The Ecphorizer

Let's Quash QWERTY
Dave Pressman

Issue #01 (September 1981)

Technological trickery from 1872 haunts us today

Have you ever wondered why the cost popular letter, E, isn't on the home row of your typewriter? Or why you often have to make awkward jumps from the top to the bottom row (and vice-versa) when typing? It almost seems as if the keyboard layout (termed QWERTY after the letters on the left side of the top row) was intentionally designed to prevent you from typing too fast.

QWERTY was intentionally designed to prevent you from typing too fast.

Well, it was! The inventors of the typewriter, C. L. Sholes, et. al., purposely had the most-frequently used letter combinations dispersed as far apart as possible to prevent typists from typing too fast and jamming the then (1872) awkward typewriter mechanism. Despite many efforts to change things, the inefficient QWERTY keyboard remains with us to this day, even in space-age word processing machines. Putting a QWERTY keyboard in a $14,000 word processing machine is like putting a Model-T engine in a Ferrari.

Sadly, there's been a perfect solution around for almost 50 years now, but it's never caught on -- disproving the adage about the better mousetrap. The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard (DSK), invented by August Dvorak and Wm. Dealey of the University of Washington (patent 2,040,248, 1936 - expired 1953) was scientifically designed after years of study to place the most-frequently used letter combinations as close together as possible. The result: tests have shown learning time is halved, typing speed is increased 75%, and errors and fatigue are drastically reduced with DSK over QWERTY. Had DSK been adopted the 30's, billions of dollars in typing and learning time could have been saved. However, DSK isn't dead by a long shot: IBM, SCM and Olivetti sell typewriters with DSK as an option and various efforts are afoot to vivify DSK So next time you buy a typewriter or word processor, ask for DSK; let's get QWERTY buried at last!

If you would like to learn core about the Dvorak Keyboard, see "The Tyranny of QWERTY" in The People's Almanac Vol. II, by Wallace Wallechensky, or "Dvorak v. Qwerty" by Shirley Neill, The Phi Del Kappan June 1980. There is also a new newsletter called Strokes devoted to providing information on Dvorak. 

Dave is a patent lawyer with a wide range of interests, including general semantics, vegetarianism, and the stock market. He is author of a McGraw-Hill book Patent It Yourself. Interested readers can now find more details about QWERTY vs. DSK by doing a Google search on DSK keyboards It is interesting to note that some 25 years after Dave researched the DSK option it has still not become an attractive alternative to the QWERTY layout. Is there a similar parallel to the attempted conversion to the metric system here in the US?

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Warren Fogard

Issue #01 (September 1981)

Modern Millie, full of joy 
Made it with the grocery boy. 
Hubby Harold, home from work,
Laid her neatly next, the jerk.
Later Millie, toothsome morsel
Heard a knocking at her portal. 
Thinking it her mart factotum 
(Mind adwell upon his scrotum) 
She cried, "Michael, sakes above! 
What gift dost thou bring me, love?!" 
Came Harold's answer, loud and clear, 

"Herpes simplex II, M'dear." 


He has written whimsy and humor for decades, and at one time was coordinator of the Absurdities Special Interest Group (SIG) and published its newsletter, The Atrocity.

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Dave Pressman