I had always been taught that the QWERTY keyboard layout was designed in such a weird way as to maximize efficiency and typing speed. It came up in conversation the other day so I decided to look it up and research it a little. I came across several interesting articles and ideas including one that claimed the standard QWERTY layout is actually designed to slow you down. What? yes, evidently back in the age of old ass typewriters the keys and levers would jam up if the common letters close to each other were used in rapid succession, so the common letters are spread out to minimize jamming and slow down typing speeds.

There is a semi-controversy surrounding the QWERTY layout and the competition which lost out. Here are two links to the history behind the controversy: reason.com/9606/Fe.QWERTY.shtml, www.mwbrooks.com/dvorak/dissent.html.

There is an alternative called the Dvorak keyboard that you can setup on your computer and learn, although I haven’t done it and since I don’t type very much, don’t see a need. But some of you may be interested in exploring the option. Here is the layout:

Some facts and figures (bear in mind that these assume typical verbal English as the typing content):

* Finger travel distance is 8 to 20 times greater for QWERTY typing than for Dvorak.
* In typical English, 70% of letters occur in the home row in Dvorak, compared to 31% in QWERTY.
* Reaches across rows occur five times less frequently in Dvorak than in QWERTY.
* The error rate for QWERTY typists is about twice that of Dvorak typists.
* A study carried out by the US Navy indicated that they could recover the costs of retraining their typists in Dvorak in 10 days, because of their increased productivity. (one of the above articles refutes this statement)
* The average beginner typists would require 56 hours of training to attain a 40 word-per-minute speed in QWERTY; in Dvorak, the time is reduced to 18 hours. (Source)

  • Angela Gray

    Wow, that is kinda crazy. I would really want to learn the Dvorak method if I wasn’t worried about screwing up my decent QWERTY skills (and if every computer I used had a Dvorak keyboard).