Sunday, February 08, 2009


The most widely used keyboard design in the English-speaking world is called “QWERTY” and was patented in 1874 by Christopher Sholes of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Mister Sholes was a newspaper publisher who decided that a practical typewriter was the future of newspaper publishing (he also wanted to get rid of the pesky Printing-Press Compositor union, which was working towards better working conditions and wages for the working people of the time. As if the abolition in 1870 of the Testicle-clamp work-incentivizer hadn’t been enough. Typical unions, always wanting more. Slackers.) His quest had been to find a configuration of letters that would prevent the manual machines of the day from jamming when people typed too fast (which is almost funny when you think about it. How many business owners want their employees to slow down?) The configuration Mister Sholes came up with was called QWERTY after the first six letters on the top row, and the rest is history.

The QWERTY configuration is still the most common keyboard system used today, with the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard (right or left) coming in a close second. Over the years many other configurations have been developed, more so with the advent and the ubiquitiousness of the modern home computer (both PCs and Macs). It’s not something that the home computing industry likes to talk about, but it is still possible to type too fast, even for a computer (although it must be admitted that to type too fast for modern computer processors one has to be in the 250+ Words Per Minute range. Good work if you can get it.) Rather than the old problem of the letter strike-keys sticking, which is frustrating and time consuming to correct, someone typing too fast on a computer may cause the computer to “crash”, which can be a costly situation. Obviously once again the lesser of two evils was to slow the employees down.

The first of the new keyboard configurations was introduced in 1995 and was called the Ab-tac back-key system. This configuration is essentially QWERTY, except the letters W, I, O and M are all hidden on the bottom of the keyboard. It was found that once the typist had to turn the keyboard over to type these letters even the best typist could be kept to under 120 WPM. Of course that was at first and it wasn’t too long before the young people entering the typing-pool managed to work their way around this and speeds began to pick up again. In early 2001 the Enhanced Ab-tac back-key system Mark II was introduced and the letter T was added to those already on the bottom, and the stipulation was added that any typist had to obtain permission from a supervisor before being allowed to use any of the letters on the bottom of the keyboard. Average typing speed once again slowed and computer “crashes” declined. The resourcefulness of youth stepped to the fore again and with the advent of texting, and the resulting abbreviations, speeds are once again beginning to speed up.

Late in 2008 the Double-enhanced Ab-tac back-key system Mark III “hidden letter” design was introduced. In this design all of the keys are secreted around the office and it is up to the typist to find them, use them once, them hand them off to a supervisor for rehiding. This has been described as the ultimate in typing speed retardation technique, and was voted best business innovation of 2008 by the Business Association Committee in the United States.

It’s a long way from the original QWERTY design, but the end result is the same and so it only seems right to thank Mister Christopher Sholes for his leading steps in this great journey. Thanks, Chris. You da bomb.

Anyway… Humouroceros

Sholes original design for the QWERTY type writer.

Note that the #1 is missing. This was to make it impossible to type the number '13', which was considered unlucky. You will also note that the #0 is missing. They just forgot that one.


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