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The Reason of the Layout of the QWERTY Keyboard

Updated on February 10, 2013

When I encountered the question about the reason and usage of QWERTY keyboard, I decided to check the whole history of this invention. To speak the truth, I never thought about that. I believe that the main part of people do not know all the story. This is the reason why I started writing this hub. I found some myth on the Internet about the main aim of such layout. Some people say that QWERTY keyboard was created to slow down the typists. I believe that this is not true. The QWERTY keyboard helps to type faster.

Diagonal key arragement
Diagonal key arragement | Source

The QWERTY Keyboard

The standard keyboard that is used in typing machines, computers and other devices is known as a QWERTY layout keyboard. The name comes from the first six letters on the first row. Of course there are many other layouts for different languages, but the most common layout is English QWERTY keyboard. This kind of layout was created in 1873 by C.L. Sholes. The first QWERTY keyboard was created for machine, that was called typewriter. The standard ABC keyboard was impossible to use with such a machine because letter jams were created while typing. The reason of jams was the specific construction of the first typewriter. So the QWERTY keyboard was created to enable fast and fluent typing. It took several years to create the layout that it is so common in our days. Some principles of marketing also were adapted. Did you know that it is possible to write a word “TYPEWRITER” using only the first row of letters?

The keys are oriented in diagonals. This prevented the levers of the typewriter to run into each other. The same diagonal layout is used in computer keyboards. Of course, there are no levers in today’s keyboards so there are some models which arrange the keys in vertical columns to reduce finger motion. The QWERTY keyboard is designed to help a typist to type faster. The layout helps to find letters very easily, without much additional moves. In fact, many people type faster than they write.

Properties of the QWERTY Keyboard

The keyboard is designed so well that the maximum speed of typing can be reached. The letters are in very good places. While typing a letter with one hand, the other hand gets ready for the next letter. The steady rhythm is reached and the speed can be very good with this layout. However, because of the properties of the English language, there are many words that can be typed using only a left hand, and there are only a few words that can be typed using only a right hand. This can be a little problem for right handed people at first. But this problem disappears after some time. The language structure of the other languages that uses Latin alphabet is very different, so it is very hard to say how this typical layout interacts with other languages. In my personal opinion, if the QWERTY keyboard is so common all over the world, this interaction is positive and it is very easy to use such a keyboard with almost all types of languages that uses Latin alphabet.

Computer QWERTY keyboard
Computer QWERTY keyboard | Source

Computer Keyboard

The keyboard of the typewriter was designd to fit the writers needs. There were not many additional symbols required for common writing. The first computer keyboard was created with the aim to aid programmers to input the data into the machine. The need of some functional keys appeared (esc, arrows, function keys, such as F1, F2 and etc.).


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