A Turkish typewriter
Use your words

Lessons about language from a Turkish typewriter

What I learned about languages just by looking at a Turkish typewriter, by Marcin Wichary, Design lead & typographer at Medium.

I don’t speak Turkish, and can’t read it either. I have never been to Turkey. I honestly don’t even know that much about Turkey. Why did I ask for a Turkish typewriter, then? Because it has one of the most fascinating keyboard layouts ever.

Some highlights:

  1. We’re not beholden to Q·W·E·R·T·YThe new layout had nothing in common with Q·W·E·R·T·Y. It was ergonomically superior, and measured to be up to twice as fast in typing; Turkey went on to break dozens of world records in typewriting championships before the end of century.
  2. Accented characters aren’t always second-class citizensTo me, this keyboard says “we’re proud of our language and we will treat it with respect.”
  3. Each language has a crazy secret…in Turkish, i gets capitalized to… İ, its tittle still there. But I exists also! And its lowercase form is, you guessed it… ı. Dotted i and dotless ı coexist in perfect harmony, and both have separate keys on the keyboard.
  4. Some of those other languages need to be accommodated alsoLook at the Turkish keyboard. There are three letters, w, x, and q, in a somewhat unusual location: right next to the digits in the top row.
  5. Punctuation is the first to go when sacrifices need to be madeSince backspacing was often physically difficult — welcome to the mechanical world — typewriters invented a certain power user shortcut. To type two characters in one space you would hold the spacebar, press as many characters as needed, and then release the spacebar to move to the next position.

See also: 216 positive emotions that have no direct English translation

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