The 1908 Bennett Junior
I have been wanting to get my hands on a Bennett typewriter for a while now. They're often considered the world's smallest keyboard typewriter, and rightfully so. The Bennett employs a full modified unilinear QWERTY keyboard, with a form factor half that of the Underwood 3 bank. It is truly a typewriter that would fit in your coat pocket--I know, I tried.
I'm not a typewriter collector, I am a typewriter user. Those of you who know me know that I enjoy using machines that would make most collectors cringe. I'm a big fan of typing. For a long time, I searched for the perfect ultra-portable typewriter, but none that I tried were excellent enough to type on to justify the weight and shoulder pain required to take them out and about. The Bennett, though not great to type on, was certainly the smallest of the bunch.
This weekend I was able to get my hands on a Junior, specifically a second model Junior made between 1907 and 1910. The first iteration of the Bennett typewriters designed and made by Charles Bennett. They are ingenious machines, and one of several single-element typewriters that later redefined the typewriter industry with the creation of the IBM Selectric some 70 years later.
Bennett's first patent was granted to him in 1901, and details the typewriter almost exactly as it was produced, with the exception of a modified return spring system. The most unique part of this machine, which is hard to label since there are so many unique features, is the keyboard. Not only is the spacebar on top, and the keyboard unilinear, but as you press each key, the one below it also depresses. Each key lever is coupled with the next two which allows you finger to more comfortably type on such tiny keytops with this deep a throw. Each key is is held up with a small question-mark-shaped hair spring which helps the top keys remain upright as you depress the lower ones.
Each key interfaces with a notched rod on the bottom of the machine. This rod moves in angular increments which are independent for either side of the keyboard. These two halves denote which way the type head will rotate. The motion is then translated to a radial rack that rotates the gear driving the type head. On the other side of the driving gear is a straight rack that slides out and contacts the engaged type bar, stopping the rotation of the head at the proper moment.