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IBM Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Selectric Typewriter

ARMONK, N.Y. July 27, 2011 IBM Selectric July 31 icon of design

July 31, 1961

The Selectric typewriter was a game-changer in many ways:  

  • Its unique "golf ball" head allowed typists’ fingers to fly across the keyboard at unprecedented speed. An expert typist could clock 90 words per minute versus 50 with a traditional electric typewriter.  
  • The golf ball moved across the page, making it the first typewriter to eliminate carriage return and reducing its footprint on office desks.  
  • Interchangeable golf balls equipped with different fonts, italics, scientific notations and other languages could easily be swapped in.
  • With magnetic tape for storing characters added in 1964, the Selectric became the first (albeit analog) word-processor device.

The Selectric also formed the basis for early computer terminals and paved the way for keyboards to emerge as the primary way for people to interact with computers, as opposed to pressing buttons or levers.  A modified Selectric could be plugged into IBM’s System/360 computer, enabling engineers and researchers to interact with their computers in new ways.

Linda Sanford

Eliot Noyes Pioneers of American Industrial Design" stamp series

A Bellwether of Corporate Design

Thomas J. Watson, Jr. good design is good business Paul Rand Charles and Ray Eames Isamu Noguchi Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Lee Green

here here here.

Laurie Friedman


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