by an image of a single person and the sign indicating four, plus the camel image.

Sumerian Cuneiform

Sumerian Cuneiform

The Sumerians used a wedge-shaped tool, made from reed, to press signs into clay tablets they had developed.  This new writing system was called Cuneiform (Wedge-Shaped).

From these humble beginnings, they developed images to represent sounds, so as to create a record in their own spoken language.  Sounds equalled specific images, once achieved they took it a step further, and recorded for history, works of literature.

In 668-627 BC the Assyrian King; Ashurbanipal had libraries containing such works as the “Epic of Gilgamesh.”

The cuneiform writing system spread through the middle east, during its 3,000 year history, writing the sounds as used by many countries and their languages.  Which included Babylonian, Assyrian, Elamite and Hittite, just some of the fifteen, who used this system of writing.

An early writing system was in its early stages of creation on the island of Crete in 3000 BC.  By 2000 BC they had developed the phonogram-syllabic script.

Therefore all the indications were there, the Greeks possessed a writing system.  Sadly their culture, their lifestyle was destroyed by Dorian invaders around 1100 BC.

Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs, were discovered in 1988 by Gunter Dreyer the archaeologist at Abydos, south of Cairo.  Inscriptions were found upon; pottery, bones, tombs and clay seals.  Radiocarbon analysis performed on the finds, deduced they dated between 3400 and 3200 BC which would make them one of the oldest, if not the oldest example of Egyptian writing known to exist.  Some of the Hieroglyphs used in Egypt, were similar to the cuneiform, that they referred to objects or had their links to sounds.  Many are used by royalty and deity, as can be seen in the Valley of the Kings, where many Pharaoh’s have their pyramids and burial chambers.

The word hieroglyph, is Greek in origin, and comes from the word hieros, and if we follow the route of the word it means sacred and carved stone.

Other types of scripts were developed by the Egyptians; “Hieratic” a hand written style produced between 2613-2160 BC, and used until 700 BC.  It was later replaced by the “Demotic” a popular abbreviated version (661-332 BC).

The earliest known styles, still in existence within China are believed to date back to the Shang Dynasty (1500-1050 BC).  Inscriptions have also been discovered, carved into oracle bones and upon Shang bronzes  dating from this period.  Egyptian hieroglyphs faded with the rigors of time, whilst Chinese versions exist in one form or another.

Seal scripts as developed around 221 BC, are still used as a seal, as a personal signature.  By 200 BC a Clerical script came into existence for the purpose of book-keeping, and Grass script for note-taking.

China’s highest written art-form has to be that of Calligraphy; produced by using a brush or quill.

The Phoenicians once belonged to the Aramaic people, and settled in Syria pre 1000 BC, and were established sea-faring traders.  The writing systems of the Phoenician and Aramaic people were similar.

The Aramaic people were suppressed and scattered by the Assyrian invasions of their lands, sometime after 732 BC.  By then, much of the Babylonian language and cuneiform writing system had been replaced by their own, before being lost …

Aramaic scripts spread across the Assyrian Empire through to the lands of Afghanistan, India and Mongolia.  From these small steps, new writing systems developed; modern Arabic, Hebrew, Persian scripts and Brahmin script as used in India.

The Aramaic script was the language of Jesus and his disciples.  In the 6th century AD, this script was still being used, for St.Mashtots introduced it as the new alphabet for the Armenian people.

The Arabic script of Islam, a descendant of the Nabatean.  These scripts first started appearing around 300 AD.

Phoenician had a direct connection with Hieratic and Demotic scripts of Ancient Egypt.  Once a standard style had been developed for its use, so the Koran a sacred text was written, and spread through North Africa, Asia, India and China.  It was halted in its path of crossing into the lands of Western Europe by Charles Martel who defeated the Saracen armies at Poitiers in 733 AD.

If we cross the Pacific Ocean, and come forward in time to AD 300-900 we reach the Maya civilisation in Central America.  It is here glyph pictograms have been discovered upon sculptures, pottery murals and public buildings, and are believed to date back to (AD 250-900) their Classic period.  Whilst other’s are known to belong to their Late Pre Classical period (400 BC – AD 250).  The inscriptions detail historical events, alliances, wars and marriages.

The Maya glyphs are made up of square blocks each with its own inscription, then placed in horizontal and vertical rows, and finally read from left to right.

The first known alphabet was developed around 1500BC, by the Semites in Syria and Palestine, using signs to show the consonants of syllables, using their own set of characters.

Around 1000BC the Phoenicians developed an alphabet which the Greek modified.  With written lines; left to right and they added symbols for vowels.  Now days all western alphabets, are based on the early Greek alphabet.

In the early days of writing, there was only uppercase lettering, until around 600AD, when lowercase was introduced, with finer writing pens for this use.

The earliest implements that resembled that of a pen and paper were developed by the Greeks, using a nib made of metal, bone or ivory.

For it was that the Grecian scholar, Cadmus who invented the written letter-text messages.

Indian ink was invented by the Chinese Philosopher; Tien-Lcheu in 2697BC, out of soot, lamp oil, gelatine of donkey skin and musk, and was commonly used by 1200BC.  Other cultures developed their inks using natural dyes, with berries for colour, plants and minerals.

Parchment Paper

Parchment Paper

With the invention of ink, came the introduction of parchment paper, created in 2500 BC by the Egyptians, made from a water plant; papyrus.  Which was used by early Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and Hebrews.

We now had paper and ink, but needed an effective way of transcribing it.  So it was the Romans who created a reed style of pen, from the hollow tubular-stems of marsh grasses.  By cutting one end to create a nib or point, with which to write with, they filled the stem with ink, and squeezed the stems, thus forcing the fluid into the nib.

By 400AD a stable form of ink had been developed, consisting of iron-salts, nutgalls and gum, which would remain in use for centuries.  When first applied to paper, it was a bluish-black in colour, turning truly black, then to a dull brown over the years.

A wood fibre paper had been invented in China around 105AD and brought to Spain by the Arabs in 711AD.

Quill Pen

Quill Pen

The writing instrument that dominated history was the quill pen, as that used by Calligraphists, first introduced in 700AD and made from bird feathers.  Goose feathers were most commonly used, swan feathers being scarce were classed as premium grade, and crow feathers used for straight lines.

Plant fibre paper became the primary medium for writing after the dramatic invention by Johannes Gutenberg of the printing press with wooden or metal letters in 1436.

Articles written by hand had resembled printed letters until scholars began to change the form of writing, using capitals and small letters, writing with more of a slant and connecting letters.  The running hand or cursive style of handwriting with Roman capitals and small letters (Uppercase and lowercase) was invented by Aldus Manutius of Venice in 1495AD, and by the end of the 16th century we had the twenty-six lettered alphabet as we know it to-day.

The history of writing in Britain started in the 5th century AD, with the Anglo-Saxons.  By the 7th century AD, the Latin alphabet had been introduced.

The Normans invaded our shores in 1066, and the English language was relegated to the poor, whilst nobility, clergy and scholars spoke and read Norman or Latin.  By the 13th century, the English language had become the most prominent language once again, having been influenced by two centuries of Norman rule.