Dictionary.com

Most of us take our keyboards for granted. If we’re touch typists, we automatically position our fingers above the same eight keys and our muscle memory takes over. We just type!

(What are those eight keys called? And what do they have to do with a popular Google search? Read about that here.)

But our keyboards have an interesting history. Most English language keyboards have a QWERTY layout. And QWERTY isn’t an acronym or neologism. The name is simply the first six characters in the top far left row of letters.

A Milwaukee newspaper editor and printer named Christopher Sholes invented the QWERTY layout. He sold the design to Remington in 1874, the year the format debuted on typewriters.

Sholes was also one of the inventors of the “Type Writer,” an early text-producing machine. The first version had problems caused by type bar jamming. In an effort to resolve the problem, Sholes eventually ditched the machines’ original alphabetical key arrangement and moved toward the QWERTY layout.

Did you know that with the QWERTY keyboard thousands of English words can be spelled using only the left hand, but only a couple hundred can be composed with the right?

Do you use an alternative to QWERTY, such as Colemak or Dvorak Simplified Keyboard? Let us know which you prefer.

162 Comments

  1. Anony Mous -  March 24, 2014 - 12:27 pm

    you misspelled QWERTY the first time it was stated( you put QWERY instead of QWERTY)

    Reply
  2. andaysia -  March 5, 2014 - 10:38 am

    yasds ‘pobjeribnkb]a0-rhj

    Reply
  3. MichaelJackson -  February 24, 2013 - 5:15 am

    This article is on a dictionary site; yet they spell QWERY instead of QWERTY But anyhow, these interesting useless facts are quite amazing, And I took touch typing through out high school and now I type fluently both on the Qwerty layout and the Dvorak layout, and they’re both quite simple. I prefer the Qwerty layout though.

    Reply
  4. Josh -  December 1, 2012 - 2:46 pm

    @ hannah nicole:

    Here you go. say,

    cu-ER-tee

    LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!

    Reply
  5. Billy -  September 8, 2012 - 12:52 pm

    AZERTY all the way

    Reply
  6. Jeremy -  August 13, 2012 - 5:02 pm

    APR,
    Though Sholes was accused of setting up the QWERTY keyboard to slow down typists, in reality he was just making it so that one would rarely need to type two adjacent keys consecutively, making the design of the original typewriter jam less. Just think about how a typewriter works and it makes sense.

    And why are E and R next to each other? and why A and S?

    Reply
  7. Abigail Rose -  June 28, 2012 - 11:27 pm

    Yay for Milwaukee! Sorry, random Wisconsinite right here. But anyway, I love reading the random articles they have on this website! I always have such interesting facts to tell people. I actually quite like the qwerty layout, myself.

    Reply
  8. CrimsonSpectre -  May 18, 2012 - 12:26 pm

    Have been using qwerty since I was like 7yrs, today I am 19 and tried Dvorak maybe 2 months ago. I am not going back to the awkward qwerty! Sure first 1 or 2 weeks was tough, but now I type really well with Dvorak, learned it much faster than qwerty…

    People, get your facts straight! Qwerty was not designed to slow typists down, because there were no typists then! William on September 20, 2010 got it right!

    Please don’t be so narrow minded, try new stuff, especially those things that are more efficient and healthy, if I ever get a child it won’t be introduced to qwerty, but Dvorak.

    Some good reading: http://www.theworldofstuff.com/dvorak/

    Reply
  9. cbiz -  April 12, 2012 - 10:14 am

    Did you notice that you can also spell TYPEWRITER by only using the top row of keys?

    Reply
  10. tiann58 -  April 6, 2012 - 10:28 am

    Very interesting article. As a transcriptionist of 30 years, I have always appreciated the ease of the QWERTY keyboard, but, of course, it’s just what I learned from the beginning and now anything else would feel totally foreign.

    Having shattered my right arm last year and being left to type with only my left hand for six months, I can now appreciate how I did so successfully — learning that the most-used keys are handled by the left hand. All I know is that I’m glad I have my right hand back and will never take either hand for granted again!

    As for having learned that the keyboard format was called QWERTY — I learned it from watching VeggieTales. How’s THAT for a well-rounded education? LOL

    Reply
  11. Athena -  March 27, 2012 - 5:53 pm

    I love how I waste my time reading these things when they have nothing to do with what I’m doing. What am I doing reading about ‘QWERTY’ when I should be finishing my project that’s due tomorrow? On that note, I should get back to doing it!

    Reply
  12. Mary -  March 24, 2012 - 4:40 pm

    Oh, great, after posting my lovely and long comment I see that it doesn’t say “a couple,” but it, in fact, says “a couple hundred.” Thank you, kind brain, for skipping right over a word that was crucial to the sentence. How very kind of you.

    My apologies to the author of this article.

    Reply
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