The Secret History of Keyboards (QWERTY vs DVORAK)

Ok, so we all use keyboards, right? Of course! Apparently I’m using it right now, while talking (typing) to you through this post. 🙂 Likewise, you too use keyboards every now and then in your offices and homes for one purpose or the other. So, what’s the big deal then? Well, do you know all about keyboards? Yeah, you must be like “We know it consists of keys with alphabets and numbers printed over them.”

But, here I’m talking about the insights like the history of keyboards, their origin, and their types. Let’s know these things right now. Since, we are about to discuss the history of keyboards, I would like to start with the unsung hero- the typewriter.

What is history of the typewriter?

The typewriter was invented back in the 1860’s with its keys arranged like the piano keys. But, the keys were in an alphabetical order. As the technology advanced, it soon became easier to use the typewriter to type things rather than writing things out by hand.


Typewriters are sophisticated mechanical devices, but there is a catch in the functioning of these devices. What? Whenever you type using the typewriter, each typebar hits the same place on the device. As a result of which, the type bars get stuck and the device gets jammed when you type too quickly. Also, this would require typists to go and unjam the machine, which is clearly annoying.

So, in response to this, a fellow by the name “Christopher Latham Sholes” designed the QWERTYkeyboard layout, which is our next topic of discussion. So, just jump along with me 😉

How did QWERTY Keyboard Originate?

The prime reason why QWERTY keyboard was invented was to minimize typewriter jamming by placing the most commonly used characters farther away from each other. This clearly led to fewer jams and thus, faster typing. Interestingly, this layout was named QWERTY because of the first 6 letters that appear on the keyboard.

The QWERTY layout rapidly gained popularity, due to which other typewriter manufacturers began using the layout in their typewriters, and eventually, the layout turned out to be so widespread that it is still the most common standard today. But, do use typewriters anymore? Nope, we don’t.


With the introduction of personal computers and printers, typewriters have become almost obsolete in their entirety. However, the QWERTY layout, which was primarily designed for typewriters, has surely not become obsolete. Really?

Actually, there are a number of alternative keyboard layouts that have emerged over the years and most significantly the Dvorak layout that was invented in 1936. Let’s delve a little deeper here.

Why was the Dvorak layout invented?

The Dvorak layout was carefully created to increase the typing speed,while minimizing unnecessary finger movements that can lead to repetitive strain injuries. On Dvorak, all the most commonly used letters are placed in the Home row with consonants on the right and vowels on the left. Dvorak certainly looks really logical. But, is it actually superior to QWERTY?

Apparently, there’s not been real and rigorous studies on QWERTY vs Dvorak that can help us decide the better one of the two. So, here even if we say that Dvorak is more logical and more efficient, there are other things that we should discuss.


Even if Dvorak is faster, switching to it from QWERTY is not so easy. It can take months of practice for a typist to go back to the speed that he/ she had on QWERTY and that’s not easily attainable on Dvorak. Also, numerous software and games are designed to be operated by means of QWERTY with a little or no thought given to the alternatives.

In addition, QWERTY is already so ubiquitous that it’ll probably remain here forever. It may not be the most optimal, but it’s good enough and it’s what everyone is used to.

Which keyboard layout are you using? 

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