Did you know that your QWERTY keyboard was purposefully designed to be horribly inefficient and that a better option exists? It’s a rare case of superior technology oddly being rejected by society. It’s called the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard and it holds records in speed typing, is highly efficiency and has been available for about 85 years. This article may not be the most “financial”, but I think it’s interesting that something so present in our technological world is has such odd origins.
It’s quite peculiar that an inferior piece of technology like the QWERTY keyboard would survive, despite the existence of a better option. To understand this phenomen we must delve into the origins of the QWERTY keyboard. The inventor Christopher Sholes, had a defect in early models characterized by clashing typebars and jamming when the user typed too fast. Shoales solved this by spending the next six years rearranging the keys to make the keyboard so inefficient that it would operate.
Eventually the QWERTY keyboard was manufactured by Remington (yes, the same company that produces guns) and was offered to a slow economy in the 1880s. Needless to say sales started slow, but in the 1890s there was a typewriter boom and all of a sudden everyone wanted a typewriter.
Suddenly the QWERTY keyboard was competing against a whole bunch of different styles. Luckily for Remington, typing classes were conducted on QWERTY keyboards and due to this, businesses started to integrate them. Gradually, households began buying them and their popularity steadily increased. By 1895, QWERTY was considered to be the standard and it became entrenched in society. Mass production began and even competitors began using their design.
As more and more people chose the QWERTY keyboard, conversion costs were steadily increased for anyone wanting to use an alternative design. Employees would have to be re-trained on another design and pay higher purchasing costs (because QWERTY was mass produced).
These barriers are exactly what confronted Dvorak in the 1940’s and 50’s as he tried to sell his new record-setting design. He eventually became so frustrated that he began to accuse the typewriter industry of creating a conspiracy against him.
To this day, if you dig around in your computer settings you can likely change your keyboard design to a more efficient Dvorak format. Of course, that would require you to learn the basics of typing again and buy a modified keyboard… Personally, I will stick with the QWERTY.