Monotype Keyboard

Monotype Keyboard (from ECP)
Monotype Keyboard (from ECP)

Entering the text is the first step in the process and the compressed air-driven keyboard punched holes in a paper tape.  While the output was on a par with modern computer typesetting, the keyboard relied on mechanical help to help with spacing, justification and line length.

Each keyboard needed some essential parts to work —

  • Keybutton Banks: these are the rows and columns of buttons which could be changed to accommodate non-Latin characters (if setting Greek, for example)
  • Keybar Frames: these translate the specific key depression to a punched hole in the tape.  The punched holes select a particular mould (or matrix) and their position is determined by width of the character.  If an especially wide ‘W’ was used then that would have to be in a different position in the matrix to a narrower or condensed ‘W’ and so a different pattern of holes was needed in the tape.  Rather than have each W in a different position on the keyboard, the keybar frames did this translation work
  • Stopbars: this defines the width of each character so that the justifying scale can be driven
  • Justifying Scale: this Heath-Robinson-esque device was designed to assist the keyboard operator in deciding when to end each line.  As each key was pressed, the stopbar helped move a small needle up or down a cylinder visible to the operator depending on the width of that character.  At the same time, each keystoke moved the drum around by one position.  The markings on the drum would indicate how much space was left in that line and allowed the operator to either continue (and have very tightly-spaced words), or break to another line (perhaps leaving very wide spacing between words)

Standard Keyboard

A single, standard keyboard to produce the punched paper tape.


Weight 324lb
Working Area 6’3″ x 6′
Air Pressure 15 lbs/sq. in
Air Consumption 1.15 cu. ft/min
Standard Measure (the width to which text could be set, line length) 4¼pt. to 14pt up to 60ems pica

Duplex Keyboard

Two side-by-side keyboards with two perforators.  They could be switched together or worked separately.  Used where either a duplicate perforated tape was needed of a single text; or where two texts had to be created separately (if, for example, work was in two colours)


Weight 486lb
Working Area 8′ x 6′
Air Pressure 15 lbs/sq. in
Air Consumption 1.15 cu. ft/min for each paper tower


Monotype supplied all manner of other kit to help with some of the specialised branches of composition.  They included —

  • Combined Spacing: an attachment to cast spaces differently.  This might include casting the space with the type itself, which allowed very tight spacing and a saving of paper tape and casting time
  • Copy Light: to illuminate the copy with either a bulb or a strip light
  • Dummy Keyboard: for trainees to ‘feel’ the keyboard and layout without having to use the real thing
  • Copyholders: four different types of attachment to hold the copy to be keyboarded
  • Tabulating: to help with setting tabulated matter (like tables or timetables)


The keyboard should be cleaned each week, but the daily routine recommended that —

  • Open the pet cock at the back of the air chamber for a few minutes
  • Blow off any loose punchings with a blast of air
  • Wipe dust from the keyboard
  • Check screws and nuts for tightness
  • Test the alignment of perforations