Little Bits of History

Dvorak v. QWERTY

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 12, 2011

Dvorak keyboard

May 12, 1936: Patent # 2,040,248 is granted. Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law, William Dealey, created a new keyboard for typewriters. The original or QWERTY keyboard was created by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1873 for the Sholes and Glidden typewriter. This was sold to Remington in the same year and became very popular. Actually, it was a bit different than the keyboard we all know today. As sold to Remington, the keys were arranged like this:


Remington made the adjustments to look like today’s standard keyboard.

They standard keyboard was dealing with a different technology than what we usually use today for data entry. Even before computers were invented and the different method for data input became nearly universal, typewriters were perfected to the point where keys jammed less frequently. Dvorak developed several permutations of his keyboard and they are collectively called Simplified Keyboard or American Simplified Keyboard. They have also been called the Dvorak keyboard or Dvorak layout. Advocates claim the Dvorak system reduces finger distance traveled and is supposed to allow for a faster word rate of typing. Claims have been made that it also reduces carpal tunnel syndrome.

The standard keyboard is still in use worldwide but all computer systems (Windows, Mac, Linux, and BDS) have ways to convert the keyboard from standard to Dvorak for those who wish to use the other system. The issues addressed were the awkward keystroke combination and same fingers repeatedly used with the standard system. The home key row is used only a small portion of the time with 52% of keystrokes on the top row and another 30% done on the bottom row. Also most typing is done with the left hand.

With the Dvorak layout, letters are usually typed using alternate hands which should increase speed and reduce errors. The most common letters and digraphs should be the easiest to reach and so these letters are located on the home row. The least common letters should be on the bottom row and since most people are right handed, that hand should do most of the typing. Digraphs, or two letters typed in conjunction, should not be typed with adjacent fingers. Stroking should generally move from the edges of the keyboard and move toward the middle. These issues were all addressed as the keyboard was designed.

“Over the years, I’ve trained myself to speak using the same language I would use if I were typing: meaning using full sentences in the way that paragraphs and scenes are arranged.” – Kevin J. Anderson

“Writing can be a very solitary business. It’s you sat at a desk typing words into a computer. It can get lonely sometimes and lots of writers live quite isolated lives.” – Paul Kane

“To this day, I get rewrite offers where they say: ‘We feel this script needs work with character, dialogue, plot and tone,’ and when you ask what’s left, they say: ‘Well, the typing is very good.’” – John Sayles

“That isn’t writing at all, it’s typing.” – Truman Capote

Also on this day:
¿Yo quiero Taco Bell? – In 1989 Joe Valdez Caballero dies.
Strike! – In 1950, the American Bowling Congress dropped the white males only requirement for membership.

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