"In 1867 the Scientific American, speaking of the model of a machine designed to do typewriting, then on exhibition before the London Society of Art, used the following prophetic words concerning the future of the writing machine:
“The weary process of learning penmanship in the schools will be reduced to the acquirement of writing one’s own signature and playing on the literary piano.”
Consider when these words were written ! In the year 1867 the three mechanics of Milwaukee had just begun the work which led to the creation of the Remington Typewriter. It was the year, therefore, from which dates the real history of the writing machine, but the year itself saw only the construction of the first crude and useless model. A practical typewriter was then unknown; the very idea was unknown, or existed merely in the imagination of a few inventive minds. And yet note the words “ playing on the literary piano.” They were suggested spontaneously in connection with the idea; they were an unconscious prophecy which time has fulfilled. To realize its literal fulfillment let us make one broad leap to the present and read the following introduction to a standard manual on “touch writing” published in 1900.
“It is unnecessary to inform you that a person fairly skilled on the piano can read his notes without looking at the keyboard; in other words he looks on the pages of his book or sheet of music and can rapidly and readily, after practicing, manipulate the keys, even though the movements may be very intricate. We ask you to remember that, if you practice properly, if you work in the right way, practice is bound to give you the same ability on the typewriter.”
These two extracts, though separated in time by a third of a century in which is comprised the entire history of the writing machine, present a startling similarity of ideas. It is too much to say that they show that the idea of “touch writing”, in its specific sense, was born with the typewriter; but they do show that, from the very moment that the typewriter was first thought of , the analogy of piano playing suggested itself as the logical and natural method of operating the writing machine.
This is essentially the idea of touch writing as it is to-day under – stood and practiced. To operate the machine with the eyes resting not on the keys but on the copy, as the eyes of the pianist rest on the score, to regulate the touch so that the best results are obtained, even as on the musical instrument, thus gaining time in the execution and excellence in the work; these are the ends secured by the touch system, a system now universally regarded as the modern and up to date method of typewriting.
Many years, however, were destined to elapse after the invention of the typewriter before the idea was successfully developed in practice. This was not, as some imagine, because touch typewriting is inherently difficult. Everything is difficult when no one has ever done it, but everything becomes easy when some one has shown the way. In this the history of touch writing is like the history of everything else. It is the pineers who master the difficulties, not their followers, and the fact that these difficulties cease to be such when once mastered, constitutes the debt we owe to the pioneers.
Of the pioneers of touch writing there are four names, each associated with a special field, which deserve the foremost place.
These names are as follows :
Mr. Frank E. McGurrin, a noted Remington operator, who was the first expert to use a touch system in writing on the machine.
Mrs. M. V. Longley, an instructor of typewriting on the Remington, who was the first business educator to employ a “touch system” in the instruction of pupils and also the first to publish a manual on the subject.
Mr. Bates Torrey, another pioneer, to whom belongs the credit of first coining and giving currency to the word “touch” as applied to the system.
Mr. H. Rowell, manager of the Remington Typewriter at Boston, Mass., who was the first typewriter man to see the future of the system and whose efforts first brought it into general use in the business schools.
There are other prominent names connected with the early history of touch writing but all of them are more or less subordinate to these four, whose contributions to the system we will now consider."