Back to the complete issue
Monday, 14 October 2019

Just who exactly invented the Arabic typewriter?

Just who exactly invented the Arabic typewriter? In late-nineteenth century Egypt, two different men claimed the title of sole inventor of the Arabic typewriter. Their rival claims were passed down through their respective families, prompting impassioned debate in a series of Al Ahram articles published in 1939. But both Egyptian Philippe Waked and Syrian Selim Haddad have a justifiable claim to the title of inventor, according to this Kerning Cultures podcast (listen, runtime: 29:45).

The men may have worked in parallel to improve a clumsy prototype: A recent investigation by AUC Technology Transfer Office Director Ahmed El Leithy reveals that both men, working in different fields in Egypt during a time of great innovation, are likely to have seen a clumsy prototype of the Arabic typewriter shown during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, before each working independently to develop a better model. Haddad filed the first patent for the Arabic typewriter, but Waked had in fact produced the first typed letter in Arabic three months earlier. Each man played a key role in proving the commercial viability of the Arabic typewriter, the podcast argues, and perhaps it’s time to consign their rivalry to the annals of history, and simply celebrate their achievement.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

Enterprise is available without charge thanks to the generous support of HSBC Egypt (tax ID: 204-901-715), the leading corporate and retail lender in Egypt; EFG Hermes (tax ID: 200-178-385), the leading financial services corporation in frontier emerging markets; SODIC (tax ID: 212-168-002), a leading Egyptian real estate developer; SomaBay (tax ID: 204-903-300), our Red Sea holiday partner; Infinity (tax ID: 474-939-359), the ultimate way to power cities, industries, and homes directly from nature right here in Egypt; CIRA (tax ID: 200-069-608), the leading providers of K-12 and higher level education in Egypt; Orascom Construction (tax ID: 229-988-806), the leading construction and engineering company building infrastructure in Egypt and abroad; Moharram & Partners (tax ID: 616-112-459), the leading public policy and government affairs partner; Palm Hills Developments (tax ID: 432-737-014), a leading developer of commercial and residential properties; Mashreq (tax ID: 204-898-862), the MENA region’s leading homegrown personal and digital bank; Industrial Development Group (IDG) (tax ID:266-965-253), the leading builder of industrial parks in Egypt; Hassan Allam Properties (tax ID:  553-096-567), one of Egypt’s most prominent and leading builders; and Saleh, Barsoum & Abdel Aziz (tax ID: 220-002-827), the leading audit, tax and accounting firm in Egypt.