If you follow our Twitter account, you will see that we recently had a typing speed test within the company. Surprisingly, the tech team performed quite well, and this got me thinking about the QWERTY keyboard layout and its history.
A quick check of Wikipedia will reveal that the basic premise of the modern day keyboard is based on the typewriter. The purpose of its layout was to leave enough space for the lever arms of the typewriter (hence the diagonal positioning of each key relative to the one below). If you believe the rumours, the character layout was designed after long study of letter pair frequency to slow the typist down and prevent the typebars jamming.
Alternatives to QUERTY
Over the years, several alternative keyboard layouts have become available, but none have been embraced by the tech community as much as the Dvorak Simplified keyboard. It is meant to offer a superior layout for faster typing; it pairs common letters together in rows, but favours right handed people by making the right hand do most of the typing. There have been numerous studies into whether this layout actually improves typing speed or accuracy , and it can be a fun challenge to take.
The QWERTY layout is a great example of a well adopted standard (at least in the western world) and we have stuck with it for a long time without grumbling. However, with new methods of interacting with our devices such as touch, gesture and speech gaining popularity, it creates the possibility of a universal standard. Perhaps soon we will all share the QWERTY equivalent of gestures for input – a standard without the need for character sets for specific languages.