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Why is it that the Keys in the Keyboard are not in Alphabetical Order?

We use keyboard every day, be it our desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. But have you ever wondered as to why the keyboard is not arranged in alphabetical order?

The reason dates back to the time of manual typewriters. When first invented , they had keys arranged in an alphabetical order, but then, people typed so fast that the mechanical character arms got tangled up. So the keys were randomly positioned to actually slow down typing and prevent key jams.  As a result, the ‘QWERTY’ keyboard came into existence that we find and use today.

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A Writing Machine

In the early 1870s, the QWERTY layout was devised by Christopher Latham Sholes, a newspaper editor and printer who lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In October 1867, Sholes filed a patent application for his early writing machine he developed with the assistance of his friends Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soulé.

Originally, the characters on the typewriters he invented were arranged alphabetically, set on the end of a metal bar which struck the paper when its key was pressed. However, once an operator had learned to type at speed, the bars attached to letters that lay close together on the keyboard became entangled with one another, compelling the typist to manually unstuck the typebars, and also regularly blotting the document. A business associate of Sholes, James Densmore, suggested splitting up keys for letters commonly used together to speed up typing by preventing common pairs of typebars from striking the platen at the same time and sticking together.

There are varied opinions on this rearrangement of letters in the keyboard. The logic of the QWERTY layout was based on letter usage in English rather than positioning of letter in the alphabet. This random arrangement eventually became standard in computers later followed by the devices made after that.

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