Advantages & Disadvantages of Using the QWERTY Keyboard
By Joe Butler
The best product isn't automatically the winner – in some cases, a lesser product may go the distance based on great marketing, a lower price or other factors. For instance, in the battle of videotape formats in the 1980s, VHS had poorer quality than BetaMax, but better distribution, so it became the most popular standard. With keyboards, the current QWERTY configuration, named after the order of the top row of letters, has become the standard after its debut in the 19th century. Attempts to bring other styles to the marketplace on a large scale have failed.
Computers with QWERTY keyboards are found on most modern desktops and laptops used in America, so once you’ve mastered this style, you can use it on any keyboard you run across and also learn how to use it better with practice. The QWERTY layout was originally used on typewriters and first saw wide production in the 1870s. Multiple generations have used the style in some medium, and it is also used in some European countries.
In 1932, a professor named August Dvorak put together a keyboard based on the most common letters and combinations of words in an attempt to let typists move their fingers with better efficiency. This actually didn't catch on much as the QWERTY keyboard, which was purposely designed to be inefficient – it was intended to spread out the more frequently used keys, which kept typewriters from jamming when used by particularly quick typists.
Many mobile phones rely on a modified QWERTY keyboard, which pops up when you’re trying to send a message or post an update to social media. These are familiar waters for those who have learned how to type on a typewriter or desktop, but not all functions are available. For instance, you still need to switch to a different set of letters for capitalization or to access numeric keys. There are emulators that can change the layout of your electronic keypad, such as listing the top row as "ABCDE" instead.
Most users seem comfortable with the QWERTY keyboard rather than wanting to to learn something new. If users can get their tasks done – and sometimes very well in the case of typists with high word per minute rankings on a system that's said to be inefficient – there's less motivation to switch to an entirely new and unfamiliar system.
Joe Butler has been part of the journalism and marketing side of newspapers in Washington and Idaho for more than 20 years, ranging from small weeklies and dailies to larger metro papers to still-developing online platforms. He has a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication from Central Washington University.