You see it in movie introductions. When was the last time you saw one? Touched it? Used it?

Why do I even care? Because I would love for my students to use one. The manual typewriter has so many different features than today’s keyboard. Here are three examples.

First, the keys. The keys are resistant. Students need to exhibit fine motor force to the keys to activate them.

Second, the striker arm. Students with mechanical minds could be fascinated with the letter striker arm. How does the letter move from capital to lowercase? What activates the letter? How does it place ink on the page?

Third, how does the machine know to return to the next line? How is that different from today’s keyboard?

After using the manual, I want them to try an electric typewriter. (This may date me, but that is the kind of machine that I used in my undergrad days.) Compare and contrast the keys, striker arm, and return features. How do they differ from today’s keyboards?

Currently, at my computer I use a mechanical keyboard, which feels much more like an electric typewriter than the traditional computer keyboard. Mechanical keyboards come in three main varieties, linear, tactile, and clicky. If you are looking for a mechanical keyboard to use with a modern computer, but want the feel of an electric typewriter, you want to look for a keyboard with a clicky switch. Should you want to learn more about mechanical keyboards and their different types, read this article by Dave Johnson of Business Insider.

None of these keyboards requires as much finger strength as the manual. That’s why I want my students to have one available to try. Understanding the tactile experience from pushing a manual, electric, membrane keyboard, or one of the three mechanical keyboards could change their perspective on typing. But then, I love to move them to a touch screen to see how different it is to activate the screen.

If you have access to the various types of typewriters and keyboards, try having your student use them. I know the experience of exploring one will fascinate your students.

Let me know what they say. Do they like/dislike the manual? How does it make their fingers feel? Are they curious about how technology has changed since the invention of the typewriter in 1868.

Johnson, D. (2020). Mechanical keyboard switches: A guide to the different switch options for mechanical keyboards and their uses. Business Insider Retrieved from