Why is the keyboard laid out the way it is? There is a reason!

If you have used a computer or for some of you more elder-statesman a typewriter (kids, look it up on the internet) you have used what is known as the QWERTY keyboard. Why is it like this? Shouldn’t it be in alphabetical order after all? Well, there is a good reason for it.

First some background. This arrangement of the letters is not new. The story goes that keyboards have been laid out like this since 1874. It was designed by a man named Christopher Sholes who worked for Sholes & Glidden Typewriter Company in Milwaukee, and later sold the design to the Remington & Sons Company. For Sholes, using the older Dvorak keyboard was frustrating as the small arms on his typewriter kept getting stuck as he typed too quickly. He designed a new layout to slow typists down to prevent jams, which he believed in the end would speed typists up. Rather than keeping all of the commonly used letters on the home row (that’s the ASDF row) he spaced them out so that the arms would be coming from different sides and would not jam as frequently.

After a few modifications by Remington the new keyboard layout was ready to go. It was included on the Remington No. 2 model, which also had another key innovation introduced with it, a shift key to include both upper and lower case letters. The QWERTY layout forced users to use both hands to type with which increased speed since most words required both hands now to type a word. The layout was later included in early teletype machines and became standard in early PCs as Microsoft adopted it for its keyboards.

While some new keys have been added over the years like the escape key the layout has remained the same. There are some international variations to correspond with the many different languages of the world but the layout in the end comes back to Christopher Sholes’ design from over 140 years ago.

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