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Keyboard Layout

Most people have never given much thought to how the keys on their keyboard are arranged. However, in the tech community there has been much debate about what arrangement is the most optimal to use. The standard keyboard layout is called QWERTY, after the first six letters to appear on the top left. The layout was designed in the 1870s for use in typewriters, and remains in use on an overwhelming majority of keyboards today.

Some people have argued that QWERTY is an inefficient layout. Since QWERTY was originally created for typewriters, the keys are optimized for them. However, typewriters work differently from computers. Typewriters have physical mechanisms to print each letter onto the paper. If certain keys are typed too quickly after each other, the mechanisms can collide and cause a jam. The QWERTY layout was designed to prevent this as much as possible, by placing keys that are commonly typed together far away from each other. This helps to prevent jams in typewriters, but can be inefficient for typing on a computer, where key jams are not a possibility.

The leading rival to QWERTY is the Dvorak layout, patented in 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak. The Dvorak layout was designed to eliminate the inefficiencies that plagued QWERTY. Dvorak was scientifically designed to enable faster typing, reduce errors, and reduce strain-related injuries. There have been studies confirming these claims, but many of these studies were administered by Dvorak and his associates. There were also some flaws discovered in the methodologies of the studies. Some non-biased studies have been inconclusive for various reasons, but most seem to at least agree that Dvorak is significantly easier to learn to type with than QWERTY.

At this point, the main obstacle to adoption of a non-standard keyboard layout is the fact virtually all typists are already used to the QWERTY layout. Once again, tradition prevails over innovation.

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