“Would You Type This, Please?”
In countries that use Roman letters for writing it is easy to type correspondence. Only 26 letters need to be remembered if the language is English. Other languages may require some extra critical marks, but these are soon learned. So if you can afford it, you may own a typewriter, one that is portable, very slim and light to carry.
Did it ever occur to you that some languages might not be endowed with such a simple method of writing? Take Japanese for instance.
It uses three alphabets! The simplest of these has 51 characters! It also uses Chinese characters called “kanji,” and there are at least 8,000 of these! How about a typewriter for Japanese? There is a Japanese typewriter.
One advantage of the Japanese typewriter—it is the ONLY advantage—it has one (1) key! So you don’t have to worry about fingering!
The Japanese Typewriter
At the beginning of World War I, Kyota Sugimoto developed a typewriter for Japanese, but this has since been modified. The present basic typewriter has a tray of letters (characters) divided into four sections.
The first section has 272 characters including the phonetic characters known as “hiragana” and “katagana,” which account for about 100 of the 272 characters. The second and third sections are subdivided into two groups each and contain only the involved Chinese characters known as “kanji”—a total of 1,900. Lastly there is a “miscellaneous” section, which includes the Roman alphabet (A, B, C, etc.) in both capital and small letters, numerals in both Arabic and “kanji,” punctuation marks, and so forth. This gives a total of 2,273 characters. This is the “standard” set.
For certain typing, characters that are not so frequently used are provided. Two sets of these have 858 characters, which are interchanged with the “standard” set, and for more involved typing there are an additional 2,503 characters to choose from. So a Japanese typewriter can type 5,634 characters. The typewriter tray holds almost half at one time! It is not the sort of typewriter that you would carry aboard an airplane to type a letter to a friend.
The characters are set out facing up on a tray measuring 50 x 53 cm (20 x 21 inches). The typist slides the platen unit over the tray either forward or backward, right or left and locates the desired character. The tray itself can be moved forward or backward, too. On some models it is only the tray that moves. Now the typist pushes the “key” down and this activates an arm that picks up the selected character, strikes it on a ribbon so as to make an impression on the paper, and then deposits the character again in its position in the tray.
Usually a year of studying two or three hours daily is necessary to learn the basic “keyboard.” After five or six years’ experience a good typist can reach a speed of 50 to 60 words per minute.
If you are in a hurry, to be sure, it is quicker to write a letter in Japanese than to type it!
[Diagram on page 28]
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