The Eternal Virtue of Good Old Fashioned QWERTY

By  |  Monday, August 3, 2009 at 5:45 pm

We PCOne of my personal heroes in the whole history of technology is Christopher Sholes. He didn’t invent the microprocessor or the LCD or cellular communications–he’s the man who gave the world the first QWERTY keyboard, back in 1867. And even though new approaches to input such as multi-touch screens can be pretty cool, I think that QWERTY will be with us for a long long time to come.

Over at, where I’ll be guestblogging periodically, I’ve contributed a post called Physical QWERTY Keyboards: Long May They Wave. Take a look and lemme know what you think: Is Christopher Sholes’ keyboard a gift to cherish forever, or an antiquity we should be trying to ditch?



4 Comments For This Post

  1. ORLY? Says:

    You do realise the reason for the creation of the first non Alphabetic layout keyboards? From the tone and data in your post I will assume you do not.

    The original type writer keyboards were all laid out in an alphabetic manner. The major problem with this was that the mechanism technology of the day was too slow to keep up with the rapidity with which this allowed people to type, which fairly rapidly led to jamming as the type arms all swung out near simultaneously. So we are stuck with a keyboard layout, specifically designed to slow typing down, because 19th century technology could not handle an alphabetic keyboard.

    And you honestly think the QWERTY is a great design?

  2. william Says:

    Keyboards are obviously the best device we have yet come up with for entering large amounts of text. If you need to enter large amounts of text, a good desktop keyboard works better than a laptop keyboard, and a laptop keyboard works better than a touch-screen keyboard.

    I was aware of the reason for the key layout on a QWERTY keyboard, and while it makes no sense today, it has plenty of momentum! Once the muscle memory is built in, I wonder how much more efficient other key layouts would be? Have there been any studies on the subject?

  3. Jeff Says:

    QWERTY keyboards were designed to slow people down and not type so fast because the typewriter keys became stuck, when people typed too fast. A Dvorak keyboard might be the wave of the future.

  4. Gregg Says:

    Jeff beat me to the punch regarding Dvorak layout: The more efficient design should help the user type faster and better. I have never tried it myself, but a colleague did, and he said that he got used to it in a couple of days (he switched back to QWERTY because his jury-rigged Dvorak keyboard was physically uncomfortable).

    Perhaps the wave of the future will be something like an Optimus Maximus-style keyboard that lets you choose whichever layout you prefer (but is actually affordable and comfortable to use).