Sunday, September 26, 2010

Underwood Typewriter

Welcome to Typewriter week. Today's picture was taken in 1918, and it shows a woman next to a state of the art Underwood typewriter.

Today, no typewriters are manufactured. I am curious when the last typewriter was made. I did quiet a bit of research, but was not able to find anything definitive.

I entered the workforce in the mid-1980's. At the time, there was one PC in the building, and it was something of a novelty . . . no one really used it. All letters and memos were hand written, given to a secretary, and then the secretary would type it up for you. It was especially important to be nice to the secretary, to ensure your work was done in a timely manner, and done accurately. By the mid to late 1990's, everyone had a PC. The secretaries still had typewriters, but most everyone typed up their own letters, papers, and memos. 

I can remember in the mid-2000's, offices still had typewriters, but they were used mainly for things like labels, or when it was necessary to put words on non-standard or odd size pieces of paper, like time cards. I would imagine typewriters are still around for that purpose, as it is still difficult to use a computer when you must align to existing things on a piece of paper. One wonders when the last typewriter will be shelved from an office.


  1. I learned to type on an Underwood that looked just like this.

  2. I recall the first time I ever saw a job applicant requirement of experience with 'word processing'. I wondered "what the heck is 'word processing'. (Soon afterwards I owned a computer.)

    MS-Word has templates for alignment to some things, one being labels. However, its templates do not cover the gamut of all special alignments.

  3. Back in the early 70's I used a portable electric typewriter for my Journalism classes. My fingers were just too big and caused more than a few errors, those electric typewriters were sensitive. Soon I was back to the old family fossil Remington.

  4. I used an IBM Selectric which allowed one to change fonts by removing the type ball and exchanging it for another. Now with the click of a mouse you can have your choice of 100's of fonts, quite an improvement. Those who have never typed on a typewriter have no appreciation of the ability to type and correct and edit so easily on a computer as opposed to typing, especially with 3 carbon copies that needed to be corrected as well!

  5. Looks like Brother still makes them??

  6. Back in primary school I had typing classes ... Now my 4 yro saw one in a cartoon and told me: "a computer, I know how to use these!". So I took him to grandpa's and shown a typewriter - not sure he understood 100% what it is for.

  7. Manual and electric typewriters are still the norm in many third world countries where the power grid is iffy. They are certainly reliable! I still use an electric typewriter for labels. I have a WW2 portable typewriter issued by the US Navy. It weighs about 20 pounds and only types CAPS. It needs a cleaning and a fresh ribbon. I used to type letters on it just for fun.

  8. I own an Underwood No. 5 which my Father purchased in the 50's and I learned to type on it. Then I went into the workforce in 1968 and used a variety of manual typewriters, including a statistical typewriter which had a row of keys under the space bar. These keys enabled you to tab to the appropriate place in a number from the decimal point. There was nothing to use for correction except an eraser with a little brush on the end to brush away the residue. Then came liquid paper which was quite an innovation. I purchased my own Selectric typewriter in 1974 which I still have but do not use. In 1986, we went to word processors in the office. MS Word was a joy when it came out, but as time has gone on, they have made this program more and more difficult to use. We still use typewriters at my office, however, to complete forms, but they are merely plastic replicas of those old heavy duty workhorses. To this day, I miss the "click, click . . ." of manual typewriters which could be heard all over the offices.

  9. I'm not sure if she was selling typewriters, but those eyes could have sold me a half dozen, easily.

    At my first post-college job we had to do considerable lobbying to get PCs on our desks. At the time, managers looked at us like we were nuts.

    The computer terminals were off in little cubbyholes and shared by dozens of people. And the card punches were in the hall, under stair wells.

    I pressed them for a year to get the newfangled 'ethernet' thing approved so we could access the computer from our desk. It ws still quite a foreign concept to the old guys.

    Even then, we still had a typing pool that did all the official stuff, but at least we could give them typed copy instead of our awful handwriting.

  10. And the kids today have no idea what you're talking about when you say 'typewriter'.

  11. You get that same look from kids when you say "You sound like a broken record"

  12. Well sometimes I think office work was easier BC (Before Computers). I had my first job in 1972 way before the office was computerized and I loved the IBM Selectric typewriters. Computers were suppose to save paper and work. Instead they GENERATE it. Now everything has to be documented and filed.....

  13. Things change but they stay the same: young women still pose next to the latest electronic gadgets in ads.....

  14. We have a typewriter exactly like the one in this photo - it’s been completely refurbished and is in perfect operating condition. It’s currently serving as a desk ornament.

    It belonged to my mother - her father bought it (used) for her in 1938 when she graduated from high school and attended the Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School in Providence, RI.

    For over 60 years, this typewriter sat covered and dusty in the basements of our houses. For some reason, it survived the 1964 move from the first house we lived in (which had been built by our grandfather and was our mother’s childhood home) to the house my father still lives in today. I remember being down in the cellar on rainy days and playing with it as a child.

    After my mother passed away last year, my dad brought it out; took it to our local typewriter repair shop (yes, those places still exist); and had it completely restored.

    My sister is a newspaper reporter and he thought it would make a nice gift for her - but she left it with my dad for safekeeping. It looks brand new.

    My dad has a couple of other old electric typewriters from the 1960s in the basement, too. The were considered “high tech” at the time. I remember using one when I was an English Lit major in college in the early 1970s.

    Just . . . imagine, writing all of those lengthy literary analysis papers with no word processor, and NO CORRECTION TAPE, either. You either had to erase the mistake or type the entire page over if you had omitted a word or a line. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it!!

  15. well..even though I'm one of the Y Gen :D I still hv chance to learn how to use the typewriter. Yes because I live in third world country.
    Back in 90's when I was at elementary, the price of computer is relatively high. So before my parents managed to buy me a PC, I have to learned how to type with the manual typewriter.


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