back to article IBM chips in with '60s Golfball anniversary

IBM's Selectric typewriter - the text processing tool that replaced traditional font with the "Golfball" - turned 50 years old on 31 July 2011. First released in 1961, the spherical device was designed as a fast-moving type-head, able to punch a character through an ink ribbon and onto paper far more quickly than characters on …

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  1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    I Read Once...

    ...that when the electric typewriter was introduced to the office, all the secretaries gained ten pounds due to the calories no longer burned pushing back the carriage for each newline.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Happy Birthday

    I did my thesis on one of these with equations done on dumb-terminal TeX, output onto bromide cut up and pasted into the spaces.

    A thing of beauty and joy.

    And very efficient.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Yes...

    ...but will it cure my slice...?

  4. mark fernandes
    Happy

    Fondest memory of golfball

    Is of the one in the title sequences for Gerry Anderson's UFO series...

  5. mark fernandes

    Vid clip for UFO featuring golfball

    The obligatory youtube link to UFO title sequence...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TQUdcYk82U

  6. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Graphics output

    Am I the only one that remembers fondly a program to output graphic screen dumps to one of these using the full-stop? It used the ability to adjust the strike hardness, overstrike and also micro-move the head to punch several stops almost on top of each other in order to get different levels of darkness.

    However what I really miss were the chain printers that printed a whole 18" line at once, and the feed rate was sooo fast that the paper shot up in the air while a listing came out. (Also the Digital LPS40 that really did print 40 pages a minute of postscript; although it was it's own VAX and really needed a VAX alongside to boot it up)

    1. Gerry Doyle 1
      Thumb Up

      They haven't gone away...

      Still got a grand big line printer here, can do over 20 lines a second, for hours on end, but sounds like a demented knitting machine.

    2. David Beck

      Too Old

      Not only do I remember the chain printers (still around I expect) but I remember the field change for the the two IBM printers (14??) that arrived in huge boxes. The change was a new lid, with a pointy top, instead of the lids we had with flat tops. The problem was coffee cups resting on the flat top when there was a fault or out of paper on the printer. The OS got the fault from the printer and raised the lid for the operators convenience, dumping the coffee all over the print-out at the back of the printer. The new lids were shaped so that a cup would not rest on top. Expect IBM has a patent on that.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They don't build 'em like that anymore

    I remember using one of these. I should think a room full of them would be quite noisy. Solid piece of kit and weighed a fair bit too. Perhaps that's why you don't see them being thrown across an office in one of those spoof video's where a user get's irate with his computer.

  8. John Savard Silver badge

    Proportional Spacing

    Many daisywheel printers had proportional spacing, and IBM made some typewriters using the later 96-character golfball - the Model 50, 65, and 85 - that had proportional spacing as well. It is a little-known fact that the typestyles used for those golfballs actually existed on 88-character elements as well, for the Mag Card Selectric.

    But in addition to conventional proportional spacing with 60 units to the inch, IBM did something with the 88-character element that no one ever bothered to try equalling with the daisywheel. The memorable Selectric Composer, switchable between 72, 84, and 96 units to the inch, which by using smaller units, and allowing different sizes of type with the same spacing pattern, closely approximated typesetting.

    Characters varied from 3 to 9 units, but letters like M and W were squashed a bit, so if you compared the spacing to that on a Monotype caster, it would appear to be an 11 or 12 unit to the em system.

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