The Typewriter

1. The typewriter output is limited to six rows.
2. It has two keyboards - the first keyboard displays the Alphabet, a determinative sign for 'plural' and the word 'Greetings'. The second keyboard displays numbers, some words and determinative signs.
3. There is a backspace key for deleting errors, a return key which will tab to the next row and a space key.
4. There is also a special key which allows you to email your message to another person or yourself. You pick up the message on a webpage which also allows you to print it.
5. Swipe to slide the keyboard.

The Alphabet

There are twenty-four alphabet signs each one representing a single sound. Hieroglyphs are written in rows or columns and can be read from left to right or from right to left. You can distinguish the direction in which the text is to be read because the human or animal figures always face towards the beginning of the line. Also the upper symbols are read before lower. The Egyptians did not include the vowels E, U, V or letter X in their writing although these sounds were present in the spoken language. For example, Sobek is the name of the crocodile god (right) but the Egyptians would have written it ‘Sbk’.
(For the Hieroglyphic Typewriter we have cheated a bit and created some phonetic signs for E, U, V and X. Therefore, the keyboard has 26 glyphs and does not include 'SH', 'KH' and 'AH'.)
It is possible to write a whole word using only symbols from the ancient Egyptian alphabet. For example the Fourth Dynasty pharaoh, Khufu, (right) wrote his name in this way.


The Egyptians used a decimal system for counting. The conventions for reading and writing numbers are quite simple: the higher number is always written in front of the lower number, and where there is more than one row of numbers, the reader must start at the top. 1 is shown as a single stroke.

10 is a drawing of a hobble for cattle.

100 is represented by a coil of rope.

1,000 is a drawing of a lotus plant.

10,000 is represented by a finger.

100,000 is a tadpole or frog.

1,000,000 is the figure of a god with his arms raised above his head.

Determinative Signs

Determinative signs are pictures of objects that helps the reader understand the meaning of a word. The symbols in a written word did not always represent the sounds of the word as spoken. For instance the word ‘boat’ (left) is expressed in hieroglyphs as ”dpt”, this might have been pronounced ‘depet’, but Depet is also a person’s name. To prevent the reader from mistaking it for another word, the writer included a picture of a boat to clarify the word’s meaning. The typewriter has three determinative signs; for plural, male and female. When you are writing someone’s name you should use the male or female glyph at the end of the word especially for names such as Cameron (see below).

Writing your Name in Heiroglyphs

Is it possible to write your name like an ancient Egyptian? The answer, unless your name is Moses, is no. Modern names are labels given because parents like the sound of the name or as a tribute to grandparent or sporting/movie star etc. In ancient Egypt a person’s name was far more important; it was considered to be a living part of each individual and it had to be given immediately at birth or, it was thought, the individual would not properly come into existence.

The names of pharaohs offered clues to their personality, the period in which they lived and the gods they worshipped. But it was not only the kings who placed great store in names. All Egyptian's names were carefully chosen for commoners and royalty alike.

Ordinary words often formed part of the name. Such as ‘ankh’ (life), ‘mery’ (beloved), ‘hotep’ (peace), ‘nefer’ (beautiful). For example Neferet, means "beautiful woman", Nefertiti "the beautiful one has come" or Rahotep, "Ra is satisfied. These were common names.

So how do you write your name in hieroglyphs? The chief problem is the missing vowels especially ‘E’ ‘U’ and ‘V’ and the answer is to follow the phonetic principles the ancient Egyptians themselves used to write the names of their foreign Greek rulers during the Ptolemaic period.

Look at the name of Alexander (right) - you can see it has been written phonetically avoiding ‘e’ and ‘x’

A name like Milo would be easy to write

A name like Poppy might present a difficulty to the reader who could confuse the meaning of the word with a flower. In this case the determinative not only makes clear that the word represents a name but also a female.

There is a serious difficulty with a name such as ‘Dave’ or ‘David’ because there are no Egyptian symbols for ‘e’ or ‘v’ – you could write ‘Da’ or ‘Daid’but it does not contain enough information to convey the meaning.

For this reason I’ve included similar phonetic sounds in the Hieroglyphic Typewriter to replace the missing vowels. I also suggest you use the male and female determinative when writing names on purely aesthetic grounds.