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/.
It looks like there is room for a 1, but it is not there. The lowercase L does double duty.
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.
Yesterday I was at one of my favorite non-bookstore stores in Salt Lake City, the vintage shop Unhinged, when I came across a nifty green typewriter.
Where is the 1?
Upon taking a closer look, I discovered that, though it was completely intact, it didn’t have a 1. I have never seen a qwerty keyboard without all ten numerals on it before. (Incidentally, “qwerty” is one of 23 words with a q and no u that are legal in Scrabble, as is its plural, “qwertys.”)
This post is really just an excuse to use the word “qwerty.”
I suppose that the makers of the typewriter thought they were being efficient by saving space in their exclusion of a 1, since the sans serif “I” seems to match the font of the other numbers.
The “I” does double duty.
However, this would really mess up one’s typing technique. Instead of hitting the 1 in its usual place, one must hit an uppercase “I” instead. I bet that this model resulted in an abnormally high rate of typing errors, frustrating secretaries and students everywhere. But because I could just appreciate the typewriter as an object instead of having to use it, discovering its oddity made my night.