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Retrospect

140 years of injustice

Typewriter was invented by a priest from Para

In 1861, during the National Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, visitors were amazed by a different kind of machine, which made it possible to print shorthand symbols just by pressing keys. The invention remained on display for 44 days, and it was one of the nine awarded a gold medal, out of the 1,136 that took part. A priest from the State of Paraíba, Francisco João de Azevedo (1814-1880), the inventor of the shorthand machine, ended up transforming it, by a few simple modifications, into a typewriter. But the laurels and the patent were reaped by an American, Christopher Latham Sholes. And Azevedo found a place in the hall of wronged inventors, along with Santos Dumont (airplane) and Landel de Moura (radio).

Between June and December 1872, a foreigner, probably from the United States, took the prototype of Francisco João de Azevedo’s machine abroad. The priest was persuaded to let the prototype be taken away, with the promise that there were people interested in manufacturing it. In March 1872, Christopher Latham Sholes presented as his own a model that was practically identical to the Brazilian machine and took it to the gunsmiths, Remington, who manufactured it on an industrial scale.

Before Francisco João de Azevedo, there are reports of other attempts to build writing machines, between 1714 and 1833. The difference is that the Brazilian model was the first to work. Azevedo created his invention in the War Arsenal of Pernambuco, in Recife, a workshop that used to make equipment for the Army. The priest built the shorthand machine thinking of something practical to record speeches and debates as quickly as they were spoken. Then he transformed it into a typewriter. His wish was to take it to the London Exhibition of 1862, but the commission in charge vetoed the project, alleging that there was no more room in the Brazilian pavilion.

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