The History of QWERTY Keyboards

Contrary to what people believe, the QWERTY keyboard was actually made to make people type faster, not slower. It was made to make people type efficiently and prevent typewriters from jamming. Today, no such jamming can happen as you type and go to websites like IceCasino because computers do not jam.

The QWERTY keyboard was a concept first designed for the Sholes and Glidden typewriter. Later, it was sold to E. Remington and Sons. Remington released a typewriter with the QWERTY keyboard, and this typewriter became a hit. Today, almost all computers use the same layout. 

The Early Beginnings

It was in the 1870s when Christopher Latham Sholes filed a patent for his writing machine, or typewriter, with the help of his friends. These friends were Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule.  

It took about five years for this group to adjust the arrangement of the letters. Then, there was an educator named Amos Densmore, who published a study on letter-pair frequency, which some historians believe was influential to the design of QWERTY.

Others say that the current QWERTY keyboard design evolved from the way telegraph operators used their own version of keyboards. 

The Remington Typewriter

It was in 1874 when the Remington typewriter hit the market. By this time, the QWERTY was not yet as it is. The version was crude and rudimentary.

In 1873, Sholes had several design changes. The same year, he sold the typewriter patent to Remington. At this point, the “R” was at the bottom right, and the top left characters were QWE.T. Yes, the period was after the letter E.

It was Remington and its engineers that made the adjustments. By 1974, they launched the Sholes and Glidden typewriter. The keyboard layout was just about the same as what we see today.

At first, the Remington typewriter did not sell well. The problem was that it could only type in uppercase letters. The model also often broke. Finally, however, they released Remington 2, which was so much better. From here, the company was able to bring the typewriter a successful invention. 

Properties of the QWERTY 

People knew that alternating hands while typing was desirable. It was necessary for efficiency. As one hand types a letter, the other hand prepares to type the other letter. This process makes typing faster, and it is one of the key influences on the design of QWERTY. 

By design, the QWERTY allows the left hand to spell more words than the right hand can. Studies show that thousands of words can be typed by the left hand on the QWERTY keyboard without using the right hand. As such, the QWERTY keyboard presents advantages to left-handed people.

There is evidence suggesting that letters that are often used must be placed further apart than together. This approach makes typing faster. 

Another property of the QWERTY is that the keyboard is not on a rectangular grid. The letters are not lined up and down at the same positions as a chessboard. Instead, the letters are diagonally placed from top to bottom.  

The reason for this is that each key was mechanically connected to a lever. The keyboards were placed at diagonal places to prevent typewriter jamming.

Criticisms of the QWERTY

QWERTY, as a keyboard layout, was primarily designed for English words and letters. The issue with the typewriter was that it did not have any provision for letters with accents. 

The answer to this was the US-international keyboard mapping. Today, modern keyboards used in computers have provisions to type letters with accents.

In mechanical typewriters, they introduced what they called dead keys. A dead key is essentially a key that allows the author or typist to modify a letter. The dead key does not generate a specific character, but it can modify a letter that is typed right after striking the dead key.

Other Variants

Not everyone was happy with the QWERTY. Some changes were made in the past to accommodate other languages. For example, there is the QAZMY layout for Latin scripts. Then, there is also the AZERTY layout. 

In Canada, those who spoke English traditionally used American English, so they were fine with QWERTY. However, some had to write in French on a consistent basis. As such, they used the Canadian-French keyboard layout. 

Meanwhile, in the UK and Ireland, they opted for a version of a keyboard with 48 keys. They called it the British Standard, or the BS 4822. It is similar to what Americans used, but it had a larger AltGr key and a larger Enter key. The British keyboard also uses the symbols for pounds and euro, which is not present in American keyboards. 

Today, most keyboards on computers and mobile devices use QWERTY, but not all. Each English-speaking country may want a different variant according to what they prefer based on their version of the English language.

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