Throwback Thursday: Typewriters and the Evolution of Typography

Every once in a while I like to take stock of the modern conveniences around me and thank the stars that I’m a native to technology. Learning about the progression of type and the evolution of the printed word (which revolutionized society) makes me realize exactly how lucky we are that we don’t have to deal with typesetting anymore. Unless you like that kind of thing, then set away, Gutenberg. This Throwback Thursday, let’s take a look at the evolution of type, and reflect on just how lucky we are to be able to type on a touch screen pad.

Moveable type, printing presses and letterpresses, OH MY

Imagine that instead of pressing individual keys to create beautiful sentences and words, you had to take a lead stamp for each letter, arranging the whole page of text accordingly, applying ink and printing the page. Then re-do that process for every page in your essay, newspaper or novel. Did you want to change the line height or the spacing of the letters? Go ahead and insert slices of metal between each line and letters, adjusting the width to make sure the spacing looks good. Don’t forget to file down the ends of the blocks to make sure there’s a solid kern between letters! What a tedious, boring nightmare, especially for those who made a living setting type – exposure to the harmful metals posed serious health risks.

Typewriters, classic and electric

I think we still have my dad’s old typewriter in my attic. From keys and letters that would stick, to ribbon type that would get caught up, smeared on your hands or were impossible to change, to making a spelling mistake and having to re-do an entire page of an essay, using a typewriter was far from a picnic. Then came electric typewriters, which allowed users to use a backspace key and lift the print off the page. Keys didn’t get stuck, letters didn’t cross over each other, and life was a lot better. However, the machine still had some flaws, but perhaps the biggest is that people started to believe that putting two spaces after a period is grammatically correct. Pesky typewriters.


Enter the computer, with vast, powerful capabilities; the personal computer was probably the biggest game changer in technological advancement thus far. With fonts that are programmed to maintain the proper spacing, line height and kerning, to the immeasurable opportunity to mass-produce digital work, the computer is a great time saver. I’m eternally grateful that we have such powerful technology so readily accessible… thank goodness we don’t have to use moveable type to put up a blog post or get our client’s messages to the proper markets.

Cover Photo Source: Steven W Moore

Mary is an Assistant Account Executive at SJG. She earned her BA in Communication from the University of Evansville in 2013. In her spare time, when she’s not engulfing novels in a coffee shop, Mary feels most at home celebrating life and love with her family and friends, and visiting the streets of Paris in her dreams.