Dr. Friedrich Rehmann & Giernat & Schröter, GmbH
Karlsruhe, Berlin & Leipzig, Germany
First Introduced in 1899, the Diskret (Discreet) was the successor to the Volksschreibmaschine (People's Typewriter) of 1888. Whereas the Volksschreibmaschine was a basic index typewriter with a single ring of characters, the Diskret was designed with two concentric rings. Its inner ring was able be loosened and rotated to allow the user to type in code. Thus, the Diskret was both a typewriter and a cipher machine.
Richard Beger of Dresden, Germany, who was one of the two inventors of the Volksschreibmaschine, was now the sole developer of the Diskret. According to the text within the Diskret's U.S. patent (patent no.695,999), Beger had already applied for patents in England and Austria as early as December of 1898. The U.S. patent was applied for on July 3, 1899 but not issued until March 25, 1902.
To use the Diskret as a typewriter, the typist would simply choose a character from the outer index ring with the lever, which would turn the typewheel behind it, then press down to print. Its carriage would advance by one increment. To use the Diskret as a cipher machine, the typist would rotate the inner ring to create a false index to generate a coded letter. The recipient would use their Diskret with its inner ring set in the exact same position to decode. Though this was a very, very basic code typewriter, it was, nonetheless, one of the first.
Aesthetically, the Diskret is stunning. Aside from the sizable, bone-white index, most of the typewriter's metal components were engraved throughout with Jugendstil (German Art Nouveau) embellishments. The typewriter was mounted to a thick wood base which was complimented beautifully by a sturdy, wood top. Total price of a Diskret: 75 Marks.
According to a German book written by Friedrich Müller titled Schreibmaschinen und Schriften-Vervielfältigung, dated to 1900, production of the Volksschreibmaschine and some early Diskrets was done by Dr. Friedrich Rahmann of Karlsruhe, Germany. Later production of the Diskret was done by the firm of Giernat & Schröter, GmbH, first in Berlin and then in Leipzig. At some point Giernat & Schröter replaced the k to a c in Discret, like the French would spell the word. The firm marketed the machine as the "Heim und welt Schreibmaschine," which translates to "Home and World Typewriter."
I would like to acknowledge Paul Robert who manages the Virtual Typewriter Museum. His help with the translations was instrumental in helping better understand the development and chronology of the Diskret.
Questions? Comments? Have more information? Have a Volksschreibmaschine or a Diskret for sale? Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com