I write this because so many of my pupils have asked the question,
“Why are computer keyboards lain out in such an odd way?”
“Why not,” my pupils keep asking, “put the letters alphabetically?”
The reason for the keyboard layout lies in history. Before computers, and yes, many of us oldies do remember a time before computers, there were typewriters. Not many people were good at typing and if you were a typist you had to be good at spelling, grammar etc. because once typed a letter was very difficult to alter. Needless to say dyslexics like me kept well away from them!
They were designed differently from computers. They were mechanical. The keys moved little embossed letters on the end of long curved, metal pole things (called typebars) that hit an ink-filled ribbon and made an embossed and black print of the letter on the paper. Those who were good at typing were often very good at typing and so fast that these curved poles got tangled together.
The first typewriter to be mass produced was designed by C.L. Sholes in 1868 and produced by Remington. An earlier model had been invented but with this the typebars and keys kept getting tangled together. So, using the sledge hammer approach so loved by man, Sholes invented a keyboard layout that helped prevent this. It was called the “qwerty” keyboard because the first six letters spelt “qwerty”. It was designed to separate letters that were commonly used together, such as “t” and “h”. So in a sense it was designed to make typing harder and slow down the typist!
As this was the first typewriter to be mass produced this layout became permanent. And now we’re all stuck with this layout even though computers can keep up however fast you type and let’s face it, not many of us are fast any more. Most of us are self taught, two-finger typists.
And because everyone has learnt to use these keyboards they keep producing them. “So we have to put up with a difficult to use keyboard just because once they had typewriters” my pupils keep asking. Well yes it seems we do.
But if you’re thinking of changing outdated ways then first, please please start by reforming the spelling. I mean we are stuck having to learn words like “knight” because once they, apparently, sounded the way they were spelt! Well this word is absolutely not sounded as it is spelt any more. It now sounds like, “nite.”
“So why,” pupils keep asking me, “can’t we now spell it “nite?”
I have no answer to that but perhaps text spelling will one day become the norm.”
Or should I say,”I hav no anser 2 that bt perhaps tex spelin wil 1 da bcum the norm?”