Thai Typewriter

Thai old style typewriter from Olympia.

According to Sarit Pattajoti (1966), the first English typewriters imported for use in Thailand were those made by Hammond and Remington. Not until 1891 was the first Thai typewriter invented by Edwin Hunter, the second son of Samuel Gamble Macfarland, an American missionary despatched to Bangkok. Edwin Hunter was born in Bangkok in 1866 and later served in the Ministry of Education. He modified a typewriter made by Smith Premier Company while on vacation in USA in the year 1891.

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Edwin died five years after his invention and transferred his rights on the typewriter to his younger brother, Dr. George Bradley Macfarland (อำมาตย์เอก พระอาจวิทยาคม). The first lot of Thai typewriters were shipped to Thailand in 1896.
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The first keyboard layout consists of seven rows of keys, totalling 84 keys on the keyboard. This type of layout is now called double keyboard because it has twice as many keys as the modern typewriters where each key represents two symbols – – one as a lower-case and another as upper-case. One such typewriter is on show at the Olympia (Thai) Typewriter museum in Bangkok. Thanks to the invention of the shift-key, as used in contemporary typewriter, the double keyboard was later out of fashion due to its unsuitability for touch -typing (ie., poor user interface). No information was available as how the Thai characters were laid out on Edwin’s original double-keyboard typewriter.

The four-row typewriter for the Thai language was subsequently jointly developed by the Smith Premier Store (นายวิริยะ ณ ศีลวันต์), and Mr. Plueng Suthikham (อาจารย์เปลื้อง สุทธิคำ), a teacher at the Bangkok Christian School upon the request of Dr. George Macfarland. This type of keyboard, invented in the 1920’s was the basis of the contemporary layout, with perhaps only minor variations.


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