The IBM Selectric: Reflecting on "a writer's machine"
This was no toy, this IBM Selectric. Oh, no.
I could tell this was a tool for grownups. This was a serious machine, built to do serious, grown-up work. That’s why my library put it in the reference department – that quiet, serious room where quiet serious people did quiet, serious things.
I knew because each hour I used it cost me 25 cents. I was only 12 years old. But when I first flipped the switch on that big black beauty and brought it to life I knew I had entered a new stage. From then on, all my essays would be proudly and impeccably typed.
The IBM Selectric – yesterday’s IBM Centennial Icon of Progress – was introduced in 1961 and immediately disrupted the typewriter market. Suddenly and almost overnight, people saw unprecedented increases in the speed, accuracy and flexibility at their disposal to create the written word.
Don't believe me? Check out the charming video commercial below.
Like the rest of my peers, I learned to type on a manual machine - and very quickly I learned its shortcomings. It was always loud. It jammed when I typed too quickly. It made errors nearly impossible to correct.
The Selectric changed all that.
This thing was fast. Faster than anything I’d ever used. That little silver ball jumped excitedly at even the slightest touch. This thing was alive. And fun. And a blast to use. And after I had used it, I’d never go back.
The Selectric is yet another example of that remarkable through line connecting the IBM achievements of the past with the innovations of today – and the remarkable effectiveness of the IBM approach to making us and our world work better. It’s a willingness to bring the best people, the best thinking and the the best ideas to bear on challenges others say can’t be solved.
Ed Brill writes more about the Selectric Story on IBM.com. Here are some interesting tidbits from his essay: