Something we don't think about much these days are typewriter ribbons. While my husband was in college and seminary, I changed many a typewriter ribbons as I typed out his papers for school. Today we run out of ink or toner depending on the type of printer we have for our computers.
Below is an article on typewriter ribbons.
Perhaps no part of the typewriting machine's equipment has given greater perplexity to the promoters than the ribbon. To obtain one that would not clog the type or smirch the paper, and from which the ink would not evaporate when exposed to the air, was a difficulty with which operators had to contend, and which inventors tried hard to remedy. It is only within the last few years that ribbons have been made which appear to satisfy the general demand. While ribbons have been required since the time of the modern typewriter's introduction, it is in the last ten years that the business of making them has reached its greatest proportions. Four years ago, it was said that this kind of ribbon-making was engaged in by at least forty manufacturers in the United States, and their output was estimated to be not less than 600,000 ribbons annually. To-day, says the New York Sun, the annual production is probably more than twice as large as it was then, and makers declare that they are kept very busy filling their orders. The thousands of American typewriters in use abroad are practically all supplied with American ribbons, and their exportation constitutes an important branch of the business by itself.
Ribbons are made in almost every conceivable colour and variety, and with copying and non-copying ink. Their length and width depend upon the requirements of the machine for which they are intended. The average length is eight yards, although a few are made as long as eighteen yards. Some ribbons write in one colour, and show an entirely different colour when the writing is copied in a press. A ribbon which writes black may copy blue or green, making the record much more clear on certain kinds of paper than it would be if made in black. The head of the ribbon department of a large typewriter house on Broadway recently gave some facts concerning the extent of this business, and the skill and care required for its prosecution.
In New York, according to the manager referred to, there are probably five hundred places where typewriter ribbons are sold, while in all the cities of the Union there are many thousands. Some of the dealers handle eight or ten different styles, and the amount of their monthly receipts is often very large. The different makes of ribbons in the market number from fifty to seventy-five, and most of them are manufactured in the Eastern States. The number of ribbons used in a year ranges from 1,000,000 to 1,500,000. There is good reason to suppose that there are between 300,000 and 350,000 ribbon-using typewriters in operation in the world, but, of course, some of the machines are not employed actively. Probably onethird of the ribbons made are exported.
Only those connected with the business can understand ■how much care and expert ness are necessary in turning out ribbons which will give good satisfaction. It is an easy matter to succeed in making a good ribbon now and then, or perhaps several dozen good ones; but every single ribbon must be perfect, otherwise complaints will be made, and the manufacturer will suffer in consequence. The effect produced by one poor ribbon might mean the loss of several customers who might be misled as to that particular brand.
One of the chief aims of the manufacturers is to produce a ribbon that shall leave a permanent impression on the paper. Ink which has lampblack as a base is always
Sermanent; it cannot be extracted by acids, and will not ide by exposure to light. The ribbons in most common use are the black copying purple, and purple copying, and a record made by any one of them may be regarded as absolutely lasting. Many of the best ribbons have selvedged edges, which prevents their ravelling and curling when in use. They are nearly uniform in thickness, though some ribbons are made of very thin texture, for use when a large number of copies is desired.—Textile Mercury.
Source: Pitman's Journal of Commercial Education, Volume 58 ©1899