19 September 2011

QWERTY Keyboard: Why is it the way it is?

       If you are reading this, surely you have a keyboard in your front. I assume you are using a QWERTY keyboard, which is the most common layout of keyboard.(If you don't know what QWERTY means, it is the name of the way in which keys are arranged in your keyboard. The name obviously comes from the first six letters of the top row of alphabets in your keyboard.)
       Now my question is, do you know why keys are arranged in some seemingly random way rather than in an order? I had asked this question myself and to others, and frankly the answer I could end up in was 'this way makes typing more fast and efficient'. But how? I got many explanations from many and even from myself (rather fit-to-reality type explanations!) all of them being supportive to the making-typing-faster concept.
       But actually, fact is just the reverse. QWERTY layout was invented to make people type slowly, and not fast! Yes it is. This layout was designed by Christopher Sholes in 1874 as part of his design of the first typewriter for Remington & Sons. Obviously, the first typewriter was purely a mechanical device in which pressing of a key would cause a bar to strike against the paper through an inked ribbon. In that machine there was a problem: if you type too fast the bars corresponding to different keys would collide with each other and thereby would jam the machine. Sholes found out an easy remedy for this. He just placed the most commonly used letters in hard to reach positions! And there it was, the QWERTY layout. The Remington typewriters became so popular that even after the invention of electronic typewriters, the Sholes' layout had to be followed as such because people had got used to it. That is how this layout became a universally accepted standard for keyboard.

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