Flashback Friday: From Typewriters to Tablets

Written by Christina Vullo
Social Media Marketing Analyst
Xerox Corporation
800 Electronic Typing SystemIn a world where laptops, smartphones, and tablets are everywhere, it’s easy to take the amazing technology we have today for granted. What if I had had to write type this entry blog post on with a typewriter? I would have had to get it right the first time, or type the entire thing over again. All those little mistakes would have cost a lot of extra time — typing and retyping for every single edit.
Xerox changed all this when it entered the document creation field  in October, 1974 with the 800 Electronic Typing System. Xerox’s first word processing product eliminated the need to completely retype documents that needed corrections. Instead, the revolutionary system saved the first copy of the document on a magnetic card. The typist could then hit a “revise” button and retype only the portion needing to be fixed rather than the whole thing.
After those edits were made, a blank sheet of stationery paper could be placed into the system, and with the press of one “playback” button, the machine would retype the corrected document at a speed of up to 350 words per minute in one of seventeen different typefaces. This product was given the name “world’s most talented typewriter,” and it’s easy to see why.
So next time you’re using your laptop to type a document or your smartphone to send an email, try to remember how many advances and  new developments had to happen to get us to where we are today.

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  1. Joe Rickard October 19, 2012 -

    The funny part of it was that though the 800 was a productive and innovative device, it is amazing how hard it was to convince office workers to give up their typewriters and embrace new technology. Some things never change.

    • joan April 17, 2015 -

      Yes and I remember looking up to the gals that were trained
      and used the mag card typewriters. haha

  2. digital press October 21, 2012 -

    sometimes there are people that are too sentimental to embrace new things but considering how amazing technology does with regards to printing we are very grateful of the innovations with the fast pace of life we have right now. I am very much thankful. embracing and loving digital era 🙂

  3. Ed Jones October 5, 2015 -

    Actually the Xerox 800 ETS didn’t use a mag card; it stored data on one of two high speed (for its time) cassette drives. The Xerox 850 DTS which succeeded it used 8 inch floppy disks.

    • Donald Resor August 27, 2016 -

      ….and then came the 860ips the Star Workstation etc. I’m curious to know if the Xerox 640, 645 Memorywriter’s software was based on XBravo (Alto)?

  4. Vicki Irwin November 10, 2015 -

    I used a Xerox 800 for several years! I loved it. I typed technical documentation and being able to revise was a godsend! It used two magnetic tapes.

  5. Steven Drury July 15, 2016 -

    I was a Xerox technician on all the Xerox office equipment and networking devices from the beginning. The 800 had two types of storage devices Mag Tape and the Mag Card. Xerox released the card version to go directly into competition with IBM. As I remember we replaced a lot of IBM card readers in a short period of time. Great piece of equipment. Thanks Steve

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