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The first mechanical ‘writing machine’ was Malling’s Writing Ball, invented by the Danish priest Hans Rasmus Johann Malling Hansen in 1867. Its main purpose was to make it easier for blind and visually impaired people to write. One of its early users was Friedrich Nietzsche, who suffered from poor eyesight. Some commentators have retrospectively gone so far as to argue that Nietzsche’s brief, aphoristic, chopped-up ‘late style’ was a direct result of the new writing technology. Although this may be an exaggeration, he himself wrote in a letter dated 1882 that ‘the writing implements affect our thoughts’.

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