Keyboards are Designed to Slow You Down, Here’s How

By Suraj Chaudhary

“Move fast. Speed is one of your main advantages over large competitors.”

—Sam Altman


QWERTY is “the most” used format in keyboards around the world. It became the keyboard standard ever since it was first introduced in the 1870s. When we consider the market that QWERTY has captured, it seems obvious that it is the most efficient keyboard out there; but it is far from reality.

If you have wanted to improve your typing speed, keyboards can play a huge role.

Invention of Typewriters

To understand the story of keyboards, we have to go back to 1868 when Christopher Sholes, an American inventor, successfully introduced and marketed the first typewriter, with keys arranged in alphabetical order.

The ease that typewriters had brought into the American business market was outstanding. Soon every business and workplace that could afford the expensive machine had a typewriter of its own.

It changed the way documents were created by minimizing the time and expense that was initially demanded. Typewriters also opened up many jobs for women in the office. But then something happened.

Issues with the Alphabetical Keys

Even though typewriters had revolutionized the business world, their keys didn’t seem to keep up with the repute. When someone typed too fast, the mechanical character arms got tangled up and the keys would jam.

Due to this, not only those typewriters were slowing down businesses in the competitive market, but also they were becoming less efficient because of the lags and typos.

Introduction of QWERTY

After several trial-and-errors, Sholes finally found the solution to these problems. He designed a new typewriter by changing the key patterns in order where the commonly used letters were spread apart.

QWERTY made up for all the mess the previous generation of typewriters had created. It did slow down the typists but it made them more productive.

Since the introduction of QWERTY, the typewriter competitors brought several other key arrangement patterns but none could take over QWERTY’s eminence. Soon it was implemented in computer keyboards and with the advancement and escalation of computers, QWERTY reached every household and workplace.

Alternative to QWERTY

The most popular alternative to the standard QWERTY layout is “Dvorak”. Introduced in 1936, the Dvorak layout presents the most used letters on the home row so that you don’t have to move your fingers as much.

Another fringe benefit of Dvorak is that it takes into account that the majority of the population is right-handed. While QWERTY has many of the most used keys on the left side, more than half the strokes used on a Dvorak keyboard are on the right.

QWERTY is not a bad option for most users. But just in case you want to boost your typing speed, or if you just want to explore other options out there, definitely do give a look at Dvorak and alternatives such as Colemak, Maltron, AZERTY, and many more.

In fact, the world’s fastest English language typist, Barbara Blackburn, reached a peak typing speed of 212 WPM in 2005 using a Dvorak simplified keyboard.

Works cited:

“The Typewriter” | Carbons to Computers. 1998.

“High-Performance Communication” |Harvard Library. 21 Feb. 2017.

“Why do we all use Qwerty keyboards?” | BBC. 11 Aug. 2010.

Suraj Chaudhary is a writer, developer, founder, and a constant learner. He shares lessons and resources for living a fuller life every week. On this blog, he shares helpful guides and helpful articles that help his 70,000+ monthly readers find answers, solve problems, and meet their curious needs.

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