Proto-laptop computer in "The Paper Chase"

I watched “The Paper Chase” last night and in an early scene (shortly after the first study group meeting), Hart is visiting Ford’s room - and in the room is a device that looks like a wireless keyboard. Obviously it’s not, since the movie is from the early 1970’s, but does anyone know what it might be - my best guess is some sort of stenography device that Ford is using to take notes with (it’s clearly not a conventional typewriter). I note that Ford is rich enough to be able to get something that ordinary students might not have access to.

Without seeing it, something like a shorthand typewriter? Like a court clerk might use?

I don’t know if the movie is online, and I’m not going to the trouble of locating a copy. But are you sure it’s not just a compact typewriter? These were getting very small and flat in the days before PCs.

was it an Osborne?

Here’s a screen capture. It does look like it has a couple of volume wheels in the front.

Olivetti Typewriter Lettera 36

Thanks - that’s clearly it. Because the room is dark in that scene, it’s hard to see the back half of the typewriter, but now that I know it’s there, I can see it.


Holy-moly, that thing screams “70s”… what’s the font on the keyboard? And what purpose did the wheels on the front serve?

Looks a lot like the iconic Cooper Black font to me.

Good work! How did you recognize it? Did you have one?

Not in the '70s it wasn’t. My adviser ran a conference about computing in the '80s in 1978, where Adam Osborne and Portia Isaacsson got OC computing right - but he was still a publisher back then.

The only PC-like machine I recall from that time close to that size was the Xerox Alto. It could have been a detached keyboard from something, but the context of the OP made it most likely a portable typewriter. Those compact units were supplanted by PCs so fast that most people have the iconic image of an old Remington model in their minds when they think of a typewriter.

Nah, I just looked up old 70s typewriters on Google, and found quite a few geeky sites that chronicle their history in some detail. I just matched them up.

Thanks. You’ve done the Dope proud.

I wish Google-Fu was the path to a lucrative career. I think I’d do well for myself.