QWERTY Keyboards. Mightier Than The Gun?
In a world where typing has long outstripped writing, few people know the story of how the Qwerty keyboard came about or that famous gun manufacturer Remington was involved
On June 23rd, 1868, the Sholes and Glidden typewriter was patented. This was the first commercially practical device of its kind which had started in 1867 with Christopher Latham Sholes at the helm, flanked by Samuel W. Soule and Carlos S. Glidden. When Soule stepped away, James Densmore filled the void, injecting much-needed finances and pivotal guidance with his visionary insights.
Earlier typewriters used to jam frequently so Densmore’s ‘stroke of genius’ was to scatter frequently-used letter combinations so they were less likely to jam. This was then honed by Sholes into the QWERTY keyboard layout – a design still at the heart of our digital world today. Sholes’ influence extended beyond invention to politics, where he stood out for his integrity.
Interestingly, after countless refinements, his typewriter finally piqued the interest of E. Remington and Sons. This renowned firearm manufacturer, known for their innovation, saw promise in the invention. This aligned with their own core-values of pushing boundaries, as shown when the younger Remington endeavoured to forge a superior gun barrel from wrought iron, according to one of the firm’s origin stories.
John Jonathan Pratt’s ‘Pterotype’ (early prototype of a typewriter) acted as an inspiration for the inventors. This curious device piqued Glidden’s interest, who shared it with Sholes, who immediately saw potential for a more refined machine. However, the road to perfection was long. As Densmore candidly observed, the early Sholes and Glidden typewriter was “good for nothing except to show that its underlying principles were sound”, but it took numerous revisions to create a market-ready product.
When Remington took the reins, the typewriter hit the market in 1874, spawning an entirely new industry. Priced at about $125, it found buyers in various quarters, not least among them, the renowned author Mark Twain.
The Sholes and Glidden typewriter story encapsulates the essence of relentless dedication, innovative thinking and ceaseless improvement, all of which are crucial for modern companies looking to make an impact and establish themselves as market leaders.