Those with an interest in computers and technology might wonder who invented the many parts that make modern computers practical. Perhaps you’ve wondered when was the first computer keyboard invented.
The computer keyboard we use today is the result of a long line of developments that began with the typewriter and continued with teleprinters and keypunches. A comprehensive background is provided in this article.
When Was the First Computer Keyboard Invented?
In the 1700s, the first writing instruments were conceived, and in 1714, Henry Mill of London, England was the first person to patent writing equipment.
Creation of Typewriters
Multiple writing and typing devices were developed in different parts of the world throughout the 1750s, 1760s, and 1800s. But in 1868, Christopher Sholes invented and patented the first working typewriter, and the term “Type-Writer” entered the language. The Type-Writer also pioneered the QWERTY keyboard layout, which is now standard on virtually all computers and phones in the United States. The Type-Writer, designed by Christopher Sholes, Carlos Glidden, and Samuel W. Soule, is seen below.
The Remington No. 2 typewriter, launched in 1878, included the first keyboard with a Shift key—a single key on the left part of the keyboard. The Underwood typewriter, which had sold five million units by 1939, is generally regarded as the first commercially successful modern typewriter.
On April 27, 1893, U.S. patent 523,698 was issued to Franz Xaver Wagner for the first Underwood typewriter, which he had created. The capacity to view one’s writing in real time while typing was a major advancement with this typewriter. Later, in 1895, with the aid of John Underwood, they established the Underwood firm and presented the world with the first Underwood typewriter the following year, in 1896.
In the early 20th century, typewriters from all manufacturers started looking and feeling the same. This trend continued until IBM released the IBM Selectric on July 27, 1961. The typeball was a tiny ball with characters on it that was used to strike an ink ribbon, setting the ribbon to print. In addition to being washable, the typeballs may be swapped out for a new set or customized by the user. By 1986, sales of the Selectric typewriter had surpassed 13 million.
Creation of Telegraph, Keypunch & Teleprinter
The Jacquard Loom, created by Joseph Marie Jacquard in the late 1700s, was improved upon by Herman Hollerith in the latter part of the 1800s and early 1900s with the help of his keypunch innovations.
Pavel Schilling created the electrical telegraph in 1832 so that messages could be sent in Morse code with the press of a single key. In 1846, Royal Earl House patented a printing telegraph that included 28 keys like those on a piano. To make it feasible for everyone to transmit messages, the keys were utilized to symbolize each letter of the alphabet.
The teleprinter owes its existence in large part to Emile Baudot, who developed the Baudot code in 1874, and to Donald Murray, who developed the telegraphic typewriter. From 1902 through 1918, Charles Krum built upon the work of Frank Pearne to further the development of the teleprinter. During this period, he submitted applications for the United States Patents 862,402 in August 1907, 888,335 in May 1908, and 1,286,351 in May 1910.
The First Computing System with Teletype Machines
When the ENIAC, the first digital computer, was finished in 1946, it relied on a teletype machine for data entry. The teletype machine used a punch card that was fed into a card reader, which was very different from modern computer keyboards.
The BINAC computer, which debuted later in 1948, brought it one step closer to modern computers by having the teletype electromagnetically operated, enabling the entry of data and the printing of results.
The Earliest Keyboard-Equipped Computers
A number of years later, following the advent of Multics in 1964 and VDTs (video display terminals) which enabled users to see what they were typing on a screen as they wrote, graphical user interfaces became commonplace.
When the DataPoint 3300, the first computer terminal designed to replace the teleprinter, began arriving in 1969, it was a watershed moment in the evolution of the computer industry. The DEC VT06 and the HP 2600A are two more examples of terminals that were similar to this one. The DataPoint 3300 displayed written text on a screen and allowed the user to navigate the cursor using the up and down arrow keys. In addition, it may erase everything from the current line to the screen’s edge.
Heavy mechanical keyboards or modified electric typewriters from businesses like IBM were the forerunners of the modern keyboards that were commonplace in the early 1970s. When it came to inputting information, however, computers like the Altair and its predecessors still used front-panel switches.
Apple, Radio Shack, and Commodore all introduced models of their computers that integrated keyboards in the late ’70s. The IBM Personal Computer and the Model F Keyboard were introduced by IBM in August 1981.
With the Model M keyboard, IBM created the standard layout for modern keyboards, with the function keys along the top row. The Model M established the 101-key standard US layout, which continues to be utilized today for full-sized keyboards and is thus still widely recognized as a high-quality keyboard. It’s also been converted for Windows 104-key keyboards, complete with Windows and Menu buttons.
Many improvements have been made to the modern keyboard since the introduction of the IBM Model M. The transition from a mechanical switch to a membrane is one of the most radical innovations. Producing keyboards for computers is simplified and less expensive thanks to the use of a membrane. When compared to the original mechanical keyboards, membrane keyboards are much quieter, lighter, and thinner.
It’s fascinating to learn about the background of today’s technologies, and it’s even more exciting to see how those inventions develop over time. This article may help you learn more about when was the first computer keyboard invented. It’s clear that the computer keyboard wasn’t invented all at once, but rather evolved from a series of smaller innovations, starting with the typewriter and ending with the device we use today.