Saturday, June 23, 2007

National Typewriter Day

Christopher Latham Sholes was trying to automatically number pages in a book when he enhanced the invention to include the entire alphabet. Scientific American coined 'typewriting' and the typewriter was patented on this date in 1868.
Sholes was accused of arranging the letters to slow down typists so they wouldn't notice his machine was sluggish. He placed letter-pairs so the mechanical typebars would be less likely to bump into each other. QWERTY was actually included in the typewriter patent.

Gunmakers E. Remington & Sons produced the machine and a new industry was born. Well, okay, it did not catch on too quickly. Most writers continued writing by hand. Mark Twain was the first to submit a typed manuscript for publishing in 1883. Even then, Twain did not do the typing.
The typewriter eventually did catch on, the machine was reduced in size, and portable typewriters were produced. That was lucky for news reporters who were no longer restricted to the office to write their assignments. It was not uncommon to see war articles written from the trenches -- yes, typed in the trenches.

One such reporter was Ernie Pyle. He was a sailor in WWI, but in WWII he was a war correspondent. He wrote in an intimate style about the common soldier, and his column was instrumental in Congress' decision to add combat pay to the soldier in combat. He wrote a syndicated column read around the country. The Pulitzer Prize winning columnist was killed by enemy fire near Okinawa in 1945.

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists declared National Columnist Day in honor of Ernie Pyle. How appropriate on this day, the anniversary of the beginning of the columnists' tool.

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