from the blog.

The Lesson of QWERTY

Interesting factoid… I learned today that the QWERTY keyboard layout is about 150 years old. It’s design was based on spreading the most commonly used letters as far apart as possible to fix the tendency of old fashioned typewriters from jamming when two adjacent keys were pressed in rapid succession. (some of us still remember keys sticking on a typewriter…)

Interestingly, even though digital keys don’t stick together the design seems to have stayed around despite technology’s evolution and the inherent disadvantages of the layout. The QWERTY layout is not particularly well suited for ease of learning or maximum typing efficiency since the layout intentionally spreads commonly used keys as far as possible. For example, even though vowels are the most commonly used letters with at least one, if not several being in each word, only one vowel is in the home row (A). Home row keys are the fastest keys to strike since we don’t have to shift our fingers up or down.

I only learned this about my keyboard because my kids asked me why the keyboard was organized as it is. The only reason that came to mind was, “I don’t know, it’s just the way that it’s always been done.” I have never been particularly satisfied with that answer so I googled it. But in truth, I am typing this on an inefficiently designed keyboard, “just because that actually IS the way that it has always been done.”

It’s an interesting reminder to me of how I had blindly accepted something used in my everyday life without ever questioning or understanding the reasoning or merit of its design and purpose. Sometimes kids ask the most enlightening questions, and through their unbiased eyes we are forced to look deeper into things that we would never challenge ourselves to explore without their prompting.  Makes you wonder how many other things we are doing in our businesses or lives in general in a completely inefficiently manner just because no adult is willing to ask, “Now remind me again… Why are we doing it this way?”

Phillip T. Stoller

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