QWERTY Keyboard: Why are the keys not arranged in alphabetical order?

Before knowing the HOW and WHY facts of QWERTY keyboard, let’s know about the history of QWERTY keyboard first. Back in the 19th century, people started feeling the need for typing equipment for official purposes as few government offices started accepting typed letters.

The first commercial typewriter was invented in 1878 by Christopher Latham Sholes, Carlos Glidden, and Samuel Soule. The typewriter is also known as Sholes & Glidden typewriter.

When the first typewriter was invented, all the keys were arranged in alphabetical order. But, people started typing so fast that the typewriter got jammed as the mechanical arms of the typewriter was getting tangled up with fast typing. To avoid this problem, Mr. Sholes put the keys in a random manner so that people cannot type so fast.

qwerty keyboard image
More often, unjamming the keyboard consumes a lot of time and is annoying. The aim of arranging the keys in random order was to put the frequently typed characters as far as possible from each other to avoid jamming. The QWERTY keyboard name is derived from the order of the first six keys of the typewriter/keyboard.

E. Remington & Sons made several adjustments and launched the Sholes and Glidden typewriter on July 1, 1874.

Another point is that the word “typewriter” can be typed quickly using only the top row of the keyboard; which makes it easier for the salesmen to impress the customers by typing the example word “typewriter” easily.

1868: Typewriter was patented by Christopher Sholes, Carlos Glidden, and Samuel Soule
1873: Remington & Sons started mass production of the Sholes & Glidden typewriter
1878: Christopher Latham Sholes got patent for QWERTY keyboard layout

With time, there are a number of keyboard layouts developed; but the most impacting layout was designed by August Dvorak in 1936.

Dvorak’s Keyboard:

Dvorak keyboard was designed to increase typing speed and unnecessary finger movements.
In the middle row, all the vowels were on the left side whereas the frequently used consonants were placed on the right side.
Dvorak keyboard layout

QWERTY vs Dvorak keyboard:

All the software, games are designed keeping QWERTY keyboard in mind( A, W, S, D ). The windows standard cut, copy and the paste function will be scattered if Dvorak keyboard is used. Changing the habit from QWERTY to Dvorak may hardly take a couple of months but what about the existing games and software?

Personally, I feel Dvorak keyboard is better than QWERTY keyboard; but the transition from QWERTY to Dvorak keyboard is probably the biggest challenge and may not happen in the next couple of decades or may not happen at all.

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