Key to Type
Oct 19 2019
Feb 21 2020
exhibitionfestival feature

The School of Design, George Brown College, is proud to host ‘Key to Type’, an exhibition exploring the development of the contemporary keyboard that draws upon selections from the Martin Howard and Buxton-Microsoft Collections, curated by Martin Howard and Bill Buxton.

The exhibition explores the history of the modern keyboard, through the initial introduction of a new typewriting machine, the subsequent development into more contemporary typing-aids, and the final approach to today’s touch screen technology. Featured are 40 vintage and antique objects from the 1880s through to the 1990s, each representing a significant innovation in the development of the keyboard. The exhibition layers in further opportunities for exploration with demonstration videos by the collectors, background materials about the objects via an AR (augmented reality) experience and a play station where visitors can test a vintage Remington Junior typewriter and a 1980’s single-handed BAT keyboard.

Throughout Bill Buxton‘s 30-year involvement in research, design, and commentary around human aspects of technology, he has been collecting input and interactive devices whose design struck him as interesting, useful, or important. In the process, he has created a collection that examines the history of pen computing, pointing devices, touch technologies, as well as an illustration of the nature of how new technologies emerge.

Martin Howard has been collecting 19th-century typewriters for thirty years and has built the largest collection of its kind in Canada. Typewriters from the collection have been shown at the Royal Ontario Museum, seen on CBC and featured in the award-winning documentary ‘California Typewriter’.


Exhibition Design: Sisley Leung, Caitlin Plewes

Interactive & Video Design: Lei Nie, Babour Zainullah


Bill Buxton, Martin Howard, George Brown College (School of Design)


Is this venue accessible by wheelchair or similar mobility devices? This includes access to washrooms and all aspects of programming/events.
Key to Type
TASA Model 55 ASCII Keyboard, 1979. Image Courtesy of Bill Buxton.
Key to Type
Victor Typewriter, 1889. Image Courtesy of Martin Howard.
Key to Type
Vintage IBM Selectric Typeball ad, circa 1960s
Key to Type
Assembly room floor at a Remington factory, 1888. Image Courtesy of Martin Howard.
Key to Type
Promotional photo for the Caligraph typewriter, 1891. Image Courtesy of Martin Howard.