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The Schade of 1896 is another of the bizarre curiosities that abound in typewriter history. It is fundamentally the same as the Writing Ball invented by Danish pastor Malling Hansen, which was the first commercially produced typewriter (1870; picture at left). Both machines use the "radial plunger" system, a simple, even primitive means of typing: the keys are the typebars, so that hitting a key is equivalent to lowering the type onto the page. Judge the similarity for yourself: at left we have a picture of a Hansen patent model and a diagram of the mechanism of the Schade. Strangely, the Schade's inventor, Rudolf Schade, claimed that he developed his design before he had ever seen the Writing Ball. The story seems unlikely, but not impossible.


The Schade is designed to be clamped onto the edge of a table. A copy holder is provided above the keyboard, but the typing surface itself is necessarily underneath the keyboard. The paper remains at rest while the entire keyboard, along with a ribbon mechanism, travels from left to right over the sheet (much as in book typewriters such as the Elliot-Fisher). The typist's view would be something like the view at right -- the entire typewriter has to be moved out of the way to get any visibility! One advantage of the Schade system, however, is that the paper is never bent or rolled up, but can remain flat throughout the typing process. The Schade's keyboard includes lower-case letters in the center, capitals surrounding them, and figures at the periphery. The spacer is a key at the very center. In this diagram, it is marked "Sp," and there is also a legend, "Made in Germany," at the bottom of the keyboard. These details suggest that there was a plan to export the Schade to English-speaking countries. Rudolf Schade was an optimist, and this is clear from his advertisements too.



The advertisement above has a certain crude charm, much like the machine itself. Note the diagram of the Schade's mechanism which has been incorporated into the decoration in the upper left corner. Translation: "Schade's Rapid Writing Machine is the sturdiest, simplest, cheapest, and hence best typewriter without a shift. Available through the factory in Steglitz and at all better purveyors of writing implements."

Alas, the genius of Schade's invention was not recognized. Not a single Schade is known to exist today, so it must have been a total failure in the marketplace. Rudolf Schade managed to become a university professor in Berlin, but as an entrepreneur he had no luck. As they say in German: Wie schade! -- What a pity!

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