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QWERTY or DVORAK? Debunking the Keyboard Layout Myths


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If you're reading this summary on a computer, chances are there is a QWERTY keyboard on your desk. This keyboard layout has been around since 1873, and it has been widely adopted ever since. However, its popularity has always remained a mystery to me. Why is everyone using a keyboard layout that doesn't look that efficient on first sight?

I'm not the only one asking this question. A lot of myths exist on the QWERTY keyboard layout, including the one that it was specifically designed to slow down typists. In preparation for a switch to the DVORAK layout, I did some research and found out that a lot of these myths are riddled with factual errors. Also, I started learning DVORAK and kept track of my progress and what I thought were the pros and cons.

So was QWERTY designed to slow us down? Is it feasible to adopt an alternative layout like DVORAK? If so, how long will it take you to learn it, and should everyone consider it? Join this session to have your questions answered, and feel free to bring your keyboard layout of choice. :-)

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QWERTY or DVORAK? Debunking the Keyboard Layout Myths

  1. 1. QWERTY or DVORAK? Debunking the Keyboard Layout Myths Hanno Embregts @hannotify
  2. 2. Hanno?
  3. 3. Randomly Assembled
  4. 4. "I mean, seriously."
  5. 5. Ask the Audience
  6. 6. So how do *you* feel about all this? Let's nd out!
  7. 7. Myth #1 Created to slow typists down
  8. 8. Created to slow typists down? Questionable, as there were no fast typists at that time! The rst touch typist was Frank Edward McGurrin, who started developing his own touch typing method in 1881. Fun fact: McGurrin could type 97 words per minute. ( )
  9. 9. Created to slow typists down? Or to slow telegraph operators down? Again very unlikely. Morse senders were quite fast and almost constantly waiting for new input. At a typewriter demonstration in 1872, the morse receiver almost *begged* the operator to type faster. "Typewriting and Telegraphy", Densmore, 1886. ( )
  10. 10. Myth #2 Created to prevent jams in early typewriters
  11. 11. Created to prevent jams?
  12. 12. Frequently used digrams and their distances "On the Prehistory of QWERTY", Yasuoka & Yasuoka, 2009.
  13. 13. The story of E & R
  14. 14. Type-Writer, February 1873 (image via The World of Typewriters)
  15. 15. Myth #3 Created so that the word and brand name TYPEWRITER could be typed by using the top row only
  16. 16. Created for the brand name? In May 1873, the brand name became "Sholes & Glidden Type-Writer". The R key moved to the top row, but the hyphen key didn't. "Sholes" or "Glidden" required multiple rows. Sales demonstrations were done by sending and receiving morse telegraph. "On the Prehistory of QWERTY", Yasuoka & Yasuoka, 2009.
  17. 17. So telegraph operators created QWERTY according to their own preferences?
  18. 18. Overview of changes Month Event Initiator Number of keys Comments November 1868 First Type-Writer shipped to customer Sholes (inventor) 28 Piano-like, alphabetical arrangement April 1870 Numerals & punctuation marks added Porter ( rst customer) 38 First keyboard-like design September 1870 QW on upper row, S between E & Z, .. Harrington & Craig (second customer) 42 All changes on telegrapher's request February 1873 I between 8 & 9 Jenne, Clough (Remington) 42 To enable quick year typing April 1874 Y to center of top row Sholes (inventor) 42 Arrangement patented by Sholes "On the Prehistory of QWERTY", Yasuoka & Yasuoka, 2009.
  19. 19. Bonus Myth After mastering the DVORAK layout I will be a faster typist
  20. 20. The Dvorak Simpli ed Keyboard Patented by Dr. August Dvorak in 1936. Invented to reduce nger motion and typing errors. Claims to increase typing speed. Claims to reduce RSI injuries. Well-supported on all major operating systems.
  21. 21. Keyboard strokes locations (in English)   QWERTY DVORAK Top row 52% 22% Home row 32% 70% Bottom row 16% 8%
  22. 22. Keyboard strokes heat map ( )
  23. 23. The process of mastering Dvorak Start by memorizing the di erent locations. Practice until you can touch-type each letter. I used a LOT. Increase your typing speed.
  24. 24. Summary and Conclusions
  25. 25. On the QWERTY Layout Never intended to slow down typists. Not much evidence for solving the jamming problem. Layout was optimized for telegraph users.
  26. 26. On the DVORAK Layout Extensive use is less tiring than QWERTY. Reduces RSI. Mastering DVORAK will take a lot of time. You can't be sure that DVORAK will make you type any faster.
  27. 27. Should I Switch? Don't switch if... ...your ngers never hurt from typing.'re not willing to invest a year mastering DVORAK. Do switch if... ...your ngers are killing you from time to time. have a year to spare to crank up your DVORAK typing speed.
  28. 28. Any questions?
  29. 29. Thank you! ☺ Just can't get enough? @hannotify