QWERTY Keyboard: Why is the keyboard QWERTY and not ABC?

If you are using a computer, a laptop or even a mobile phone, you must have seen the keyboard arrangement that they are not in alphabetical order. Have you wondered anytime “Why is the keyboard QWERTY and not ABC?” Here is a straight forward answer –

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 that is the QWERTY keyboard design, so that people cannot type so fast.

qwerty keyboard image

History of the typewriter and QWERTY keyboard:

Before knowing the HOW and WHY facts of the QWERTY keyboard, you should know the history of the 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 was popularly known as Sholes & Glidden typewriter.

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


Due to the alphabetical arrangement of the keyboard, it was easier for the typist to type fast and as a result of which the keyboard was getting jammed up. Removing the jam from the keyboard consumes a lot of time and is annoying.

The aim of arranging the keyboard 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.

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.

Important Milestones:

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 the 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 placed on the left side whereas the frequently used consonants were placed on the right side.

Dvorak keyboard layout

August Dvorak and his brother-in-law William Dealey later patented this English keyboard layout in 1936.

They always claimed the Dvorak keyboard to maximize the typing speed, reducing the errors and even more comfortable than the QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, the Dvorak keyboard could not acquire the market like the QWERTY keyboard, and here is the reason.

Read also: Why the clock shows 10:10 always?

QWERTY vs Dvorak keyboard:

There are major reasons why the QWERTY keyboard is still prevailing in the market.

  • All the software and games are designed in a way, keeping the QWERTY keyboard in mind (A, W, S, D).
  • The Windows standard cut/copy/paste function will be scattered if the 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?

Final words:

I feel the Dvorak keyboard is better than the QWERTY keyboard, but the transition from QWERTY to Dvorak keyboard is probably the biggest challenge as people are acquainted with the QWERTY keyboard.

Personally, I am also quite comfortable with the QWERTY keyboard and the transition between the QWERTY and Dvorak layout may not happen in the next couple of decades or may not happen at all.

Do let us know what you think of the QWERTY keyboard and Dvorak keyboard layout.


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