I have just read Paul Lefebvre’s piece on the EndOfLine object, and was fascinated by his description of the typewriter carriage moving from left to right. I wonder whether Paul has actually sat and painstakingly created a document with an old manual typewriter, for if he has, he must surely have noticed that the carriage in fact travels in the opposite direction, i.e. right to left. When the bell pings, he would have noticed that it was with his left hand that he had to return the carriage to the right for the next line of text. It would actually have been very difficult on most machines to return the carriage, using the lever, whereto Paul refers, without also turning the platen roller.
Paul has, sadly, missed out several generations of type-tech, such as, for example, IBM’s “golfball”, which replaced the type arms, and was moved by an electric motor. This device had the whole font arrayed around the surface of a metal sphere, which turned and printed with each keystroke. There was also the “Daisy Wheel”, wherein the whole character set was laid out on the radial arms of a plastic wheel. This had the added advantage that one could change the font by changing the daisy wheel. In these electric machines, very often, the carriage return / line feed was automatic, obviating the need to remove one’s hands from the keyboard.
In a similar manner Paul jumps straight from typewriter to screen, totally overlooking the earlier technology where computers were hooked up to teletype machines, and produced reams and reams of typescript. (Who still recalls those furlongs of green lines on the zigzag sheets, with their tear-off perforated strips down each side?) This is evidenced, obviously, by the continued use of the word “print” in code, when it is required to display text on a screen. In these machines, it is actually the type head which moves laterally, from left to right while typing, then returns swiftly to the left margin having completed a line, but still the platen which turns to feed the next line.
There is much else that might be said about the evolution of word-processing, for example the continued use of two spaces following a full stop (or “period”, if you must). It has no place in modern word-processing with its general use of proportional type faces. The continued existence of the underline, which typographically is horrendous, is another such. (In fact the carriage return without line feed to which Paul refers, is necessary precisely so that one can add the underline to the already-typed text. There was no way in which one could set a manual machine to type each character with an underscore; that came later with the electric typewriter.)
I hope and trust that you will indulge me for this descent into raw nostalgia, but I felt truly moved to set the matter straight.