We all use keyboards on our laptops, desktops, tablets and mobiles on a regular basis. While some of them are physical keyboards with analog buttons, some are touch screen keyboards in smart devices. But have you ever noticed that in all the keyboards letters are not arranged in alphabetical order? The arrangement of keys in a typical keyboard setup is called QWERTY.
Keyboards came into the picture way before computers were invented: It sounds weird for kids today, but keyboards predate computers by several decades. There were several writing machines with systematically arranged keys to type alphabets and numbers, which worked similar to typewriters introduced later.
Early keyboards were alphabetical: In early writing machines there was a keyboard with 2 rows and the keyboard was alphabetical. It was looking like this.
This type of keyboard was introduced in early 1870’s.
Major problems with early alphabetical keyboards: Early writing machines were mechanical. These machines had metal levers hitting an ink ribbon to create the impression of an alphabet on paper. As typists got efficient with and increased their typing speed, they often faced an issue with levers getting entangled. It is pretty strange that ST or TS key combination is the most repetitive combination when writing the English language.
Evolution of QWERTY keyboard: There are different opinions regarding the evolution of QWERTY keyboard. Some theories say that it was introduced to slow down the typing speed of early typists as they became faster on alphabetical keyboards. While some relate it with the manufacturing rights of the writing machines being sold to E. Remington and Sons. The company re-arranged the letters so the levers won’t get entangled. The new machine was branded as ‘Typewriter’ and interestingly, letters in the word “TYPEWRITER” are from the first row of the keyboard.
Although there were other suggested layouts for the keys such as DVORAK were also proposed with the onset of computers. However, it failed to pick up users and couldn’t replace the QWERTY layout.
Another major invention in the field of keyboards was the introduction of shift key which can be used to get an alphabet in upper case.
(Image taken from google)
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