It seems like no matter how on top of technology we try to stay these days, our gadgets are only ever a few months away from being rendered obsolete by a newer, shinier model. Honestly, it can get mind-boggling. If you ever want to track me down, I'll gladly share my own woeful tale of how I was once just a mere few more weeks with my old phone away from actually having the newest model of something for once in my life. That being said, there is that old saying: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Even though computers are evolving faster than ever, there's one aspect of all this new technology that has stayed mostly unchanged for over a hundred years - the keyboard. Sure, there are some cosmetic additions here and there, added functions for specialty professions, and ergonomic designs for improved comfort, but these are mostly surface-level. It may be hard to believe, but the modern keyboard has had pretty much the same basic design and layout since 1873!
We're all familiar with keyboards these days, and today there are many of us who have pretty much grown up with them since day one.
In that time, you've probably noticed two things about the keyboard. First, the arrangement is not alphabetical, but jumbled up ...
... and second, there are two keys, the F and the J, that have a little bump on them. So what's the deal?
To answer the first question, we've got to go back to 1873. That's when the Sholes and Gidden typewriter company sold a design for a new keyboard layout to Remington, who launched this seemingly jumbled layout with the Remington 1 typewriter.
Previous arrangements of letters on typewriters led to certain letters being typed too quickly in succession, which caused frequent jamming of the keys. The QWERTY layout (named after the first six keys on the first row) placed letters in a way that led to frequently used letter pairs (like "th" or "st") not being on neighboring bars.
Still, even a QWERTY keyboard wasn't immune to the occasional jam.
Some people think that QWERTY was invented to slow people down so they have to search for each letter before typing, kinda like Grandma does today!
In fact, the introduction of QWERTY helped raise people's typing speeds because they had to deal with far less jamming interfering with their work. Improvements in the Remington 2 only served to make the layout even more popular. A few years later, the introduction of "touch typing" increased typing speeds further.
With touch typing, users are trained to rely on muscle memory instead of sight. The fingers on each hand are supposed to rest as shown in the diagram below. After some time spent training the hands to move around in this way, muscle memory takes over and users can type without having to look at the keyboard, achieving speeds of 60 words per minute (WPM) or more.
This is where those bumps on the F and J keys come in. They are a tactile indicator for your index fingers to know if your hands are in the right spot. After each word, the hands are meant to return to the central position shown above (just as a tennis player returns to center court after a volley), using the bumps as a guide.
By the way, QWERTY is just one of many keyboard layouts and is not necessarily the most user-friendly or efficient. The DVORAK keyboard (seen below) was invented in 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law, Dr. William Dealey. They spent years researching hand movement and physiology, and claim that the DVORAK keyboard requires less motion and greatly reduces errors once learned properly.
Unfortunately for Dr. Dvorak, inertia is a powerful force. By the time his system came out, QWERTY was already deeply entrenched as the standard. Simply put, people can't be bothered to learn a new system if the old one has been working just fine.
Now that you know all that, if you're spending the rest of your day at a keyboard, here are a few helpful tips to avoid pain:
H/T: Sun Gazing