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P. Ferreira writes: > As for the history (all of this is from memory), it is
well documented that
some fellow by the name of Christopher Shoals (I think he worked for
Remmington) was asked to design a keyboard that would slow typists down.
There jamming were problems with the early typewriters. Hence
Qwerty--inefficiency by desgin.

There's a *huge* literature on this point, and it's pretty confusing. As it
happens, several of my colleagues ran a check about two months ago into the
What seems to have happened, based on our checking, is that some time after
Shoals's first typewriters appeared, he was forced to address a problem with
the original machine: typebars (the end of the mechanical assembly that
meets the inked ribbon) corresponding to frequently used pairs of letters in
English frequently jammed. Shoals's solution was move the typebars about on
their linkages and then relabel the keys as necessary--but the mechanical
linkages on the original typewriter were otherwise unaltered--and had a
constraining effect on keyboard layout. Was that intended to "slow down" the
typist? Depends what you interpret by "intent". Sholes's intent in
rearranging the keyboard does not seem to have been done, in itself, for the
purpose of having any effect on typing speed, up or down. In fact, Shoals's
alteration had the desired effect of making typing a less frustrating
activity (fewer jams) and thereby may have acted to *speed up* typists.
But typing speed was not a big focus in Shoals''s day. Remember, there were
no touch typists, so the concept of the "home row" etc. was simply

Shoals's arrangement may indeed have had the consequence of slowing down the
optimum speed of today's touch typist (perhaps, e.g., it is slower than the
Dvorak layout for touch typists today--my guess is that it is, and there is
anecdotal evidence now on this list in its favor). But the scientific
evidence for it is apparently pretty shaky: The U.S. Navy study cited
earlier in this humongous thread has been criticized (see cited paper
below), and the same paper asserts it is the study on which all later claims
for the superiority of the Dvorak layout are based. This is just one
citation on a huge topic, but it's a start for those who want to dive into
it: Liebowitz and Margolis, Journal of Law and Economics, April 1990.


Peter Brown