The Virtual Twain

Compositor Criticism

19th Century Medial Ecology




Odd Devices

INTRODUCED IN 1880, this American machine consisted of two vertical cylinders set one above the other.  The top cylinder rotated and kept the stationary bottom cylinder, the "setter," loader with type.  A keystroke ejected the letter from the bottom cylinder.  The Thorne used specifically cast type, all of which got dumped, higgledy-piggledy, into the top compartment thereupon to drop into an appropriately grooved channel in the bottom cylinder.  All this made the Thorne a hell of a fast distributor.  Too fast.  The top apparatus loaded letters into their shoots at a rate of a hundred and fifty a minute, faster than anybody could operate the typesetting keyboard beneath.  Most keyboard mechanisms were tedious affairs involving single pokes of an increasingly weary index finger.  The Kastenbein keyboard, according to John Southward, proved "exceedingly hard-touching."  Fraser's fingering was easier, and that of the Hattersley best.  The Thorne allowed no operator to use both hands, but it still could not keep up with the distributor, which operators had to turn on and off to avoid pileups.


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