IBM Selectric Typewriter Celebrates Its 50th Birthday with Postage Stamp Series

This July 31st is somewhat of a milestone day for geeks everywhere, since it is the birthday of the IBM Selectric typewriter, which turns 50. People might not actually use typewriters anymore, but the 50th anniversary of the IBM Selectric typewriter is worth celebrating because it is practically the forefather of the QWERTY keyboard that we use nowadays on everything from our PCs to our tablets. The Selectric was actually the basis for early computer terminals and it paved the way for QWERTY keyboards to emerge as the main way for users to interact with their computers, instead of interacting with just buttons and levers. Incidentally, the Selectric typewriter’s birthday also coincides with IBM’s Centennial year.

The United States Postal Service is celebrating the Selectric’s typewriter’s birthday by honoring the typewriter and putting it on a new postage stamp. This new series of stamp, called the Forever Stamps, honors the IBM Selectric typewriter, as an icon of design. But the stamp series also honors other staple electronics of the 20th century and their industrial designers. Some of the gadgets being honored include the  Baby Brownie Kodak camera, the Patriot radio manufactured by Emerson Radio, the streamlined pencil sharpener, the table lamp, the electric clock, desk telephone, the sewing machine, and more.

Each stamp is accompanied by the name of one of the 12 iconic designers that designed them. The 12 designers being honored include Peter Müller-Munk, Frederick Hurten Rhead, Raymond Loewy, Donald Deskey, Walter Dorwin Teague, Henry Dreyfuss, Norman Bel Geddes, Dave Chapman, Greta von Nessen, Eliot Noyes, Russel Wright and Gilbert Rohde.


  1. Ignorance, itself, isn’t bad; it’s just the circumstance of not knowing something. But please do not use a public forum to spread ignorance. The QWERTY keyboard pattern was developed and well established roughly 70 or 80 years before the Selectric typewriter appeared. IBM typewriters for decades before the Selectric used QWERTY keyboards and other companies used the layout long before IBM. And as for “other staple electronics”—the only electronic device on your list is the radio. Even your centerpiece Selectric was not electronic in its first several versions, including this one—it was mechanical, merely powered by an electric motor. All the other items, even the version of the telephone pictured, were mechanical or electrical (not electronic) or a combination of the two. I know you’re excited to tell people something they might not know, but if you don’t even know it yourself, it’s not useful.

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