The Dvorak Keyboard

I was researching a new USB keyboard to get for my computer when I stumbled upon something rather weird. I am switching keyboards because my current one can be rather uncomfortable, and I came upon a solution to that problem: a Dvorak keyboard. This is a keyboard with a different layout than the QWERTY keyboard that we are used to that looks like this:

Dvorak Keyboard Diagram (c) Karl432, CC0 1.0

It had never even occurred to me that there would be a need for a different keyboard layout, and it got me thinking about the current one we use, QWERTY.

The first keyboard was used on a typewriter in the mid 1800s, and all of the letters were arranged alphabetically. However, this caused a lot of mechanical jams when keys next to each other were pressed in quick succession. The largest problem caused by this was from “st” or “ts” because they were right next to each other and common letter occurrences. With this in mind, Christopher Latham Sholes created a keyboard that had common letter patterns farther apart, to not cause jams, giving rise to the QWERTY keyboard. 

For mechanical purposes, this was a brilliant solution, but for human purposes, it made typing uncomfortable over long durations of time to have common letters spaced apart. In the 1930s, August Dvorak designed the Dvorak keyboard for speed and comfort typing with all of the most common letters occurring on the home row, with minimal hand movement to type most words. Since then, other keyboards layouts have been designed to rival the speed and comfort of Dvorak, but few have become as popular.

As I became more and more sidetracked in my search for a keyboard, I found a website called carplax that is using a computer program to generate a keyboard, and analyze it based on a variety of factors such as how far your hands move, finger range of movement, key location, what finger types each key and analyzes it on hundreds of thousands of words to determine how good a keyboard is. Based on that, it has been able to generate the most and least optimal keyboards, and evaluate existing ones. As it turns out, Dvorak takes 25% less effort to type on than QWERTY. Nevertheless QWERTY is still the standard because it was the original, and it takes more than 25% effort to change to Dvorak. 

Even after writing this blog and talking about how Dvorak is objectively, i have decided to buy a QWERTY keyboard, and will likely stick with it for the rest of my life. 

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