Beautiful failed typewriter design: the writing ball


21 Responses to “Beautiful failed typewriter design: the writing ball”

  1. CoreDuo says:

    So am I the only one that thinks this typewriter came straight from the movie Sphere?

  2. grikdog says:

    Bizarre. It’ll never replace the old IBM Selectric, which cleverly worked by magic, at least until the old Apple ][+ got that lower-case chip (and the clever 4″ bit of wire that enabled it), and got its 128k memory expansion slot filled with CP/M and WordStar. (Just try to submit your Master’s thesis on pages printed by a dot matrix printer, though…@!#$%!!)

  3. Anonymous says:

    There were actually some office chairs in the 1990s sold with somehow similar keyboards on both arms of the chair. I think it’s called “The Floating Arms Keyboard”. Not exactly balls but one half of the keyboard for each hand.

    – Adnan Vatandas

  4. lasttide says:

    More like Naked Lunch.

  5. dagfooyo says:

    Stunningly beautiful design. I can see why the other design won out though, this doesn’t look very practical, especially in terms of feeding new sheets of paper and removing typed ones.

    What if it HAD been the dominant design though? For years all our paper would’ve been curved from sitting in the typewriter so long. Perhaps the curved paper thing would’ve carried over to printers the way qwerty carried over to keyboards – imagine a world of printers shaped like spheres, printing half-moon-bent paper…

  6. Anonymous says:

    The article that started it all came out on Dark Roasted Blend on Sunday:

    It has more info and images of this and similar fascinating machines.

  7. dculberson says:

    Beautiful!! But yeah, looks difficult to load and really uncomfortable to type at. Would you have to be standing to type? Maybe we wouldn’t all be so fat if it had won out.

  8. Anonymous says:

    actually nietzsche had one of those and and this is how he discovered that “Our writing instruments contribute to our thoughts”.

  9. jeligula says:

    It’s main failing was that it didn’t have lowercase characters. A typist also had to think 90 degrees off true, so he or she could not view what they were typing as they typed it. Sure is beautiful, though.

  10. Brewtown says:

    You also can’t really see what it is you are typing since that portion of the page is obscured by the keypad.

    I would love to see someone typing on this though…

  11. lemonkid says:

    I took a photo of a very similar typewriter as well as some other fantastic gadgetry at the Musee Des Arts et Metiers in Paris. Here’s the photo..

    Here’s the series -

  12. Avram / Moderator says:

    I see some keys have letters with diacritical marks on them — there are an A and O (and possibly a U) with tremas along the left edge of the key array. I guess it’s set up for Danish writing.

    It also looks like the thing has five rows of 8 keys, plus two rows of 6 keys at the top and bottom, making for 52 keys all together.

  13. max says:

    that’s so weird you posted this the day after i found this on wikipedia

  14. kmoser says:

    It’s the original Magic Window word processor.

    • Hosidax says:


      That Magic Window article is awesome. It’s wild to see interface conventions we now take for granted (“split and glue” ie. “copy and paste”) explained for the first time as brand new concepts. You can actually feel the author picking his way through it, trying to convey these ideas for the first time.

  15. JamesMason says:

    There’s a museum exhibit at the Leonardo Da Vinci museum of Arts and Science in Milan that is devoted to the history of typewriters. Here is the website for the Museum:

    It is an incredible museum, chock full of an incredible amount of cool stuff. You could easily spend days there… Sadly, we were only there for an afternoon.

  16. Wordguy says:

    So cool looking, but it doesn’t seem to have much user-centered design. I did a quick search for video of a writing ball in action. Couldn’t find anything, but there is an animated gif at the Virtual Typewriter Museum on this page:

  17. jeremyhogan says:

    That would sure look great in my office.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Gotta love the one that does Moon writing….

  19. fubbs says:

    Interesting too that the numbers seem to be placed at the bottom of the keys.

  20. Scuba SM says:

    I’ve got a spare keyboard and a bunch of keys sitting in my basement right now… I think a keyboard mod is in order.

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