Burriss: Typewriters still special?

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This coming Friday and Sunday are anniversaries of sorts. Not anniversaries that we usually celebrate, but significant dates none-the-less.

It was on Sept. 12, 1873, that E. Remington and Sons manufactured the first practical typewriter. And on Sept. 14, 1886, George Anderson received a patent for the typewriter ribbon.

Typewriters and typewriter ribbons? In these days of computers and laser printers? What's so special about those?
Well, think about this: in a little more than 140 years, we've gone from the first crude typewriters to those computers and laser printers. Yet it took more than 300 years to go from Johann Gutenberg and the first movable type in Europe, to the typewriter. And it took thousands of years to go from the first crude efforts at writing to movable type.

Each of these developments were significant, not just in themselves, but in the changes they brought about to society.

For example, the advent of printing ended the monopoly of oral culture. Documents, history and traditions could be passed on from generation to generation almost unchanged. The printed word gave permanence to culture.
Next, the development of movable type brought about changes in education, language and political power. No longer was knowledge left in the hands of an educated elite. Now everyone had access to knowledge, and could use that knowledge to debate issues and bring about social change. Then the development of the typewriter put the power to create those messages in the hands of almost everyone. The development of the typewriter meant almost everyone could produce a newspaper, magazine or political pamphlet.

No, these anniversaries may not be all that important in and of themselves. But they are important for the changes they brought about.

Changes that affect us all in more and more ways, and in ways that could not possibly have been seen just a short time ago.

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Larry Burriss
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