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JAMA 100 Years Ago
December 16, 1998


Author Affiliations

Edited by Jennifer Reiling, Editorial Assistant.

JAMA. 1998;280(23):1988F. doi:10.1001/jama.280.23.1988
Typewriting vs. Penmanship

Dr. Bizzorero has discussed the advantages which typewriting possesses over the old-fashioned method of pen-writing. In his opinion penmanship is fraught with danger to the writer's health in a variety of ways. To begin with, the constrained attitude he is compelled to assume favors a distorted spine, and especially scoliosis, together with venous congestion, headache, epistaxis, dyspnea and congestion of the abdominal organs leading to constipation and dyspepsia, the latter disability being well-nigh inevitable should he sit down to write immediately after meals. The hands having to execute dissimilar work, the penman can not guide his pen without keeping his eye glued to its point, and so his vision is bound to suffer, asthenopia being a frequent sequela owing to the straining of the accommodatory apparatus. In the adults, vertigo and vomiting frequently complicate the case, but in children, whose power of accommodation is greater, the complication to be feared is myopia. The use of a typewriter, according to Dr. Bizzorero, is a perfect remedy for all these evils, and for the following reason: The operator sits straight, with head erect and arms at liberty. His lungs have free play and his abdominal viscera remain uncompressed. His eyes undergo no strain, for he is not obliged to keep them fixed on a moving pen, in fact, after a little practice he can turn them away from the keys whenever he likes without interrupting his work. That distressing complaint, writer's cramp, so common among people who have to live by their pens, has no terrors for the typewriter. His occupation is an amusement to him, and without the least discomfort he can return to it after eating. But it is not to the healthy alone that typewriting presents so many advantages. Numbers of people who have the misfortune to be palsied can not use a pen, whereas they can express themselves freely, thanks to the machine; and many sufferers from conjunctivitis, iritis or choroiditis who have been forbidden to write after the old-fashioned style can in the same way carry on correspondence with their friends at a distance. If proof were wanting that typewriting has no injurious effect on the eyes it would be forthcoming in the fact that the blind readily become expert manipulators. Dr. Bizzorero advances rapidity in writing as a hygienic advantage, but the legitimacy of the claim is not very apparent. His contention in favor of legibility is, however, more likely to find acceptance, for in truth there are many handwritings of which the attempted deciphering can not but be highly injurious to the health of the unfortunate persons whose sad fate it is to endeavor to interpret the hieroglyphics.—London Lancet, October 29.

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