The Future of Keyboarding

If you’ve seen me and used my phone recently, you probably know what this post is going to be about.

Let me turn your world sideways for a second. That’s kinda like where I turn your world upside down but have to stop halfway because whatever I’ve said isn’t all that exciting.

The QWERTY keyboard layout is archaic and should be changed.

If you’re familiar with some basic keyboarding history, you should know why the QWERTY keyboard layout is used: it was created back in the days when we still used typewriters and it was designed to set the most common letters of the English letter apart from one another. Doing this would prevent the strikers to come out and colliding with each other, essentially causing a jam, whenever a typist was typing especially quickly.

Along came the creation of the Dvorak keyboard, named after its creator (pronounced deh-VOH-rack, contrary to the way you pronounce the composer’s name… which inevitably bothers me). The Dvorak keyboard had the opposite design goal as the QWERTY keyboard: to put all of the English language’s most common letters right next to each other and on the home row. The most common vowels and consonants are under different hands, which means that most words can be written by using fingers on alternating hands.

dvorak[1]

This is a stark constrast to many words written on the QWERTY keyboard. There are common letters on the top row, and stretching your hand feels natural. But there are some pretty common letters on the bottom row, and scrunching up your hand definitely does not feel comfortable, especially when you’re learning to type for the first time.

By moving the most common letters next to each other, Dvorak touted that you could achieve a much higher typing speed and reduce hand fatigue in the process.

So if the Dvorak keyboard is so great, why hasn’t it caught on yet?

Through testing by Dvorak himself while he was still alive, results showed that typing speed only increased by an average of 5%. By this time, the QWERTY keyboard was already nearly ubiquitous and companies weren’t willing to dish out the money to retrain their employees for such a small increase. On top of this, the claim that the keyboard decreases hand stress was was virtually unprovable, and likely didn’t matter for anyone who didn’t spend eight hours a day typing at 90-100wpm anyway.

However, I think we should still make the transition. Now before you ask, yes, I have been using the Dvorak keyboard layout. In fact, I wrote this entire post using Dvorak. And, yes, it took me a long time.

I’ve been using this layout on my phone for about two months now, which defeats the purpose, but I also think we shouldn’t be using the QWERTY layout on cell phones, either.

Tune in next time for my opinions on that.

Set up Dvorak on your computer.

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