The Classic Typewriter Page


The challenge of building a device to type music has fired the imagination of many inventors and has led to a number of remarkable designs, some commercially produced and many not. Some of these devices are just conventional typewriters that type musical symbols--not a very satisfactory arrangement. Others look like combinations of typewriters and pianos. Still others have circular keyboards, such as the Badeau, a design from 1907, and the Keaton Music Typewriter of the 1950s (one of the few postwar typewriters that is rare and collectible). The problem of typing music was fully solved only with the advent of the personal computer and the mouse, but for one good mechanical solution we can turn to the Nocoblick.

The Nocoblick (1911-1914) is a tribute to the versatility and simplicity of the Blickensderfer typewriter, for a "Blick" with a long carriage is used as the core of the device. However, the Nocoblick was not invented by the famous George C. Blickensderfer or built in his factory in Stamford, Connecticut. The designer of the Nocoblick, according to typewriter historian Ernst Martin, was Ludwig Maasen, and the device was produced by Groyen and Richtmann of Cologne, a company that was also the main distributor of Blickensderfers in continental Europe. The "Noco" stands for "Noten- und Correspondenz" ("[musical] notation and correspondence").

The basic idea of the Nocoblick is simple. The typewheel prints musical symbols, and a pointer to the left of the typewriter revolves the platen. A scale makes it easy to determine the correct position of the platen with precision--which is very important, naturally, since an error could turn an A note into a G. The Nocoblick can also be used for normal typing: just change the typewheel (an extra typewheel is even shown in the drawing) and move the lever under the scale to the right in order to disconnect the two mechanisms (the Noco and the Blick, as it were).

There were some changes during the course of the Nocoblick's brief life. The machine was installed on a table similar to a sewing-machine stand which was equipped with pedals. Two pedals controlled the shifts, one halted the carriage (as is necessary to type chords, for instance), and another operated the space bar. A stamping device was attached to the typewriter in order to type symbols that were not included in the 84 characters of the typewheel. There was even a way to draw a staff on blank paper. The Nocoblick was now perfected.

Unfortunately, at the death of George Blickensderfer in 1917, the company he had founded discontinued his classic typewheel machine. Of course, this meant that on the other side of the Atlantic, the Nocoblick could not be revived after the First World War. Today a Nocoblick is a rare find, but it is a must for anyone who wants to build the ultimate Blickensderfer collection.

A fuller account of the Nocoblick by Bert Kerschbaumer can be found in ETCetera no. 97, March 2012. The present version of this web page is indebted to his research. --Richard Polt

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