There are many different products that we have used in the office, some we may use at home, and some that are no longer used in today’s world. Read about the history and evolution of some of the products we have used in our office throughout time.

Typewriter

The first commercial typewriters were introduced in 1874, but the use of them in offices did not become common until the mid 1880’s. There were many different designs of the typewriter as there were numerous inventors working independently or in competition with each other over a series of decades. Historians have estimated that some form of the typewriter was invented 52 times as people tried to come up with workable designs.

The most common form of layout for the typewriter was the QWERTY which refers to the layout of the keyboard found on the typewriter. The name is referring to the first six letters at the top left of the keyboard. Originally the typewriter had an ABC format, but the developer of the typewriter, (Christopher Sholes), the inventor of the first commercially successful machine, found that this designed jammed the machine. To solve his problem, he sought help from his brother in law, a mathematician, to work out an arrangement that would prevent the bars from clashing. The QWERTY idea was advanced in 1873. The final major development of the typewriter was the electronic version before we all began using computers.

Fun Fact: The longest word you can spell using only the top letters on a typewriter/keyboard is ‘typewriter’!

Floppy disk

The floppy disk drive was a key component of most PCs for more than 20 years. 

The floppy disk drive was invented in 1967 at IBM by Alan Shugart. The first floppy drives used an 8-inch disk, which then got smaller and was called a diskette. As it got smaller, it evolved into the 5.25-inch disk which was used on the first IBM PC in 1981. The 5.25-inch disk held 360 kilobytes. The 5.25-inch disk was still called the floppy because the diskette packaging was a flexible plastic envelope.

Today floppy disks are rarely used to distribute software, but are still used in some applications and, of course, are still our icon when we go to save work on our PC’s.

Work phone

Inventor Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call in 1876. Since that day the telephone has become a big part of the business. Nearly 40 years after the initial call, in 1915, the first transcontinental call was made from New York to San Francisco. Calls didn’t become transatlantic until 1956.

Rotary phones didn’t show till just before the 1920’s, eventually giving way to touchtone phones in the 1960’s. Because of the creation of the keypad and the letters that were associated with it, it would eventually make texting possible.

The next step for the telephone was when the cell phone was created and the first call was made in 1973. That was when we started to move away from wires and being stuck in one place. Now today almost everyone has a mobile phone on them and/or use a telephone or mobile for work purposes, as well as for personal uses.

Fax machine

The fax was actually invented about 30 years before the telephone. Since the 19th century, the fax machine has changed the way in which we communicate over long distances. The first fax system was invented in 1842 by Alexander Bain.

In 1880, Shelford Bidwell constructed the scanning phototelegraphy. This was the first telegraph machine that allowed any two-dimensional scans, that didn’t require manual plotting or drawing. The telautograph allowed users to send signatures over long distances; this was invented by Elisha Grey in 1888.

In 1924 a new process of transmitting pictures of electricity was created by scientists of the AT&T Corporation. They sent 15 photographs by telephone from Cleveland to New York City. With this new process, the fax we know today was born.

All facts and information found in this post are taken from multiple different sources.