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As good as the pen

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By the 1890s, the typewriter had become so established that governments were passing laws to include typewritten material in the definition of writing.

From The Illustrated Phonographic World, August 1895 —

© 2019 – 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Bill M July 1, 2019, 1:31 pm

    I never knew PA passed a law to accept typewritten documents as legal. I always took it for granted. I guess that is part of growing up in the 20th century. It would be interesting to visit the State archives and see the longevity of pen vs typewritten. I’ve read some old written documents dating back to the 1700s. Besides penmanship being superb and the pages sometimes a bit yellowed, the ink and writing is still as clear as when it was written. Since public schools are now too lazy to teach good penmanship — especially script — I wonder how many under 30 years of age can read hand written documents.

    • Mark Adams July 1, 2019, 4:05 pm

      Though I advocate for the typewriter, *hand* writing remains a vital skill. Some studies suggest our brains are more active/creative with pen in hand. But, no, schools do not teach penmanship much, and many students cannot read anything but printed text.

  • John G July 8, 2019, 3:17 am

    Fascinating – though possibly more precise than it needed to be. The United Kingdom had enacted its Interpretation Act in 1889, providing that ‘writing’ included printed, tithograped, photographed, “and other modes of representing or reproducing words in a visible form” – in other words a technology-neutral, results-based rule.

    I am reminded of the several state statutes in the past couple of years saying that “electronic contract” includes one on the blockchain. It is abundantly clear from the definition of “electronic” in the relevant statutes that a blockchain contract would be included. The statutes are legislative grandstanding (“look how up to date we are”) rather than a useful addition to or clarification of the law.

    The Pennsylvania statute may have been similarly motivated, or maybe there was actual doubt at the time whether typewriting would qualify as writing. But a general approach as in the UK would have been more effective, and would remove the need to provide for telegrams, telexes, faxes etc in the future.

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