In the English language, there are currently 26 letters in the alphabet. It goes without saying that there is an agreed upon order of those letters. When sorting, some people pre get to organize in alphabetical order, since the order of the letters is agreed upon, sorting alphabetically means as long as you know the name of what you’re looking for in group, you can easily find it. However the keyboard, an object people use almost daily in the modern day isn’t in alphabetical order.
The modern day keyboard is based on the typewriters of old. Typewriters aren’t digital but rather imprint ink letters directly onto paper.
Christopher Latham Sholes was working on making a typewriter in 1868 made his first typewriter with the keys in alphabetical order.
At some point Sholes began experimenting with different key layouts. He eventually reached and patented the QWERTY layout after several years. The layout is called QWERTY because that’s the first
The reason for coming to conclusion has many theories behind it. Those reasons include slowing down typers, separating common letter pairings, and ease of access to the most reoccurring letters.
Type writers have a design flaw in them, the inner mechanism of device can easily get jammed if typed to fast because of how close the keys are together. Typewriters simply were never designed to be used quickly. After years of use people would get faster at typing and subsequently would then complain about keys jamming.
Rearranging the letters on the keyboard could be a way to slow down typers and thus make the typewriters last longer.
It’s not hard to believe that people got fast at typing after years of use with also having the alphabet order memorized. However “touch typing”, the common modern day typing style with both hands. didn’t exist yet. Again that doesn’t mean it was impossible to type fast with the “hunt and peck” method if you had memorized common letter and letter pairing locations.
Requiring people to relearn the key layout would effectively slow people down.
Another reason for the redesign would be separating common letter pairings to avoid jamming. For example “H” is on a different row than “T” and “E”, “H” being often paired with those letters to spell the word the.
Despite this the letters “E” and “R” remain on the same the same row. So that could’ve lead to some broken type writers, so that theory holds flimsy. However the rearrange may still have slowed people.
The last reason could be to have commonly used letter closer to the index fingers, with uncommon letters far apart in the corners. Letters “E”, “T”, and “R” are close to left index finger while uncommon letters such as “Z”, “X” and “Q” are shoved into the corners of the keyboard.
The change to QWERTY was initially met with controversy. People weren’t happy to relearn the keyboard layout. To compensate for this, typewriter distributers began giving away free typing classes to private business, colleges and schools and made it seem like typing with new key layout would be an essential for business to thrive.
When the time came to switch to electronic keyboards, switching back to alphabetical order could’ve been a possibility. But given how it was about 100 years later and everyone was already used to typing in QWERTY, switching back would likely also cause a controversy, so it’d be beneficial to stay with QWERTY.
Over the years many other keyboard layouts were invented and tried to catch on, a notable attempt would be the Dvorak layout invented by Dr. August Dvorak in order to maximize typing speed and lessen typing fatigue. It was scientifically designed and calculated to be the most effective keyboard there is, but it didn’t catch on cause everyone was used to QWERTY and in the grand scheme of things the keyboard layout makes little difference in typing speed.
The reason we have QWERTY as the current keyboard layout is simply because it was serviceable short term change from ABC that stuck around until new technology came around that could handle faster typing. QWERTY is likely here to stay.