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History of Desktop Publishing: IBM Selectric, 1961

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Mitchie Davidson

on 27 August 2013

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Transcript of History of Desktop Publishing: IBM Selectric, 1961

History of Desktop Publishing: IBM Selectric, 1961
1961: The Introduction
On July 23, 1961, IBM introduced a revolutionary electric typewriter, the Selectric I, which replaced the standard type bars with a moving, interchangeable, spherical "golf ball" printing element, while the carriage remained fixed.
1971 Updates
The Selectric II was available with a Dual Pitch option to allow it to be switched between 10 and 12 characters per inch, whereas the Selectric I had one fixed "pitch", and had a lever that allowed characters to be shifted up to a half space to the left for centering text, or for inserting a word one character longer or shorter in place of a deleted mistake, whereas the Selectric I did not. This option was available only on dual pitch models. Stylistically, the Selectric II was squarer at the corners, whereas the Selectric I was rounder.

Three Time the Charm
IBM introduced a Selectric III and several other Selectric models in the 1980s. The Selectric III featured a 96-character element vs. the previous 88-character element.

However, in 1984, IBM introduced the IBM WheelWriter as a replacement for the Selectric. It featured a replaceable daisy wheel cartridge, which allowed multiple type faces and had electronic memory.
What makes a Difference
The Selectric became a popular piece of office equipment because of its ease in changing fonts and because it was available in a variety of colors.
Corrections are made in 1973
In 1973, the Correcting Selectric II was announced. It added an internal correction feature to the Selectric II, intended to eliminate the need for typists to use cover-up tape, "white-out" correction fluid, or typewriter erasers. The carriage on this machine held both the main typing ribbon cartridge and two small spools for a correction ribbon. A new ribbon type, the Correctable Film ribbon, was introduced at the same time. This produced typing quality equal to the carbon film ribbon, but with a pigment designed to be easily removable from paper.
"Selected" Mechanism
Mechanically, the Selectric borrowed some design elements from a toy typewriter produced earlier by Marx Toys. IBM bought the rights to the design. The mechanism that positions the typing element ("ball") is partly binary, and includes two mechanical digital-to-analog converters. The system was highly dependent upon lubrication and adjustment and much of IBM's revenue stream came from the sale of Service Contracts on the machines. Repair was fairly expensive, so maintenance contracts were an easy sell. Case was shifted between caps and lower case by rotating the element by exactly half a turn. This was accomplished by moving the right-hand rotate pulley using a cam mounted on the end of the operation shaft.
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