So I got this thing out and immediately started just typing. Thoughts, what I was hearing on TV. Everything. To my amazement, the more I typed, the better it worked. I even got the bell to ding, which eBay said would not work.
The first order of business was to find out what year it is. To do that, I had to search around for the serial number.
I rant that through a database I found here
I was floored when I realized how old this thing was. 1910. Underwood just celebrated it’s 101st birthday. I was flabberstounded.
My last long post was me fretting about the keys. It was missing the keys a modern keyboard uses for punctuation I use every day. Where would I find the quotation marks? and the apostrophe? and the ? ?
If you noticed in my last post, I was bemoaning having a carrot for my shift+6 instead of something useful, and wanted to change them around.
It turns out underwood was one step ahead of me.
Back in the day, apparently keys were scarce, and they didn’t have one of these:@. So that was your quotation mark. Back in the day, you had to have a physical imprint to hit the paper, so it couldn’t differentiate a hyphen and a dash for you, so the shift+ 6 was an m dash (It was called that because it took up the same space as an m, today it’s just called a dash). They also used capital L as 1, and capital o as 0. That left 0 key up there for the n dash (today known as a hyphen) and the closing parenthesis. And clearly, an apostrophe is way more important than an asterisk.
Okay, but that still leaves all of the characters to the right of your m, l and p.
Well, there they are. They’re all out of order, but the important ones exist. If I’m not mistaken, however, you’d need to hit shift key every time you ended a sentence.
Which brings me to my next point. The shift key is HARD to push. It literally lifts the entire carriage up (the thing that moves back and forth with the paper).
You may have noticed the caps lock key is missing here. Except it isn’t. It’s mechanical. Because proper typist use their pinky to hit the shift key, and you have to lift the whole carriage, it was one of the harder skills to develop. The caps lock key was a revelation in it’s day.
But clever ole’ underwood was one step ahead of the game. It’s caps lock is mechanical. The leftern shift key stays up when you press it. There’s literally a a small catch that holds the carriage up. Then there’s a little lever you have to push down to un-capslock the thing. Frankly, it’s a pain in the keister.
While all of this is fascinating to think about the way people used to type, it doesn’t actually help me at all. Sure, Underwood has it all figured out, but my computer doesn’t know that. I’m emailing Jack Zylkin (the creator of USB typewriter) to try and figure this out now. I’m also thinking of getting really clever with the reed switches, including using the unshift lever for something. And the mechanical return lever (instead of an enter key) is really REALLY cool, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to put in the sensor without it being visible.
But that’s going to have to wait until later, because I need to go to sleep.
Holy geek out, am I excited.