[KS] Korean typewriters

Michael Robinson robime at indiana.edu
Wed Sep 20 16:46:23 EDT 2006

Dave, Frank, Stefan, and all.

I can't for the life of me understand why I might be nostalgic for Korean 
typewriters having never learned to use one, I don't even do much Korean 
keyboarding now when it is convenient.  But I suppose it comes from my early 
Peace Corps experience in Chonju in 1968-9.  Our secretary at the Ohak 
yon'guso was a marvel on the machine.  It was pointed out that few reached 
her skill and speed.  I never knew the standards for speed (what was the 
equivalent of words per min.?).  When she typed letters and documents the 
carriage on that big clunker simply flew around in all sorts of 
counter-intuitive moves....it was so different in sound and sight to the 
linear flow of typing on an English language machine.  And, Stefan, I'm not 
nostalgic for typewriters.  I burned out a motor in my small portable Smith 
Corona typing my dissertation I don't know how many times, and I don't miss 
tape and overstrikes, rolling the bar for super-sub script and measuring for 
the bottom margin (my least favorite task).  And I was able to have another 
motor put into that little machine...Gads they used to fix things.

Best to all,  Mike R.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Stefan Ewing" <sa_ewing at hotmail.com>
To: <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
Sent: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 1:01 PM
Subject: Re: [KS] Korean typewriters

> Thanks to Messrs. Hoffmann and McCann for their replies.
> Thanks also to one offline correspondent who provided a list of four 
> different keyboard layouts that appeared on Korean typewriters, all in 
> addition to the du-beolsik and se-beolsik that are popular today...all 
> developed to deal in different ways with the challenge of handling final 
> consonants.  At his suggestion, I'll post a brief summary after I've 
> sorted through the links he provided me.
> In reply to Frank, I am not that young--old enough to have gone owned 
> three manual typewriters and an electric in my life!  But over the course 
> of the last decade in which I've visited Korea, not once have I seen a 
> typewriter in anyone's home, much to my disappointment.  (This problem 
> drew me in initially because one of my first Korean-learning textbooks 
> used what was clearly typescript for its Han'gu^l sections, with rather 
> ungraceful syllables because in single-consonant syllables, there would be 
> a gaping space at the bottom where the final consonant would normally go.)
> I've only written in Korean on computers, where of course such mechanical 
> problems as where to divide syllables or position consonants are 
> irrelevant, handled as they are by program logic and modern printers.
> And David, yes, a virtually unending roll of paper would have been so 
> wonderful for stream-of-consciousness writing!  A computer works just 
> fine--and being able to easily fix typos (let alone endlessly reformat and 
> revise!) is a gift from heaven--but somehow, it will never quite be the 
> same as the feeling of inked metal on paper.
> Yours,
> Stefan Ewing
> ***
>>From: Frank Hoffmann <frank at koreaweb.ws>
>>Big smile ::)
>>How old are you, Stefan? I am sure you can still buy Korean typewriters 
>>today as well -- still useful for filling in forms, for example.
>>The input method is exactly the same as you have it now on your computer 
>>keyboard. There were (and still are) two methods: 2-bôlsik and 3-bôlsik. 
>>The first one is far more popular.
>>--> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout#Hangul_.28for_Korean.29
>>I think if you look at the keyboard images on above website all is pretty 
>>self-explanatory ... all basically the same as with a standard Latin 
>>character typewriter -- the Han'gûl characters in the lower position take 
>>the position of small characters (on Latin character typewriter). Of 
>>course, a type-written text did not look as elegant as it looks today with 
>>a computer. When you hit an initial vocal the carriage would not move, 
>>same as if e.g. adding a French accent on a non-French typewriter.
> ***
>>From: David McCann <dmccann at fas.harvard.edu>
>>The office person in the school where I taught- The Andong Agriculture and 
>>Forestry High School- had a big typewriter. Looked like those old manuals, 
>>but big. I tried it, and it had shift keys that would move the roller 
>>carriage up and even back into position for the completion of the 
>>combination of letters, syllable by syllable.
>>I also remember some years later, in 1974, to be precise, sitting with 
>>some other grad students then in Korea for dissertation research, dreaming 
>>about the perfect machine. We pictured a typewriter with a huge roll of 
>>paper so you could just keep going and going, when you broke through the 
>>logjam of research and out into the swift currents of thought. Wishful 
>>And then, of course, Screens! Computers! Bliss!
>>David McCann
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