Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Variations on typewriter keyboard layouts

My attempts to keep our TPM (typewriters purchased per month) at a respectable low (one to two, ok maybe three maximum) have been successful so far, and October and November have been relative dry spells compared to this summer. Whew. This new-found asceticism, however, has not stopped me from browsing the offerings in local markets. This has been a particularly good month for foreign keyboards, and we have come across a Russian Swissa Piccola:

And an Arabic language Erika Daro (labeled Optima, for some strange reason):

This last was offered by a seller who actually spoke Arabic and kept addressing me as "Habibi". Some sort of story there, obviously, but I didn't stick around too long to find out.

We've been fortunate to have a range of keyboard layouts represented in our collection, including a US QWERTY, UK QWERTY, Italian QZERTY, French AZERTY, German and Swiss QWERTZ (with at least three different variations for Swiss-German, Swiss-French, and German), and Spanish QWERTY.

 (An Italian QZERTY keyboard on a Hermes Baby - undressed for cleaning in this picture. The most aggravating thing about Italian QZERTY and French AZERTY keyboards is that you need to shift to type numbers! Apparently there are so many accents in the language that the whole top row is devoted to special symbols.)

Even with the exact same language, there can be subtle variations - a catalog from Olympia detailing their range of keyboard layouts (which was reproduced in Beeching's Century of the Typewriter) shows at least six different versions of the Swiss-French keyboard alone. 

(A Swiss-French keyboard on a Japy Script spotted in the flea market over the summer.)

All the other languages have several versions as well, and one wonders how they kept track of all of them, or why they needed so many in the first place. Besides the addition of an occasional "1" on a keyboard for a script typewriter, I cannot imagine the advantage of switching about the arrangement of the symbols and accents. 

During our summer visit to the typewriter museum in Lausanne, we spotted a few more different layouts, including a Greek-French AZERTY:

another Russian keyboard, this time on an Olympia Splendid 66;

 and an Olympia SM-3 in Hindi (sorry about the fuzzy picture):

More pictures from the museum here.


  1. Great photos. I've never seen a Hindi typewriter!

  2. Wow, what a nice post ! Many thanks for sharing this nice post. Actually i have searched online to see various typewriter layout. But there are a little number of blog where they give some idea . But you have gathered many keyboard. I like french keyboard layout. Thanks again.

  3. Would you be willing to sell the Hindi one?

  4. Habibi / Habibti is a greeting, that means dearest or darling. It would be like someone calling you sweetheart, or just saying that you are a dear person. What became of the Arabic typewriter? Do you see them often?


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