The QWERTY keyboard layout has been used in most western countries now since the late 1800's. Though there are differences in some countries, such as AZERTY in France, this keyboard layout remains with modern computers even though it's not always the quickest way for people to type.
It was invented by Christopher Latham Sholes who was an American newspaper editor. Sholes wanted to find a way to stop the hammers in typewriters from getting clogged up all the time. This happened because the layout that was being used allowed people to type more quickly than the mechanical parts of the typewriter could respond, with the upstroke of one letter completing before the downstroke of the previous one had finished.
And so in October 1867 he patented the QWERTY keyboard layout to solve the problem by moving letters that were commonly used together further apart so that the typewriter hammers wouldn't need to overlap. He sold the idea to Remington and in 1878 their Remington No. 2 typewriter popularised the layout. Since then the uptake for this keyboard layout has been enormous and it remains the most popular keyboard layout around the world today.
Why do we still use QWERTY though with modern computers where mechanical hammers are no longer a problem? The simple fact remains that we have all grown up using this keyboard layout and, as such, we know our way around it and changing it now would cause all manner of problems, slow everybody down and no doubt cost the worldwide economy billions in lost productivity.
The rise of the touchscreen computing device however does present the next generation at least with a solution. Software keyboards can be laid out however you want them to be and as these are probably going to be the way that the children of tomorrow will learn to use computers, by using smartphones and tablets primarily, could and should the operating system manufacturers now be offering an alternative keyboard layout for us to use, such as an alphabetic one?
Many people believe that a standard alphabetic keyboard is easier and quicker for people to use, and that it makes it quicker for people to learn. It would be a simple job to put an alphabetic software keyboard into modern touch-enabled operating systems, and the actual hardware keyboard equivalents wouldn't need to follow for some years in all probability.
This way we could give children an opportunity to potentially type more quickly on their computers, increasing their own productivity. Also anyone who prefers using an alphanumeric keyboard already, and they can be found for sale in a few places and I'm certain that some apps already exist for some platforms, will finally have the option to use one on all their devices.
So what do you think? Could the next generation of computer users benefit from Microsoft, Apple and Google adding alphabetic or other keyboard layouts to their operating systems now? Do you already use a keyboard layout like this or do you have experience of doing so? Would you like to try an alphabetic keyboard on your tablet and smartphone and do you think it would be easier to type on and also, do you think that your children would benefit form typing alphabetically, or would it be better for them to learn the traditional QWERTY layout? Why not let us know in the comments here what you think about the future of typing on computers.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.