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The Quirky Qwerty Keyboard

The keyboard most of us use for typing is inefficient and awkward, not to mention confusing - and we've known this since 1872 when it was first marketed to the public as the "Type-Writer."

It's called the QWERTY Keyboard because the letters of the first alphabetical row appear in the order Q, W, E, R, T and Y. Also called the "universal" keyboard, it was the brainchild of inventor Christopher Latham Sholes of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Sholes built the first type-writer in 1868, arranging the keys in alphabetical order in two rows. Each letter was located at the end of a movable arm, or type bar. The machine had a movable carriage and a lever for turning paper from line to line. Unfortunately, the great machining town of Milwaukee wasn't as sophisticated then as it is now, and shops could not produce a fine-tuned instrument that worked with precision and speed. It jammed. It clashed. It was no fun to use. The most popular letters would clash into each other. It was most challenging when a user typed fast, when keys stuck, jammed and caused untold frustration.

Sholes was determined to mechanize his unique communication tool. He believed the solution would be to slow the typist down. But, to maintain efficiency, popular letters typically typed in sequence (such as TH) could not be far apart from each other. So, he asked his brother-in-law to rearrange the keys so the letters used most often would not be side-by-side and the type bars would come from opposite directions. Results of a study by educator Amos Densmore, who was the brother of Sholes's chief financial backer, indicated which letters should be placed where. The newly arranged keyboard took on the Qwerty name because of the sequence of the first alphabetical letters. In the end, typing efficiency and speed were enhanced, not slowed, by the revisions.

Arms manufacturer Remington built the first mass-produced Type-writer, which was introduced to the public in 1874. Sholes's Qwerty keyboard was included in his patent in 1878, after the type-writer was into production and its second model had been introduced.

Other versions of the typing keyboard have come and gone, but, like an old friend, the Qwerty continues.

More information about the history of keyboards:


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Copyright Wordpix Solutions and author Peggi Ridgway,




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