Exhibition: Before the Computer, Museum of Computing, Swindon, until December 20 2010
It wasn’t all that long ago that the tap of typewriters could be heard in offices across the land. “Unless you had an eraser, you had to think and commit your thoughts indelibly,” reflects Nick Fisher, the “typewriter historian” behind this distinctly retro look at the technologies left behind by microchips and the whirr of processors.
“A lot of authors love the typewriter for the immediate permanence of what they write. There’s no turning back. The skilled operators would never pile up letters or jam them, as they were often trained to type to music which ensured this was prevented.”
Mechanical calculators were also commonplace, displayed here alongside machines illustrating the development of different styles and colours, relying upon designers such as Italian designer Marcello Nizzoli, a futurist still best known for envisaging the Olivetti typewriter Lexicon 80.
Visitors can try using typewriters, compete in a competition using the text from the hotly-contested Type-Writing Championships of 1925, see reproductions of period photographs and snigger at some risqué postcards. The show also considers the role of women in the workplace in bygone eras.