Last week's typewriter that sends e-mails got me thinking about early typewriters. The Hansen Writing Ball, invented by Rasmus Malling-Hansen in 1865 and put into production in 1870, is considered the world's first commercially produced typewriter. Hanson came up with the idea because he wanted to figure out a way for his deaf students to "speak" with their fingers. At first I wondered about the practicality of the ball's shape, but I read that Hansen came up with the arrangement of letters on the keyboard after experimenting with speed. He positioned the most frequently-used letters to be manipulated by the fastest writing fingers, with vowels to the left and consonants to the right.