Maskelyne typewriter, 1889.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This elegant machine, designed by the famous Victorian illusionist J N Maskelyne (1839-1917) and his son, set out to overcome the disadvantages of early typewriters. It dispensed with ribbons by using an inking pad, on which the type heads rest. When a key is presed, the type lifts off vertically and then swoops down on to the paper - the so-called 'grashopper' action. It also uses proportional spacing - a rare feature before the word procesor. Unfortunately, the cost of making and maintaining the complex mechanism meant that sales were few.