John Liffen, Curator of Communication at the Science Museum inspects the Brother CM-1000

Oh Brother where art thou…

By Rachel Boon, Assistant Curator of Technologies and Engineering

Clack clack clack clack… ping! The sound of a typewriter sweeping across the page, already becoming a faint memory, will soon fall silent as the mass manufacturing of this technology ends in the UK. Typewriters are iconic machines and have served as the tool of communication over the last 130 years. Whether it’s the legacy of the Beat generation of authors; William Burroughs or Jack Kerouac capturing post-war America on the page, or images of secretaries fiercely typing away, the typewriter has been indoctrinated into our historical and cultural heritage.

Marking the end of UK typewriter production

The place which marked the end of UK typewriter production was Ruabon, at the Brother Factory set within the beautiful Welsh countryside. The factory’s 200 employees witnessed the final model of the Brother CM-1000 being packed into its box to a soundtrack of emotional sighs and cheers. This object is the 5,855,533rd of its type to be produced but the only one which has a place in the Science Museum collection. Brother have kindly donated this last British made typewriter to the Museum, which will be an invaluable addition to the 200 typewriters already in our collection.

John Liffen, Curator of Communication at the Science Museum inspects the Brother CM-1000 (l) and Wheatstone telegraph printer (r), which share a similar printing mechanism

Interestingly, the CM1000 (above left) shares a similar mechanism with another object in our collection, one of the earliest telegraph printers built by Sir Charles Wheatstone in the mid 19th century (above right). This latest addition to the collection will enable us to tell the story of how technology has evolved and been shaped by our communication needs.

3 thoughts on “Oh Brother where art thou…

  1. Keira Rathbone

    Hi Will, I have just heard about the last typewriter being made and feel that as a typewriter artist , it is my duty to mark the occasion somehow – I know the Science Museum are taking the last ever machine, but how about some live typewriter art in an event to bring it back alive as so many tell me I do with my art.?

    I can type the typewriters perhaps , or help you to curate a mini typewriter festival? I have a modest 35 machines in my collection, but it would be interesting to type someone else’s collection!

    thanks

    Keira
    http://goo.gl/WR029 (A piece about me recently on the One Show BBC1)

    Reply
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  3. Ms Brice

    I work for the State of South Carolina and am using a Brother EM-2050-D. My phone is a beige chunk with square buttons. What does that tell you about the US economy????

    Reply

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