On this day in 1874, the first practical typewriter went on sale. It is known as the Sholes and Glidden typewriter. More or less invented by Christopher Latham Sholes, it was developed with Carlos Glidden along with Samuel Soule and James Densmore. It was an awkward thing. It only typed in UPPER CASE. And you couldn’t see what you were typing. But it had the main features that we have come to know as a typewriter — including the QWERTY keyboard.
The truth is, unfortunately, that it wouldn’t have taken off if it had been left to these men. It was a difficult a machine (it requited trained operators), too expensive, too new. There wasn’t an urgent need for it — even though there soon would be. It only took off because the weapons manufacturer E Remington and Sons bought it. They wanted to diversify. And they were able to stick with the device and improve it over the several years before it took off.
Don’t take this to mean that I think capitalists do a lot of good. I think capitalists can do a lot of good. I’ve never questioned but that moving capital around to where it is needed is a very useful purpose. But we largely don’t see that in our modern economy. The capitalist class has largely gained control of the government and so is able to make lots of money doing nothing at all. Before the crash of 2008, finance made up 40% of our economy. That’s just nonsense. I’m sure if the modern mindset had been around in 1874, they would have abandoned the typewriter long before it became a success. After all: it didn’t make a profit this quarter!