The folk at the ever excellent Dangerous Minds specialize in unearthing fascinating things from the Internet, and they’ve surpassed themselves with a picture of Friedrich Nietzsche’s typewriter. Intriguingly, it turns out that he was a fan of the Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, a remarkable contraption that was one of the first commercially produced typewriters. Dating from 1865, the Malling-Hansen is one of the most wonderfully strange devices ever conceived, but only because it looks so different from what we consider a keyboard to be. Manual typography produced some fascinating designs in its early years, and interestingly enough, continues to do so today. Beyond a plain old QWERTY, there’s a whole world of strangeness out there — so here’s a selection of weird and wonderful typewriters, both past and present.
The Mailing-Hansen Writing Ball, 1865
First, Nietzsche’s favorite, which was invented in Denmark in 1865 and had been around for over a decade by the time Nietzsche ordered his. Who knows? If the ball layout had caught on, perhaps we’d all be sitting here typing on spherical touchpads — as it is, it remains a relic of a different time, and wouldn’t look out of place in your average steampunk setting.
The Chromatic Typewriter, 2010
We wrote about this beautiful machine a couple of years ago — it’s the creation of Washington painter Tyree Callahan, and was created for entry into an art competition. It’s uncertain whether he ever built more of them, but either way, we’d love to get our hands on one.
The Corona Briefcase Typewriter, circa 1930
The laptop of its time, presumably. A very elegant package, too.
The Hammond 1, circa 1880
Another early design, this one the work of one James B. Hammond, and is particularly notable for its piano-like key arrangement. Hammond also made a model with a QWERTY keyboard, which was even by the late 19th century starting to become the standard key layout for typewriters, but this whimsical design is way cooler.
The Nocoblick Music Typewriter, circa 1910
The first ever music typewriter, apparently. According to a website called Music Printing History, where we came across this outlandish device, “The musical notes were inserted as needed into a special holder. They were then inked and applied to paper with staff lines.”
The Keaton Musical Typewriter, circa 1950
Another strikingly inventive take on the idea of the musical typewriter. The design of this machine dates from just before the Second World War, and they were manufactured in San Francisco during the mid-1950s. It looks more like some sort of esoteric geometric device than a typewriter, but despite the elegance and innovativeness of its design, sadly it failed to find a market — these days they’re as rare as hen’s teeth, with perhaps two dozen surviving worldwide.
The Victor Indexing Typewriter, circa 1890
The world’s first daisy wheel typewriter, albeit not the world’s most efficient. You can only imagine how long it must have taken to actually type on the damn thing, but it looks awesome.
The iTypewriter, circa 2012
If you really, really hate the non-tactile nature of touchscreen typing, then hey, this could be for you! There are a few variations on this idea around — you could also just get a plain old Bluetooth keyboard, of course, but that isn’t nearly as cool.
The AEG Mignon No. 3, circa 1917
No, we have no idea how it works either. Yours for only $549.95!
Whatever this thing is
It keeps cropping up on the Internet, but no one seems to know how old it is or where it comes from. Answers on a postcard, gentle readers.