The beautiful entrance of DASA, Dortmund where one can visit their Arbeitsweld ausstellung, Photo: DASA.

Typing on a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball at the DASA Permanent Exhibition, Dortmund

A report from the President of The International Rasmus Malling-Hansen Society, Jørgen Malling Christensen.

All photos: Copyright Jørgen Malling Christensen.



A replica of the 1876 writing ball, mounted on a desk meant for typing while standing.
Jørgen Malling Christensen trying out the replica while seeing on the screen what he is typing.
The Malling-Hansen writing ball no. 113, restored by Dieter Eberwein.
The sign with infomation about the writing ball is only partially correct. RMH wanted to invent a fast speed machine that could be used by everybody, and not only by disabled persons.

DASA exhibition key words are: Mensch – Arbeit – Technik (man – work – technique). It is the largest interactive exhibition in Germany, and the wonderful idea behind it is to enable visitors to experience and learn things with their senses – “learning through play”.


My visit was on a Sunday (May 1, 2016) which was fortunate, because the place was not overcrowded. From Tuesday to Friday many school teachers take their classes to this innovative and exciting learning experience.


One of the sub-themes is information and communication technologies in the past, present and future. You can get the unique experience of using a 200 year old authentic printing press and print your own card! At this section I found the Malling-Hansen writing ball no. 113 – “in the flesh” so to speak (or in the brass and steel!) as well as an interactive animation of the same. This beautiful 1876 machine has been restored by Dieter Eberwein, the world’s greatest authority on the restoration and repair of writing balls. It is displayed and well protected in a glass cage with three levels; at the level above the writing ball is another iconic writing machine: Peter Mitterhofers curious model from 1864, made of wood, leather and wire. At the level below is a Sholes & Glidden Model Two from 1879.


Adjacent to the glass cage is a replica of the 1876 writing ball, mounted on a desk meant for typing while standing. This replica is part of the interactive component: you can type on it while observing the typed letters on a large computer screen. The desk has buttons linked to the functions of typing, reading, observing how paper is being inserted into the writing ball and a button which activates background information about the writing ball.


I truly enjoyed getting a genuine feeling of typing on a writing ball – and keeping in mind that this unique experience is possible thanks to the ingenuous animation created by our society member Felix Herbst (I think in collaboration with one or two staff members of DASA?). You may remember that Felix also created a similar animation currently displayed at the Danish Museum of Science and Technology in Elsinore, Denmark.


While writing on the replica, I was – as shown by the photos – wearing a T-shirt with a photo of the very same 1876 model writing ball! One of the exhibition staff members was kind enough to take photos of me, and I seized the occasion to share some information with him and a couple of his colleagues about Rasmus Malling-Hansen and his writing balls.


I warmly recommend a visit to this wonderful DASA permanent exhibition! Spending half a day or more is time well spent, equally enjoyable and useful for children, youngsters and adults!


Adress: Friedrich-Henkel-Weg 1-25D-44149 Dortmund, Germany.


Opening hours: Tuesday – Friday 9 – 17Saturday – Sunday 10 – 18



Jørgen Malling Christensen, May 8, 2016


Rasmus Malling-Hansen, 1835-1890.
Peter Mitterhofer, 1822-1893.
Christopher Latham Sholes, 1819-1890.
Carlos Glidden, 1834-1877.
Peter Mitterhofers curious model from 1864, made of wood, leather and wire.
A Sholes & Glidden Model Two from 1879.
Notice Malling Christensen's very special T-shirt.