February 12, 2020
Why the QWERTY keyboard has survived compared to more easier input keyboard layouts?
Do you know why QWERTY keyboard has survived so long? We outline the history of keyboard layout to you.
Mechanical Typewriters: 1870’s
In 1872, Remington Company produced the first mechanical typewriter, patented by Latham Sholes. Typists soon mastered the skill to typing that they were going so fast that were jamming the typewriter keys which flew up to hit the typewriter ribbon. In the late 1870’s, instead of solving the problem of why the typewriter was jamming, Remington redesigns the keyboard layout so as to slow down the typist by introducing the QWERTY keyboard. The “improved” QWERTY layout was designed to slow down typing and prevent typewriter keys from jamming anymore by slowing down the typist.
Electric Typewriters: 1930’s – Dvorak
Electric typewriters solve the problem of the keys jamming and new keyboards layouts were introduced. In 1936, August Dvorak patented a new layout to reduce finger reach and strain by putting common letters on the home row and to avoid awkward use of key pairs to improve speed. Here’s the Dvorak keyboard:
Design criteria sound good, so what’s wrong with this keyboard? Almost all letters move from their familiar QWERTY locations. The change was too big and relearning of this new keyboard layout would have taken people a month to get familiar with the Dvorak keyboard. Hence the uptake on this new design was poor with typist preferring to stick with QWERTY keyboard for typing.
Personal Computers: 1970’s
With the introduction of the personal computer in 1970’s, there was another opportunity to change from the standard QWERTY keyboard layout. But the QWERTY keyboard remained as Computers manufactures wanted the typist to engage with the computers. To make the change over to computers less of a hassle and to reduce the learning curve, the keyboard design was not changed.
In 2006, a programmer named Shai Coleman released an alternative keyboard layout called Colemak. Just as Dvorak was a response to QWERTY’s shortcomings, Colemak addresses the failures of Dvorak but does so in a way that doesn’t alienate current QWERTY users. The intended result is a layout that aims for speed, efficiency, minimal repetitive stress injuries, and an easy learning curve for QWERTY typists.
The beauty of Colemak is that there are only 17 differences in key placement between it and QWERTY, yet those 17 differences are more than enough to create a radically improved typing environment. All other keys remain the same. As such, QWERTY users should not be afraid to learn Colemak.
Colemak eliminates virtually all cases of frequent letters in “stretched finger” locations. For example, Dvorak places ‘L’ in the QWERTY ‘P’ spot, which requires frequent stretching of the pinky. The positions of other keys have also been optimized with Colemak, such as moving the high-frequency ‘R’ and ‘I’ keys to the home row.
So should you change from QWERTY to learn a new keyboard layout?
If you spend most of your day typing on a computer, it’s worth looking into. The speed gains and injury reductions are real and they do add up over time. However, there are some things that you’ll want to keep in mind.
You’ll experience a big drop in typing speed while learning a new layout. A typical person trying to learning would need to set aside a whole month to learn a new keyboard layout. However, with the help of typing tutors such as our own Typewiz which helps you learn how to touch type in a fun and interactive way. For more details about Typewiz check out our website www.typewiz.com
Keyboard shortcuts can be an inconvenience. Due to Dvorak’s drastically different layout, shortcuts like CTRL+C (COPY), CTRL+ V (Paste) and CTRL + X (Cut) can be a pain. Colemak is less of a pain due to its similarities to QWERTY, but the differences still exist and you may find yourself frustrated from time to time when you accidentally hit the wrong shortcut keys.
Lastly, other computers will still be QWERTY. This isn’t a big deal but if you are using multiple devices it can be problematic if you switch computers a lot, or if other people use your computer it can cause problems and time delays in typing.
For me, the QWERTY keyboard is here to stay and it has been part of keyboard history and will not be changed. So it importing to learn typing on a QWERTY keyboard using a typing tutor is important. Why not book a free first session trial at our course centres where your child can learn how to touch type assisted by our trained professional tutors..
Will you stick with QWERTY or switch to an alternative? Or maybe you have already switched? Tell us what you think in the comments below!