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Most composers still to the day prefer to handwrite their sheet music. However, through out the years several different types of machines have been invented in to help composers write and print music.

One of the most famous and rare typewriter is the Keaton Music Typewriter which was first patented back in 1936 by Robert H. Keaton from San Francisco, California. This surely doesn’t look like a normal typewriter. Keaton was trying to create a machine that was able to print music characters precisely on a staff and indicate exactly where the next character would be printed to ensure accuracy. Originally, the design was for a 14-key typewriter, but was later upgraded in 1953 to 33 keys.

“One keyboard is adapted to type one class of music characters such as bar lines and ledger lines, which, when repeated, always appear in the same relative spaced positions with respect to the staff lines… and a second keyboard adapted to type another class of musical characters, such as the notes, rest signs and sharp and flat signs etc., which may, when repeated, appear in various spaced positions with respect to the staff lines,” Keaton explained.

This now rare collector's item has a very distinctive look due to its unique layout. One might think that this design is hard to use, however it is quite the opposite. 

With the Scale Shift Handle and Scale Shift Indicator placed on the side, it's easy to control exactly where the notes and characters should be placed on the page.  To make it more convenient for musicians to see where they are about to print, Keaton included a long needle next to the ribbon.

Keaton has cleverly designed two keyboards which interestingly, works in different ways. The larger keyboard with the notes, scales, sharps, and flats can move freely with Scale Shift Handle to be placed where desired. However, the smaller keyboard, which contains items like bar lines and ledger lines, stays in place since these characters always appear in the same place with respect to the staff lines.

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