Technologizer has a great retrospective on one of the most powerful information creation machines ever built – the IBM Selectric. The result of “seven years of research,” the Selectric typewriter entered the national consciousness in 1961 and died only when its creator, IBM, began to create its electronic replacement.
In the end, this typewriter changed the way we thought of publishing and information sharing and redefined penmanship as a lost art. It cost about $3,000 in today’s dollars and feature a replaceable type ball that improved typing speeds immensely.
Unlike other typewriters, which struck the paper with hammers, it used golf ball-like type heads embossed with a full set of alphanumeric characters. The ball zipped along in close proximity to the paper, tilting and rotating as necessary to lay down characters on the page almost instantly–and allowing accomplished typists to reach 90 words per minute, vs. fifty with a conventional electric typewriter.
The coolest thing? IBM also built the Selectric Composer that used a wild, manual justification system to create camera-ready type on a machine that, at the time, cost the equivalent of $30,000 in US dollars. A real, electronic Selectric word processer cost $150,000.
Check out the whole article here.