The secret life of the Typewriter and the Italian Countess

The secret life of the Typewriter and the Italian Countess

 

Black and White photo of the author George Orwell, sat at a desk typing on a typewriter while a cigarette hangs from his lips. Behind him is a bookshelf filled with books.

Clickety-clack

I can just about remember seeing Typewriters in use, not just seeing them in a trendy bar in Hoxton or Hastings to add that vintage retro vibe but actually seeing them being used to type real letters and hearing their distinctive clickety-clack sound.

There was always this sense around that noise, something powerful, like an idea being transformed in a real tangible action, something being moulded in shape, the Typebars and Typists transformed into a Hammer and Blacksmith.

Of course, we still have typewriters with us today, it’s just now we call them ‘Keyboards’ on laptops and smartphones.

Amore Attuale

The oldest surviving example of a type written text was written by the Italian Countess Carolina Fantoni de Fivizzano in 1808.

The Countess was blind, she also had an admirer, a fellow aristocrat called Pelligrino Turri.

Pelligrino was devastated when his beloved countess stated losing her sight. How would she be able to communicate with faraway friends? How would they continue to express their affection unchaperoned?

Well, they say ‘Necessity is the mother of all invention’ although I am guessing whoever said that never imagined the ‘Screen privacy hat scarf thing’.

2 pictures side by side. The shows a boy holding a mobile phone. He is wearing a scarf that covers his entire face. The scarf extends in tube to the phone in the boy's hand which is also completely covered so that only the boy can see the screen. The second image shows someone sat at a desk in front of a desktop computer. He is wearing a piece of clothing that covers his entire face and which also has a tube that extends to cover the desktop's screen so that it is only visible to the person.

However, in this case, the inspired Pelligrino vowed to find a way enable the Countess continue to her write her private thoughts in a way that could be easily understood by the intended sighted reader.

He succeeded and the result was the typewriter.

A good idea for one is usually a good idea for all

Today we all benefit (on the most part) from this invention. We benefit from similarly inspired inventions also.

The Electric toothbrush for example was created to help people with limited strength, mobility and control brush their teeth.

Speech-to-text and Voice Recognition Apps on devices like Alexa were invented to assist people unable to physically write as a way to help them express their thoughts.

Braille which is still a very valuable tool for the visually impaired, now has a powerful companion in Audiobooks, an idea first started 90 years ago, in 1932 by the American Foundation of the Blind.

We all get a car

Ok just kidding, we don’t all get a car, I’m not Oprah.

We do however all benefit when we ensure that the needs of everyone in our society is seriously considered and we work to maximise every single person’s potential and quality of life.

Who knows what future 'typewriters' are waiting to be discovered tomorrow once we tackle the currently unmet needs of the marginalised today?

By breaking down barriers for some we drive innovation for all.

The RNIB and the Blind Photographer

Ian Treherne AKA The Blind Photographer and Pixel Gallery are today joining the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s campaign to make Instagram accessible for blind and partially sighted people.

We can all join this campaign by adding image descriptions to photos we post, meaning people also have the option to have the text read out to them if they choose to.

How to make your posts more accessible

From RNIB guidelines – “When posting your image, click on Advanced settings and then under Accessibility select Write alt text. You should also include your description in the post.

Capitalising the first letter of each word in hashtags, means screen reader software reads the words out separately.”

That’s it. It really is that simple and it will make a massive difference.

You can find out more about Ian Treherne and his beautiful images here and support the amazing work of the RNIB here.

Now I wonder what the Countess Carolina Fantoni de Fivizzano wrote on that very first type written note...

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.