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Rasmus Malling-Hansen, 1835-1890, Danish inventor, minister and principal at the Royal Institute for the Deaf-mutes, reads the website of the Malling-Hansen Society. I’m sure this man contributed much to the education and aid of deaf-mutes, but I’m afraid he will only be remembered for one thing: the writing ball.
The tech, culture, and books blog, Boing Boing, featured an intriguing invention this morning that I simply had to click on to learn more about. Turns out that this device is called a writing ball. After poring over the instructions for its use for quite some time and trying to study the mechanics of the writing ball solely from this photo, I still can’t figure out how it works. Boing Boing did highlight this passage from the writing ball’s webpage for explanation on how it works:
The whole apparatus (the writing ball included) is mounted on a stationary foundation plate in such a way that it can be moved down against a spring, when the writing ball or one of its pistons are forced down by the finger. The foundation plate has an upright anvil under the centre of the ball and directly under the paper frame. When a knob of a type piston is depressed, the paper resting on the anvil, below the same receives an impression. When the finger pressure on the type piston knob is removed, the instrument swings into its normal position. The escapement mechanism moved the paper frame that held the paper on space until the end of the line was reached. By pushing the button on the left in front of the ball all the way down, the carriage was turned concentrically back to the beginning of the line and moved one line to the left.
See what I mean? Confusing. The Malling-Hansen Society’s website claims that this writing ball was the superior typewriter design, but it did not succeed commercially. At least, not when it was first invented. In 2007, the site states, the writing ball was sold by collector Uwe Breker for 80,000 Euros. If only Malling-Hansen could know somehow what his writing ball sold for in this age of admiration for oddities.
Know of any interesting designs for everyday inventions that we use? Post them in the comments!
— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan