Ever wonder why the letters on your keyboard are arranged in the screwy way they are? I mean what’s with the whole QWERTY thing anyway? Would it really have been difficult to put a typewriter in alphabetical order? Was the dude dyslexic or a sadist or something? Well the truth is that the reason you are probably hovering over a QWERTY keyboard right now can be traced back to…marketing before the technology was perfected.
Times haven’t changed much, huh? I mean look at the Nintendo Wii, rushed to market before they figured out that real world use by juiced up adolescents and loser video game geeks would result in broken television screens, vases and foreheads all across America. Or, look at Microsoft, which has yet to wait until even the most obvious of bugs are worked out before sending software out to stores. Same deal with the typewriter.
The very first patent ever issued to a machine that bears a slight resemblance to your computer keyboard occurred all the way back in 1714. Queen Anne of England granted the patent to Henry Mill so he could begin manufacturing a machine that would result in an engrossed image on paper that would be indistinguishable from the written word. Wow, if only someone could actually come up with that, we could really start enjoying reading books on portable devices. Yeah, yeah, the Sony Reader is supposed to do just that and I am certainly holding out hope, but I haven’t actually seen one yet. So, did Henry Mill’s machine really do what Queen Anne had instructed it to do? Is Batman a transvestite? Who knows? If the invention was ever actually created, none of them lasted into modern times. Not only do we not have one, but we don’t even have a written description of what it looked like.
The first patent for an actual typewriter belongs to a cheese-eating, beer-swilling Milwaukee newspaper editor named Chris Sholes. Okay, I’m not totally sure about the beer and cheese, but I figure if you live in Milwaukee and you’re a newspaper editor-even during the 1860s-you probably drink a lot of beer and you eat cheese so you can have your redline pen hand free. At any rate, Chris Sholes created a typewriting machine that bears a strong resemblance works pretty the much the way modern typewriters worked, with each letter placed on the tip of a thing metal rod that imprints the paper when it strike the paper. There was one huge difference in Shole’s typewriter design, however. And that was, of course, that the letters were laid out in alphabetical order.
Now, take a moment to look down at your keyboard. Notice not just the QWERTY, and the other bizarre combinations that don’t even come close to alphabetical order. Notice, rather, the edges of your keyboard. What letters are there? Notice how far apart E is from O. And how far apart S is from L. Or C from M. What happened was that when people used Chris Sholes’ typewriter, the letters that get used the most-you know, the ones that always go first on Wheel on Fortune-kept getting tangled up together, making the whole purpose of the typewriter as instrument of speed thoroughly useless. In order to reduce this problematic occasion, Sholes decided to move the letters that are used the most in English as far apart from each other as possible.
And so that is why we have the strange, irritating, stupid QWERTY keyboard.