Since the days I have learnt working on computers, One thing has always made me curious – “Why aren’t the letters on a computer keyboard in alphabetical order?” It makes no sense. It is awkward, inefficient and confusing. We’ve been saying that for more than 100 years. But there it remains. This keyboard layout known as “QWERTY”, made its first appearance on a rickety, clumsy device marketed as the “Type-Writer” in 1872. Today the keyboard is a universal fixture even on the most advanced, sophisticated computers and every other device with a physical or virtual touch keyboard.
The name “QWERTY” for our typewriter keyboard comes from the first six letters in the top alphabet row
So how could we get stuck with something like this?
Some people would say that being first was the whole game. Because the first keyboard was developed with such layout, No one cares to change that. But its not true. It was invented by C. L. Sholes, who put together the prototypes of the first commercial typewriter in a Milwaukee machine shop back in the 1860’s.
For years, popular writers have accused Sholes of deliberately arranging his keyboard to slow down because those early typewriters were not able to cope up with the speed of fast typists. Which leads to jam up his sluggish machine. In fact, his motives were just the opposite.
Actually the first typewriter was made with the keyboard layout in alphabetical order. And yes that machine was sluggish and got jammed up. And the real problem was that type bars were very close to each other and clash when pressed in succession. And Sholes was able to figure out a way to solve this problem just by rearranging the letters. He took some of the most common letter pairs like TH and placed them at suitable distance so that they do not clash and at the same time keeping them close enough to help type faster.
So years after the machine went into production. QWERTY’s effect, by reducing those annoying clashes, was to speed up typing rather than slow it down. And today we can see it as a universal standard followed on almost every English keyboard we see.