A Quick History of Keyboards

Of all the ways to design a keyboard, how did we end up with QWERTY?

Back in the late 1800’s, typewriters had a more conventional “ABCDE” layout of keys. The problem? Pressing two neighboring keys could cause the keys to clash and jam together, ruining the typed paper. This was especially common with certain letter combinations like “st.”

In 1867, Christopher Sholes patented a new layout design specifically to combat this problem in typewriters. The layout, named after the keys in the top row (QWERTY), forced typists to alternate their hands and spaced out commonly used letters. The keys were also rearranged from a grid layout to diagonally slanted rows, to make more room for the levers each key was attached to. This trait, you may notice, is still present in keyboards today, despite there being no levers to make room for.

In 1936, August Dvorak patented a redesigned layout – this keyboard rearranged letters based on how common they were, in order to reduce fatigue and awkward finger motions. While Dvorak claimed his typists were faster (the Guinness World Record holder was one), the layout never took off.

Most computers still offer Dvorak support – try it out for yourself and see if you could make the switch!