Computer Tips: Introduction to Keyboard alternatives
Reasons for the dvorak keyboard's comeback, and why the qwerty is slower. Tip on what key board is best for you.
Only a few number of people have ever heard of the "Dvorak" keyboard, let alone know what it is and what happened to it. The Dvorak keyboard is a key setup designed to maximize speed and minimize errors. The keyboard was phased out around the invention of the typewriter as an attempt to "slow down" typists. It is easy enough to learn and with only a moderate amount of practice you can become more efficient in your typing.
Dr. August Dvorak, for whom it's named, invented the Dvorak keyboard over a century ago. It lays out keys in a manner so as to put the most often used letters in the easiest to reach and strike accurately in spot. Most users can greatly increase their speed by switching to this system. In 1944 the United States Navy performed tests with 14 typists to see if they could easily be retrained to type on a Dvorak keyboard, the answer was yes. These fourteen typists after only fifty-two hours of training had already reached their average typing speed with the QWERTY keyboard. On top of this the typists increased their accuracy by sixty-eight percent.
The history of the QWERTY keyboard (named for the first six letters in the upper left) is proof in and of itself of Dvorak's superiority. Christopher Sholes, the inventor of the original typewriter, designed the QWERTY keyboard. He took the most commonly used keys and placed them far apart to slow down the type. This was in the days when two fingered typing was the accepted method and anything faster than average speed could quite easily jam the typewriter. After typewriters had improved and the ten finger typing method came into being, the QWERTY keyboard was never phased out for a faster system.
The Dvorak keyboard is a much faster and efficient keyboard setup. However because of a vicious cycle of typists not changing because of hardware, and hardware not changing because of typists, it has never been fully implemented. Most people with only a moderate time commitment can improve their typing skills and speed by switching to this setup. For anyone wishing to switch, the Dvorak keyboard is supported by all operating systems, by simply changing "keyboard layout" in your settings. The keyboards themselves are available through many online vendors, or from special order at a local computer score. These keyboards are a great commitment of time and money, just because of the spare hours they will save you when typing business reports, term papers, homework, or just plain e-mail.