Asked by: Leon Davies, London
The arrangement that we’re so familiar with today evolved over many iterations. When newspaper editor Christopher Latham Sholes first patented a design for a typewriter in 1867, he arranged the keys alphabetically. Over the next few years, he experimented with different layouts, such as moving most of the vowels to the top row, and consonants lower.
The idea that Sholes’s layouts were designed to slow down typists, and hence avoid jammed keys, is now thought to be an urban myth. In fact, there’s evidence that Sholes was actually trying to speed up typing, following feedback from telegraph operators.
Either way, when the rights to manufacture the device were sold to E. Remington and Sons in 1873, his upper row was QWE.TYIUOP, and it took only a couple of tweaks to give the QWERTY layout that’s now widespread. If you look at a keyboard, you can still see the remnants of Sholes’s first alphabetical layout in the middle row keys: DFGHJKL.
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