Many of you would have wondered why your smartphone or laptop’s keyboard is arranged as QWERTY.. instead of ABCDE..
Most of us were taught that the man who invented the keyboard created the QWERTY design to slow typists down. The faster someone typed, the more often the typewriter jammed, so Christopher Scholes put common letters in hard-to-reach spots.
This popular theory was just debunked. According to a new story, the QWERTY keyboard was actually created based on the advice of telegraph operators. The first keyboards were being used by telegraph operators to translate morse code, and the keyboards were built for that.
So how did we end up with Qwerty?
In the USA in the post civil war era, standardisation became all. The new world was to be a mechanical one. A .22 bullet had to fit any .22 rifle in the world. A typist had to fit any typewriter.
There was hot competition to create a single typewriter standard.
Image captionThe style may have evolved, but basic functions have remained the same
The inventor of the Qwerty keyboard was Christopher Sholes, a Milwaukee port official, Wisconsin senator, sometime newspaper editor and a man who tried to invent not “a” typewriting machine, but “the” typewriting machine.
The challenge was mechanical; to devise a system which linked an easily understandable interface with the complicated technology of ink, typebars, levers and springs.His first attempt was alphabetical, but the typebars clashed due to the key arrangements. So Sholes arranged them in a way to make the machine work. Frequency and combinations of letters had to be considered to prevent key clashes.
The typewriter wars heated with the appearance of typing competitions, where typists would battle it out to achieve the highest word counts.
Not surprisingly, type would clash and stick. So Sholes, it is alleged, rejigged the letters on his machine in order to keep speeds down.
In 1873, Qwerty was adopted by Remington, famous for its arms and sewing machines as well as its typewriters, and it became adopted as the basis not only for English but the majority of European languages as well.
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The QWERTY controversy is coming to light now, as techies reconsider the utility of the keyboard configuration. The time has come, some say, to revise the keyboard for an increasingly mobile world.