Last month I wrote a post about an old typewriter that I found in a vintage shop which did not have a 1: https://danielshankcruz.com/2012/08/11/an-odd-typewriter/.
Yesterday I was talking with an older friend who learned to type on a similar model that also did not have a 1. She said that she was taught to use the lowercase L (l) in place of the 1. This makes sense in that the 1 and the l in Courier, the most common typewriter font, are virtually identical. Therefore, the basic mystery is solved.
But the omission of the 1 still does not make sense to me. There is room on the keyboard for a 1, and another symbol could be added to the keyboard via the shift function if this extra key was added. Excluding the 1 because the l was already there feels like efficiency for efficiency’s sake, not practicality’s sake. I wonder when this practice of excluding the 1 discontinued–was it with the advent of electric typewriters, or before? Had qwerty keyboards always excluded the 1, or was it some sort of mid-century “innovation”? Questions remain.