A wag pointed out to me that I could be thought of as a word processor, a data store and a tabletop publisher.

 

“That’s just the software,” he said. Then there would be hardware, such as a scanner and a computer and a label maker.

 

He was having such a good time with his idea, I hated to object that this makes me sound quite inhuman. And besides, didn’t he mean desk-top publisher, not table-top publisher?

 

But I did make these objections. He wasn’t fazed in the least. “Oh, you claim to be human?” Big eye roll, one-shoulder shrug. “And you are publishing a book on top of your dining room table, so that’s table-top publishing.”

 

Actually I was assembling the book and binding it with my mighty thermal binder.

 

But I do process lots of words, if you want to put it that way. The output devices have varied. And when it comes to computerizing this processing, so far I have used mechanical keyboards, styluses with graphics slates, and speech-to text software and a mic.

 

What about before a computer was involved in this processing? Well, I used what millions of other word processing people have used: a typewriter.

 

When we rented a house in Mill Street, we found in one of the closets a device a previous resident had left behind. It was an ancient typewriter—maybe a Hammond, possibly a Glidden; I don’t remember. I think we gave it to the landlord, in case it was his or he knew whose it was. It certainly was a curiosity, not much like the typewriters of our time.

 

A Milwaukee newspaper editor, Christopher Soule, patented a device called a typewriter in 1869. When a company was formed to produce the device, Soule’s partners were C. Latham Sholes and G. Glidden.

 

You could think of their cutting-edge machine as a word processor without memory or a display. It certainly did not have spell check, though, and making typos or errors created lots of bother.

 

Soule’s initial scheme for key arrangement was alphabetical. But when a typist was processing words at high speed, and when some of the words contained combinations of adjacent letters, the type bars would get tangled. Imagine typing “stop” and “start” on an alphabetical keyboard. You’d have one tangle after another. Come to think of it, r-t used to give QWERTY keyboard typers problems now and then, back when there were type bars.

 

The QWERTY layout is so called because of the first six letters in the first row of letter keys. The10 digits are arrayed in one row across the top row, 1 through 0. There is a Dvorak system that is said to be even faster, but changing all touch-typing reflexes is so frustrating, few of us are willing to switch.

 

For those who have used the Hunt and Peck system of typing or keyboarding, and those who use the Columbus system (find a key and land on it), employing two or three fingers, it may be reassuring to know that early typewriter companies and salespersons recommended using three, four or six fingers for typewriting. After touch typing (typing without looking at the keys, or typing by feel) was invented, it took a while to catch on, but finally became the standard approach to keyboarding because it was much more efficient.

 

Early typing required quite a lot of energy. I don’t know why we didn’t hear of various kinds of tendonitis and joint problems back when people, the majority of them women, would type dozens of pages, day after day on manual typewriters. When there were carbon copies being produced—maybe one, or two or three or four—those manual typewriters required forceful blows upon the keys.

 

Typewriters morphed from regular strike to top strike (the operator could see what she had typed), through noiseless (don’t you believe it) to those with ink ribbons and auto-reversing ribbons and lever carriage returns and automatic line spacing to electrics (Royals and SMC—Smith Corona Marchant—and IBM), to Selectrics with ball elements, to proportional type models (mainly IBM), and finally to electronics, married to dedicated computers (Canon was a leader there). Brother got into the act with big and little word processors.

 

With computers and word processing software came keyboards as input devices, and printers as output ones. All had their mechanical aspects. Even roll-up and folding keyboards have to be carried. Even wireless keyboards have their physical and mechanical properties.

 

Now comes the Celluon keyboard, a projected keyboard that is seen and used on some flat surface (desk, side of a briefcase). The physical parts are a small laser pattern projector and a sensor. Canesta has developed the projector and sensor package that can be integrated with mobile devices.

 

Think of it. Typing on the images of keys, on your desk, making no more noise than your fingers would. Claims are that the system can keep up with very fast typing. The command and function key images operate normally, the number pad interacts with calculator and spreadsheet programs.

 

I don’t have price info but will tell you when I do. This could be the start of the next revolution in “word processing.” Maybe it’s the best advance in convenience since the pencil “replaced” pen and liquid ink!

 

E Drymar@gmail.com. Skype lilimartini