The IBM Selectric typewriter revolutionized the world of typewriting when it was introduced by IBM on July 31, 1961. Developed by a team led by IBM engineer Robert L. Propst, the Selectric typewriter introduced several innovative features that set it apart from traditional typewriters of the time.

IBM Selectric typewriter in office setting

The most distinctive feature of the Selectric typewriter was its “golf ball” typing element. Instead of individual type bars, the Selectric used a spherical typing element that housed all the characters on its surface. This design eliminated the common problem of type bars getting jammed or tangled, and it allowed for faster and more reliable typing.

The Selectric also featured a unique typing mechanism. Rather than using a standard pivoting typebar, the machine used a rotating element with the ball at its end. When a key was pressed, the element rotated, positioning the selected character in front of the ink ribbon and paper. This mechanism, known as the “typing element,” offered a smoother typing experience and increased typing speed.

IBM selectric typewriter green avocado
IBM Selectric typewriter font ball close up
IBM Selectric typewriter LOGO

Another significant innovation was the introduction of proportional spacing, also known as “Prestige Elite” typeface. The Selectric typewriter allowed for variable spacing between characters, creating a more aesthetically pleasing and professional-looking document. This feature was particularly valuable in fields such as publishing and advertising.

The Selectric typewriter quickly gained popularity and became an industry standard. Its success was attributed not only to its innovative features but also to its durability and reliability. It was widely adopted in offices, government agencies, and various industries, becoming a symbol of efficiency and modernity.

History of IBM Selectric

Over the years, IBM introduced several enhancements and variants of the Selectric typewriter. These included models with additional features like memory, correction tape, and interchangeable typing elements, allowing users to switch between different fonts and languages.

The IBM Selectric typewriter remained a dominant force in the typewriter market for over a decade. However, with the advent of personal computers and word processing software in the 1980s, typewriters gradually became obsolete. IBM eventually discontinued the Selectric line in the late 1980s, marking the end of an era.

Despite its discontinuation, the IBM Selectric typewriter’s impact on the typewriter industry and office automation cannot be overstated. It revolutionized typing technology, introduced numerous innovations, and set the stage for the future of document creation and word processing.

Today, the IBM Selectric typewriter is considered a classic and is highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts for its iconic design and historical significance in the evolution of writing and communication technology.

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