etaoin shrdlu

the most interesting characters in the new documentary LINOTYPE: THE FILM at the Illinois premiere on Thursday, April 12, 2012.




“ETAOIN SHRDLU” are the most used keys on the beloved, but now-obsolete Linotype hot lead type composing machine. Unlike her cousin Qwerty, the Linotype has an esoteric keyboard design which arranged the most frequently used letters in the English language on the left side. Before the days of computers, type was set one line at a time (“Line-o-type”) and if you made a mistake, the entire line had to be thrown out and reset. A quick way to finish a line of type intended to be discarded was to simply run your finger down the left side of the keyboard. Unfortunately, sometimes the error was not discarded and the words “ETAOIN SHRDLU” made it into print. This phrase was popular enough that dictionaries actually listed it as an entry.

To find out more about Etaoin Shrdlu and the amazing Linotype machine, come to the Champaign-Urbana premiere of LINOTYPE: THE FILM.