QWERTY

Your computer keyboard is called QWERTY. It is named after the upper left row of letters on the keyboard.  Why was the QWERTY configuration used? The story I read and have repeated for years is that the keyboard was designed to slow typists down. Back in the day, before the electric typewriter, if someone typed too fast, the keys would jam and slow the typist down. Someone working at a slower pace could actually get the job done faster. Good story, but apparently it isn’t true.

According to the Smithsonian Institution, the keyboard we all use was actually designed for maximum efficiency by its earliest users … telegraph operators who needed to transcribe Morse code messages. I don’t know Morse code, but apparently telegraph operators had a lot of influence over the layout of the keys. The story is not very exciting, but apparently true.

Regardless of the origin, the QWERTY keyboard is inefficient.  Look at your keyboard. The most commonly used letters are typed with your weakest fingers on, for most of us, our weakest hand. There have been several other keyboards designed to be more efficient. The Colemak keyboard seems to be the most efficient of the bunch. It requires less than half of the finger movement and 90% less “row jumping” than the QWERTY keyboard. Research shows that people who have never typed before become proficient using the Colemak keyboard in 1/3 of the time it takes to learn QWERTY. Once trained they type 33% faster and make fewer errors!

COLEMAK Keyboard

Second, is there anyone out there who is interested in learning to type all over again? Not me! You can probably hear me mumble as you read this, “I’m too old.” “It’s fine the way it is.” “It would cost too much to learn.” “I probably wouldn’t type that much faster.” “I don’t have time.” Sound familiar? We all, yours truly included, resist change.

As I’ve written in past ProfitTips, we tend to overvalue the status quo and exaggerate the risk of change while dismissing its advantages. If you would like to learn a process for objectively evaluating the pros and cons of an idea before accepting or rejecting it check out our <Six Thinking Hats Due Diligence Process>

There is another new keyboard that has been recently introduced. It is called KALQ and it’s been designed to be the most efficient design for people who type exclusively with their thumbs. You guessed it … it’s for texting. I’ve got so little time invested in texting, I’m much more open to a new design for texting than for typing. Although, I am going to be buying a new computer soon, so maybe … nah.

 

 

 

 

KALQ Keyboard                

 

 

 

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5 Comments


  1. I’m Dutch and in Holland we use the QWERTY keyboard. I moved to France and here we have the AZERTY keyboard.
    Because I moved before the computers existed, I had to learn on
    the french typewriters and change. It was very difficult because
    you type without thinking and even years after I still type the Q when
    I have to type the A. It is very difficult to change habits.
    So benefit from the fact that we live in the computer-era and when
    you are used to a keyboard, don’t change yourself, change the keyboard.

    Reply

  2. One factor to consider is the trouble necessary to make a change. Sometimes the benefit is outweighed by the effort necessary to implement it. But that should be considered in the evaluation portion of the 6 hat evaluation.

    For the keyboard, there isn’t enough benefit to justify the effort to learn a new keyboard, not to mention the difficulty in getting the new keyboard layout every time you use a keyboard.

    Reply

    1. Even if an objective person looking at someone else’s situation saw that the benefit out weighted the cost, it’s unlikely unlikely that they would come to the same conclusion for themselves. Once we have something, whether it is a physical possession or a habit, we inflate its value and underestimate its cost…and we devalue the potential of the new thing or idea.

      The other tempting argument we make against changes like this is that if we just take the typing I need to do today, it certainly isn’t worth learning something new…we don’t consider the value for the typing we’ll be doing for the next couple of decades.

      Funny, when it comes to learning new things we tend to have an extremely short cost/benefit time horizon. When it comes to justifying the status quo our time horizon is WAY out there.

      Reply

  3. DVORAK is also fairly easy to learn and you can get skins or covers for your keyboard that shows the key positions for most alternative keyboards. On Macintosh computers at least it’s easy to set up multiple key encodings by selecting input sources and adding other keyboards. Then you can switch back and forth easily as you are learning the new system.

    Reply

    1. Do you use the DVORAK keyboard? If so, was it an automatic decision for you or did you debate it for a while?

      Reply

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