The IBM Selectric became an instant sensation upon its debut on July 31, 1961, and remained the typewriter found on most office desks until the brand was retired 25 years later, in 1986. With 2,800 parts, many designed from scratch, it was a major undertaking even for IBM, which had been in the typewriter business since the 1930s and was already a market leader. The Selectric marked a radical change from previous typewriter designs, and it took IBM seven years to work out the manufacturing and design challenges before it went on sale.
The Selectric typewriter was a game-changer in many ways:
The Selectric also formed the basis for early computer terminals and paved the way for keyboards to emerge as the primary way for people to interact with computers, as opposed to pressing buttons or levers. A modified Selectric could be plugged into IBM's System/360 computer, enabling engineers and researchers to interact with their computers in new ways.
"The Selectric typewriter, from its design to its functionality, was an innovation leader for its time and revolutionized the way people recorded information," said Linda Sanford, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Transformation, IBM, who was a development engineer on the Selectric. "Nearly two decades before computers were introduced, the Selectric laid the foundation for word-processing applications that boosted efficiency and productivity, and it inspired many user-friendly features in computers that we take for granted today."
Here's a silly commercial from the 80s. I'm pretty sure it was considered silly even back then!