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Lay for the Day
13th October

1850: the birth of George Canfield Blickensderfer, who developed the first electric typewriter, by the astonishingly early date of 1902, although he decided in the end not to try to put it on the market.
The hugely successful manual typewriters produced by the Blickensderfer Manufacturing Company of Stamford, Connecticut, also included one of the first and best portables. “Blick” machines, as they were nicknamed, had a print wheel, rather than the basket arrangement of keys, which made them easily adaptable to different typefaces and languages. Consequently they were among the world’s best-selling typewriters.
The colour brochure that was prepared to promote the Electric model shows that the supposedly modern affliction of RSI (repetitive strain injury) has been known for a long time. Under the heading Facts for the Operator, the brochure points out: "You will never have typewriter paralysis from using it."
A poem from the book of Praises:


84. Of an Adler

Would I amount to a scattered shower
if rain was success?
My livelihood’s fingers and thumbs

and the first pool I worked in,
lonely as a fish
… o’er weeds and stones …

was filled with these heavy-duty
desk-bound German “eagles” ’
(as the name translates)

clatter, purposeful
da-da-da-dickory-ting!
all day long.

That tallish square machine
of a building was much like a clock
but when it struck one I went down in the lift.

They’re has-beens now
and words seem less solid,
the words of commerce and government.

Peck this poem out in pica;
lend your sturdy wings-wide carriage
to the viewless ditto of poesy.

My clicking nails
run up the hill
to fetch a pail of qwertyuiop.

Have zero quid, but joy’s
flock of poems waxing. Believe
the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dogs.

 

John Gibbens
from Collected Poems
 

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar