Christopher Latham Sholes

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

photo: mytypewriter.com
In 1875, Christopher Sholes is United States citizen with assistance from Amos Densmore rearranged the typewriter keyboard so that the commonest letters were not so close together and the type bars would come from opposite directions. Thus they would not clash together and jam the machine. The new arrangement was the "QWERTY" arrangement that typists use today. Sholes was a U.S. mechanical engineer who invented the first practical modern typewriter, patented in 1868. Sholes invented the typewriter with partners S. W. Soule and G. Glidden, that was manufactured (by Remington Arms Company) in 1873. The type-bar system and the universal keyboard were the machine's novelty, but the keys jammed easily. To solve the jamming problem, another business associate, James Densmore, suggested splitting up keys for letters commonly used together to slow down typing. This became today's standard "QWERTY" keyboard. Sholes claimed that the new arrangement was scientific and would add speed and efficiency. Sholes lacked the patience required to market the new product and sold the rights to Densmore. He, in turn, convinced Philo Remington (of rifle fame) to market the device. The first "Sholes & Glidden Type Writer" was offered for sale in 1874 but was not an instant success. A few years later, improvements made by Remington engineers gave the machine its market appeal and sales skyrocketed. Sholes spent the end of his life in ever-increasing obscurity. He continued to tinker with various inventions, but none saw the light of day. He was born February 14, 1819 in Mooresburg, Pennsylvania, and died on February 17, 1890 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Here are a few more interesting facts: The Sholes keyboard is called the QWERTY keyboard because of the ordering of the first six keys in the third row. On the original Sholes keyboard, there was no key for the number '1', because the inventors decided that the users could get by with the letter 'l'. There was no shift key, the first typewriters could only type upper case letters. The first shift key typewriter didn't appear on the market until 1878.

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