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Why we can’t give up the traditional Qwerty keyboard

BBC – The Economics of Change: “The Dvorak has a cult following. Its supporters say it’s faster, easier to learn and better for your poor, overworked fingers. They say 70% of keystrokes are on the home row – the keys where typists rest their fingers – on the Dvorak, versus 31% on a Qwerty. They say you can type thousands of words on a Dvorak’s home row, but only a few hundred on a Qwerty’s. They cite studies showing its superiority… It was a Milwaukee printer Christopher Latham Sholes who invented the typewriter, and over a number of years developed Qwerty, which he sold to the manufacturer Remington. The best-known explanation for why Qwerty doesn’t seem to resemble the alphabet is that he separated the most commonly used key combinations in an effort to stop the machine from jamming. Alternatively, Japanese historians Koichi Yasuoka and Motoko Yasuoka have suggested the needs of telegraph operators influenced the design, as did compromises between inventors and producers, and intellectual property issues. Either way, it wasn’t aimed at creating the fastest or easiest standard. Stanford University economist Paul David argued that it became dominant because early “touch typing” techniques were most closely associated with Qwerty. Schools taught touch typing on Qwerty. Companies bought Qwerty typewriters because there was a pool of typists who knew how to use them. Typists would learn it knowing it would probably get them a job. Qwerty was suddenly everywhere, supported by a series of self-reinforcing relationships. By the time Dvorak came along, it was too late…”

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