TODAY IS CAPS LOCK DAY!

CAPS LOCK DAY! OH BOY! MY FAVORITE! APPARENTLY CAPS LOCK DAY WAS INTENDED TO HONOR BILLY MAYS, THE KING OF INFOMERCIALS, WHO ALWAYS TALKED IN THE AUDIO EQUIVALENT OF CAPS LOCK.

6/28 IS ALSO TAU DAY, FOR A MORE OBVIOUS REASON. TAU IS A WORTHY REFORM THAT STANDS NO CHANCE OF ADOPTION. ALL PRACTICAL USES OF PI ARE ACTUALLY TWOPI, SO IT MAKES SENSE TO HAVE A SINGLE LETTER FOR THE REAL USE. UNFORTUNATELY MATH IS RULED BY THEORETICIANS, AND IN THEIR VIRTUAL WORLD ONEPI IS MORE IMPORTANT.

TO OBSERVE CAPS LOCK DAY, I’LL REPRINT MY TRIBUTE TO THE ORIGINAL SHOLES TYPEWRITER. EARLY TYPEWRITERS WERE ALL CAPS WITH NO CHOICE. THE UC/LC CHOICE CAME LATER, SO IN A HISTORICAL SENSE CAPS LOCK IS THE STANDARD, NOT THE OPTION.

AND EVEN FARTHER BACK, LOWER CASE WAS AN ACCIDENTAL OUTGROWTH OF THE NEED FOR SPEED AMONG MEDIEVAL SCRIBES. THEY BEGAN WITH CAREFULLY CARVED UC, AND GRADUALLY SMOOTHED IT OUT INTO SMALLER AND ROUNDER CURSIVE, LEAVING ONLY THE FIRST LETTER ON A PAGE (THE HEAD OR CAPITAL) IN CARVED AND EMBELLISHED FORM.

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In the story of the Astonishing Hammond I mentioned that the Sholes-Glidden typewriter was already in production in 1880, and as with most tech stories, the dominant product was not the best product.

This is crude and impractical, and could never have worked.

The personalities are perpetually familiar. Sholes was the unworldly idea man. Glidden was the practical engineer. Densmore was the dynamic salesman.

Densmore managed to sell this crude thing to Remington, which was chiefly making sewing machines at the time. Remington basically reinvented it as a sewing machine.

Here’s the original:

This was meant as ‘proof of concept’, but it didn’t even qualify there. It had 21 keys, weights and strings hanging all over, and the keys couldn’t have made a good impression.

The carriage was just a frame, pulled along by a dangling weight. This scanned the paper across the typehead for each line, sort of like the early Xerox machines.

The paper was advanced line by line with a separate frame riding on top of the carriage frame. In this animation I’ve made the paper transparent so you can see how the hammers were arranged.

A tight little circle under the paper held 21 hammers radially. Each short hammer pivoted at its own angle, coming around and hitting the paper from below, pushing it up against the ribbon onto a backstop. The letters would have appeared on top of the paper. The short hammers couldn’t have developed any momentum, so they were inevitably weak; and the type itself was hitting the back of the paper instead of the front.

How did the keys move the hammers? Supposedly through stiff wires, but I can’t see how that would have worked, so I didn’t even try to show it! The key and the hammer are moving by magic.

Sholes and Glidden were not taking advantage of existing knowledge and devices. Hammond took the typewheel and hammer from the Brett printing telegraph, and Hammond used the principles of physics correctly and elegantly.

Continued here with the first Remington.

= = = = = END REPRINT.

THE SHOLES ARRANGED THE KEYS IN A FULL CIRCLE (TWOPI) AND THE HAMMOND WAS A HALF CIRCLE (ONEPI) SO NOW WE’VE COME FULL/HALF CIRCLE BACK TO PI AND TAU.