Why Do We Use the QWERTY Keyboard?

Ever wondered why the keys on your laptop are not in alphabetical order, but in some random sequence, that doesn’t seem to make any sense at all?  

Surely, there must be some deep logic behind this quirky arrangement of English letters?

The answer is both yes, and no.

Yes, because the QWERTY design evolved through a long process of adaptation and feedback. The QWERTY layout was first conceived by Christopher Latham Sholes, a newspaper man, and his Charles Gidden in the 1870s, for what would come to be known as the Sholes and Gidden typewriter. Sholes and Gidden based their design on the principle that commonly used letters needed to be placed as far apart from each other as possible to make typing easier. 

This would go on to become the first commercially successful typewriter in the world. So successful was this design that the arms manufacturer E. Remington and sons, then one of the most successful gun makers in America, bought the design of the typewriter from Sholes and Gidden. America was booming, and it just couldn’t get enough of typewriters and guns. ( weird combination, I know, but that’s how it was.) 

The Remingtons made a few more adjustments to the original design, based on the feedback they received from their clients, and the end result was the modern QWERTY layout. 

So, to answer the original questions, yes, there was some logic to the original layout ( keeping commonly used keys apart), and it went through a process of testing and feedback.

However, the assumption that keeping commonly used letters far apart leads to easier typing has never been scientifically proven. If that’s the case, one would ask, why has not a more convenient and scientifically designed keyboard layout been thought of? The answer is that it was just too much trouble. By the time computers arrived, people were just way too used to the QWERTY layout for computer manufacturers to bother. After all, why fix something that ain’t broke? Thus, it is, the QWERTY continues to remain the default keyboard layout, mostly by force of habit and inertia than anything else. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s