Laptops Are Soooo 1890s

Product: World Typewriter
Date: 1890

I don’t know why I continue to be surprised at finding evidence, way back in the past, of ideas and sentiments that are supposedly so very 21st-century modern.

Take portability, for example. We tend to think of small, lightweight technology as a development of the last 10 or 20 years. After all, it’s our highly mobile culture and our “do anything anywhere” expectations that have both pushed the development of these technologies and embraced them. Isn’t it?

Umm, maybe not.

Take a look at this ad for a portable typewriter from 1890 — yeah, that’s right — 1890. There’s a well-dressed guy using some down time on the train to tap out a bit of writing on a teeny little keypad resting in his lap. (Little does he know that more than 100 years later, millions will be following his lead.)

1890 ad for portable typewriter

In 1890, typewriters were still in their infancy. Multiple forms and designs of type machines abounded; many of them were quite small.

It wasn’t until about 1910 that the typewriter, as we know it to look today, was standardized. Then we moved into the kind of heavy typewriters that most of you will be familiar with, followed by room-sized computers, and then desk-bound PCs before emerging once again into unplugged handhelds.

La plus ├ža change….

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