Origins of the QWERTY Keyboard Layout

James HeslipFunLeave a Comment

I am only human, and with that, I tend to forget things. I find that if I don’t write an important task down, I won’t remember to do until it’s too late. Naturally as a programmer my instinct when it comes to making quick notes is my keyboard, not pen and paper. This all got me thinking, where did the keyboard come from and why is it so “wacky” in design?

The Origins of the QWERTY Keyboard Layout

The QWERTY keyboard’s design appears at first to be a random arrangement of characters, but there is a historic reason behind it.

In 1868, Christopher Latham Sholes invented the typewriter. The keys were positioned in alphabetical order as you would expect. It was quickly realised, though, that there was in issue with this. Given the mechanical nature of the typewriters, if you would rapidly hit two keys close to one another, the keys would jam.

Amos Densmore, an educator, worked with Sholes in looking at common letter pairings. Together they developed a keyboard layout which would help to prevent this issue. They placed letters next to those which would not be typed sequentially. This became the QWERTY layout in 1872.

Pros and Cons of QWERTY

Of course, it took a little bit of getting used to, but with time typists could increase their efficiency significantly. They no longer had to deal with key jams, and such. This doesn’t seem like it would be much of an issue in 2018 where typewriters are deprecated. Your everyday keyboard doesn’t typically jam regardless of layout.

The main issue with this layout is the time it takes to learn it. It’s not very intuitive, especially for young children or seniors.

What does the future hold?

It is very likely that the QWERTY layout will stick around until technology evolves beyond the need for a physical keyboard. To get all users to dedicate time and resource to relearn a new, complex design wouldn’t be a popular move.

In the future we may begin to use things like Neural Impulse Actuators. These are a substitute for the typical physical input devices. They instead offer an interface straight from the user’s brain to the PC by measuring electrical impulses.

There is also the ability to control your computer using your eyes using motion sensors. Advancements in technology like this will help to aid the disabled community, and give them access to systems in a way they couldn’t before.

With this on our horizons now, I look forward to seeing what the world looks like 10 years down the line.

About the Author

A picture of James Heslip the author of this blog

James Heslip

APL Team Leader

James is an APL Programmer with a keen interest in mathematics. His love for computing was almost an accident. From a young age he always enjoyed using them- playing video games and such- but it was never considered that anything more would come from it. James originally had plans to pursue a career in finance. More about James.

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