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photos and stories from the Powerhouse Museum

Laptop messenger, 1920

December 9th, 2013 by

typewriter technology

Award-winning author and illustrator Shaun Tan explores this forgotten world in The Oopsatoreum, a fictional tale of a strikingly original but spectacularly unsuccessful inventor called Henry Archibald Mintox.

‘a mechanical alternative to face-to-face conversations’

Henry Mintox longed for a mechanical alternative to face-to-face conversations and dull cocktail parties. After one particularly arduous wine and cheese social function (where too much of both was consumed), he woke from a futuristic dream and immediately set about building his ‘laptop messenger’.
Mintox explained that the ‘user’ could send an instant MSM (mechanically sent message) by ‘bleating’ into a magnetic cylinder through a ‘chatter account’. Longer messages could be sent by ‘m-mail’ through a vast cable network, ‘the inter-web’, catalogued by huge ‘finding engines’ that let you ‘oggle at’ stored ‘web-sights’. Friends and family feared for his sanity during protracted lectures on the subject.
There is no question that Mintox was, on this very rare occasion, well ahead of his time. Ironically, his most visionary invention was also the one in which he saw the least potential.
Evidently, his teenage daughter Sandra did not agree. Having been given two prototypes for a test trial, she gave the other to her best friend. The two girls clocked up an electricity bill so large that it could only be repaid by mortgaging the family home. ‘How this was achieved in a single evening is a mystery,’ Mintox lamented, ‘it only confirms that such a device has no conceivable future’.

Shaun Tan

A ‘Blickensderfer 5’ portable typewriter invented by American George C Blickensderfer (1850–1917) in 1893. The best-selling design featured a new keyboard layout, with the most common English letters on the bottom row. ‘Smiley face’ key created digitally.

Gift of P Mauner, 1967. H8251

Photography by Marinco Kojdanovski
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