My interest in keyboards comes from a variety of places. I grew up in Milwaukee, which is the birthplace of the first commercially successful typewriter. I also live just a few blocks from Sholes Avenue, named for Christopher Latham Sholes, the primary inventor of the QWERTY keyboard layout. My QWERTY Keyboard can only type upper-case letters, which was also the case for the early typewriters, as well as the early computers I used.
My fascination with machines, and how people interact with technology, also draws me towards exploring the typewriter and keyboard. There was a time when typewriters were elegant and beautiful objects, created with great attention to detail. They were solidly constructed, and often cast from metal. Like many other objects in our modern world, their metal construction was replaced with plastic, which made them cheaper to manufacture and purchase, making them available to more people (which is a good thing.)
As personal computers gained popularity, typing with a plastic keyboard became the standard way people interacted with the written word. Today we’ve even moved past the mechanical movement of keys and into a world where we “type” just by touching a piece of glass. Gone is the satisfying “click” and “clack” which signified a physical action, replaced by our fingers tapping a smooth capacitive surface. There is something lost in this act of typing on today’s devices. Perhaps it’s the transition from a mechanical and analog world to a virtual and digital world that causes me to reflect on these things.
Blog posts that mention this project: