Typewriters?

Typewriters were writing devices that were widely used in the 19th and 20th centuries of the Common Era. An example of an advanced typewriter, the IBM Selectric, is shown below.

The history of writing technologies and the place of typewriters in that history can be thought of as occurring in the following stages.

1. Lump of charcoal on rock. Drawing pictograms on rocks with partially burnt wood. This method of writing was quite impermanent since rain and wind tended to erase the pictograms unless they were applied to the rock walls of caves.

When pictograms, drawings of mammoth and antelope hunts, and alien visitations were applied to cave walls they lasted thousands of years. Beer was not typically brewed in caves at that time, so no recipes have survived.

2. The stick and mud method. Writing with a stick in the mud on the banks of a river or creek. This was an impermanent method for obvious reasons; Floods, rainstorms, and sandals all erased the writing in short timeframes. Since they were important sources of water, beer was often brewed near rivers and creeks during this time period, but due to frequent flooding, no recipes have survived.

2A. Stick and mud, advanced. Clay tablets were substituted for mud, then after writing, the tablets were baked. This was a more permanent writing method because the clay tablets lasted thousands of years if protected from moisture.

Permanent records of beer recipes and stories about Gilgamesh were recorded this way in Sumeria with cuneiform writing. This writing technology was important to the rise of Sumerian culture, and was illustrated by their most important saying, “Bread And Beer”, which meant that with those two things, mankind would be forever happy.

3. Papyrus and brush. Form reeds into sheets, then write on them with brushes. This was also a more permanent type of writing than the stick and mud method. Being a relatively enlightened culture, the Egyptians used this writing technology to maintain their beer recipes for thousands of years by copying them every hundred years or so.

3A. Paper and pen. Quill pens were used to write with ink on paper sheets made out of cellulose fibers. When cotton was mixed with cellulose fibers, paper could last for hundreds of years, which is why we today have copies of important historical documents such as the Magna Carta and Martin Luther’s recipes for ale.

4. Typewriter. The typewriter was a mechanical device. One pressed a key corresponding to an alphanumeric character, then via a series of metal pivot points and levers, the machine caused the corresponding metal type to strike an inked ribbon held in front of a sheet of paper. This was magic compared to writing with pen and paper, and considerably more uniform than handwritten script. A trained operator could use a typewriter to produce a 250-word beer recipe in five minutes or less!

Author’s Note: Though Ernest Hemingway used a combination of Stage 3A and Stage 4 writing technologies to produce classics such as The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell To Arms, he drank very little beer and typed using the two-finger-hunt-and-peck method on his manual Underwood typewriter. He only averaged 500 words per day when writing his novels. Coincidence? I think not.

4B. Typewriter, advanced. The advanced typewriter was powered by electricity, rather than heavy pressure applied by fingers. One merely lightly touched the keys to type a character, and the machine used the power of electricity to do the heavy lifting necessary to make the type strike the inked ribbon and paper.

One did not develop the fingertip calluses necessary to use the purely mechanical typewriter. Because the development of fingertip calluses was not an integral part of the brewing process, it was simply a waste of time, anyway.

5. Word Processor. Word processors were simply electric typewriters that recorded every keystroke in a document onto a cassette tape. One typed a document once and simultaneously recorded it to a cassette tape. Later, when one wanted to give away multiple copies of a new beer recipe, one would put the cassette tape back in the word processor, then print out numerous copies – usually only stopping when the printer ran out of paper.

5A. Word Processor, advanced. The advanced word processor used 3.5” floppy discs to store documents, rather than cassette tapes. The advantage to this was that one could store hundreds of recipes on one floppy disc, and even include ales and stouts along with the usual lagers and pilsners.

6. Personal Computers. Personal computers were really very advanced word processors, though at this time we began calling particular software programs “word processors”. One could then use a dialup telephone connection to post beer recipes on virtual bulletin boards, where they could conceivably be read (and printed out by) hundreds of people.