Hand-held Microwriter (Feb, 1980)

“An electronic substitute for the fountain pen” is not exactly how I’d pitch a new invention in 1980. The replacement for the fountain pen was the ball point. On the other hand, if any investors are interested in my new digital replacement for the 8-Track cassette, you know where to find me.

Hand-held Microwriter

If you can’t type, yet want to write perfect letters or memos without the help of a secretary, Microwriter could be the answer. It resembles a large pocket calculator, but has only five main keys, which fit the relaxed finger positions of your right hand. Individual alphabet letters are formed by an easily learned finger code, in which one or more keys are pressed for each character.

Your words come up on an LED display panel showing 12 characters at a time, and scrolling to the left as more are added. The full text is stored in a RAM (random-access memory) that holds the equivalent of eight normal pages of typescript. You later plug the

device into an electric typewriter that taps it all out at over 500 words per minute.

This battery-powered word processor is the invention of Cy Endfield, an American author and film director living in London. He says the simple chord keyboarding can be learned in half an hour, and that in a few days a novice will be “writing” faster than longhand. As memory aids, finger combinations are logically chosen to resemble alphanumeric shapes.

A sixth, thumb-operated control key pressed in combination with others is used for numbers, capital letters, punctuation marks, and other keyboard symbols. It also handles 16 editing functions, including backspace, insert, and delete. You can make changes and corrections as you go along, and end up with perfect finished copy.

Microwriter is “an electronic substitute for the fountain pen,” says End-field. He thinks engineers, office workers, and journalists will find it practical. In a large office, up to 15 units could be served by one automatic printer. Easy typing for the blind is another possibility.

At present, the system is distributed by rental solely in Britain.—D.S.

6 comments
  1. christoph says: November 2, 20118:51 am

    Yes, renting a pen replacement, for which I’ll have to learn a new coding system – sounds great!

  2. Anonymous Tipster says: November 2, 20119:27 am

    8-Track cassette…

    Cartridge. It was called an “8-Track Cartridge”.

    An 8-Track and a cassette were two completely different types of recording media.

  3. Hirudinea says: November 2, 201112:38 pm

    I love fountain pens, why would I want a replacement?

  4. Daniel Rutter says: November 3, 201112:31 am

    Unsurprisingly, the Microwriter…
    http://en.wikipedia.org…
    …was not a great success.

    Chording keyboards in general…
    http://en.wikipedia.org…
    …are a really neat idea, but this author’s opening line is weird. Trying to learn a chording keyboard because you’re unable to type is a bit like trying to learn the trumpet because you could never find Middle C on a piano.

  5. Jari says: November 3, 20113:07 pm

    Is it any faster than stenographing?

  6. Dylan Gordon says: December 4, 201110:42 am

    According to http://en.wikipedia.org… a salesperson demoing the unit apparently transcribed at the rate of natural speech, which is pretty fast, maybe 150 wpm, though not faster than court stenographers (225 wpm+).

    On the other hand, this is a lot smaller and requires less training.

    The contemporary version of the Microwriter is the CyKey (www.cykey.co.uk). Microwriter also made a PDA called the AgendA which is pretty wacky! I am going to build a related-but-different chorded keyboard, the Chordite, to use to record fieldnotes (chordite.com).

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