Eclectic Curiosity

Posted on June 1st, 2004, by Steve Hardy in Archives, Uncategorized. No Comments

An interesting overlooked fact, presented here (In the Wrong Key) in enRoute by Technologist Don Tapscott: the common QWERTY keyboard, designed by American Christopher Sholes in 1867, was created with the purpose of slowing typing so as to avoid traditional typewriters from jamming. Slow typing increased the typewriter’s reliability. Not so practical, however, for modern computer use.

Sholes’ keyboard is known as the QWERTY design, so-called because those are the top six letter keys on the left-hand side. That alone shows how foolish the QWERTY system is; “E” is the most frequently used letter in the alphabet, yet it’s not on the row of keys reached most easily by the typist.

But there is a better keyboard. August Dvorak, a University of Washington professor, created one in the 1930s. He analyzed the frequency of letter usage and devised an arrangement of keys that minimized hand movement and maximized efficiency. Unfortunately, his efforts never caught on. Few companies wanted a typewriter that no one knew how to use, and few typists wanted to train for a keyboard that no employer owned. Chicken and egg.

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