American $5 index typewriter (1893)

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Though it may look like some sort of mechanized ouija board or odd teletype machine, the item shown below was, in fact, a very early budget typewriter. Retailing for about 1/20 of the price of a typewriter with individual keys, this device also allowed typing… albeit at a much slower pace. The user would select the letter to be printed via the dial gauge at the top, then would hit the (silver) button to strike the letter on the paper. This process would need to be repeated for every single character.

A painstaking system, indeed, but such machines did appeal to a certain segment of the market. These inexpensive “index” typewriters were available for several years until the speed and convenience of what we consider “traditional” typewriters eventually won over consumers.

American $5 index typewriter ad

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