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The QWERTY Rumor

A long-lived rumor suggests
typewriter inventor Christopher Sholes arranged the letters in the QWERTY layout to slow down the typist.

If this were true, he would have located popular letters such as "A" and "S" at the far corners of the keyboard, and located unpopular letters such as "Q", "Z", and "X" under your fingertips - right where you don't need them. Looking at the PC (QWERTY) keyboard shows us that, in fact, the opposite is true.

What really happened was Mr. Sholes varied from his original alphabetic layout when he placed commonly used pairs of letters such as "sh", "ck", "th", "pr", etc., on alternating sides of the keyboard to reduce jamming of the typewriter's swing-arms. 

This design change actually sped up typing by allowing the user to alternate hands more often - think "drum roll".

A 1953 U.S. General Services Administration study of the QWERTY keyboard and it's only serious challenger, the DVORAK keyboard, found no appreciable typing speed difference between the two keyboards. Fingers travel less distance on the DVORAK layout, but additional alternating-hand keystrokes speed up the QWERTY layout. The result - a draw.

The fact is, QWERTY works and it works quite well.





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