What Are the Similarities Between a Typewriter and a Word Processor?

Rocío Martínez Herrera/Moment/Getty Images

Both typewriters and word processors create texts with characteristics of print (as opposed to handwriting). They also share some mechanics for doing so, such as a similar keyboard with “return” and “enter” keys, shift keys, a space bar and, ultimately, some error correction.

The similarities and differences between typewriters and word processors can be identified through a brief history of the typewriter. Prior to the invention of the typewriter, people had to develop clear handwriting for the purpose of creating important documents. The Declaration of Independence, for example, is handwritten, as is the U.S. Constitution. During the 19th century, businesses proliferated with the Industrial Revolution, and the typewriter became a desirable invention. While many people believe that the QWERTY keyboard was developed to get around the problems of a manual typewriter, it was created to help transcribers of Morse code. Typewriters even had some basic error correction features such as on the IBM Selectric where bad text could be overstruck with a special masking ribbon. Word processors began with typewriter features, such as the purpose of the machine and much of the layout of the keyboard. Yet word processors went beyond the basic form and function of a typewriter. For example, a text in a word processor can be edited and corrected in a much more efficient way than with a typewriter. Further, a modern word processor can handle advanced tasks such as the creation of a table of contents from a document. The word processor, then, derives from the typewriter and because of this, the two share some characteristics.