Today’s Illustration: QWERTY…

remington typewriter   New & Improved!

“QWERTY”: I just typed that by going across the top left five letters of the keyboard.


On This Day:  June 23, 1868 — Christopher Sholes invents the typewriter.

Facts & Information:

Christopher Latham Sholes: February 14, 1819, in Mooresburg, Pennsylvania

It is almost 150 years old.

Why is “QWERTY” the pattern which characterizes almost all of the keyboards used today in the English world of keyboards?

The QWERTY keyboard was so laid out to avoid the jamming of the bars upon which the letters were.  In one sense, slow down typist so that the typist did not hit the keys in a way that would jam the keystroke hammers.

“The problem with his first machine was that the keyboard was arranged alphabetically, just as anyone would expect. But as operators learned to type at speed it was discovered that the metal arms bearing each character often became entangled.

Sholes studied the problem with his partner Amos Densmore and worked out which letters were most often used. They then put them as far apart as possible on a new keyboard, reducing the chance of clashing arms because they would come from opposite directions. And thus the “Qwerty” keyboard, still in use today, was born. ” — onthisday

The expected normal typing speed was 20 WPM —  words per minute.

“Because typists at that time used the “hunt and peck” method, Sholes’ arrangement increased the time it took for the typists to hit the keys for common two letter combinations enough to ensure that each type bar had enough time to fall back into place before the next one came up. This new arrangement, which Sholes invented in 1873, was named the Sholes QWERTY keyboard, and is still used today.” — history of information

“The QWERTY layout was patented in 1874 by Christopher Sholes, a newspaper editor and the inventor of the typewriter. He sold his patent in the same year to Remington, which made a few tweaks before introducing the QWERTY design in the company’s typewriters. ” — livewire

qwerty 1

1889 — XPMCHR was another key layout by the same inventor as QWERTY — Christopher Sholes.

Sholes sold half of his shares to Remington for $12,000 to the Remington company.

Densmore (an attorney who filed the patent with Sholes) would not sell his shares to Remington without a continuing royalty which amounted to about $1.5 million over the years.

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, one of Twain’s most successful works, published in 1876, is widely believed to be the first novel written on a typewriter.” — on this day.

About 5,000 units were sold in the four years after Remington took over the manufacturing of the machine — between 1874 and 1878.

The first machines only printed capital letters.

The “Remington 2” had both upper and lower case letters using a shift key.

Remington typewriter Ad

Underwood, Smith, Remington, Densmore, Royal — were all brands of typewriters which sought to improve the design and function of the typewriter.


There have been many people who have tried to change the layout of the letters on the typewriter, especially after there was no difficulty in solving the problem of jamming — (I should mention that even in the 1960’s-70’s-and 8o’s I still remember the issue of jamming.)

An alternate pattern was devised and called “Dvorak” in 1932 (by August Dvorak – which has nothing to do with the letters D-V-O-R-A-K).   It emphasized the vowels and the five most common consonants by placing them in the middle row where the fingers typically rested, therefore not requiring the moving of the fingers to hit these most used letters.

dvorak 1

In the 1840’s “Hughes Printing Telegraph” made an arrangement of keys which looked like a piano keyboard of white an black keys. —


The debate still goes on today — “Which keyboard layout is the best?”

Conclusion:  QWERTY is here to stay after all these years of attempted change because it has “entrenchment” power — it is well entrenched into the world of typing, just as the KJV is in the Protestant world of religion.

Key Illustrative Thoughts:

• change
• It’s the way we have always done it.
• There are alternatives.
• the difficulty of change
• entrenchment in the life of the church
• Why? — Many times we have no idea as to the why – but we are still able to use it to our advantage.
• habits / old habits
• jamming / jammed keys
• Why?  Because it solved a problem.
• problem – solution
• There is no longer a problem – so any change now is for speed
• Speed is today’s goal.
• It’s a different age with different problems/issues and different solutions.
• different solutions for different situations
• good- better – best
•  Speed: keeping your fingers on the most used keys
• a machine which has undergone a lot of changes
• improving on it
• too fast and jamming keys
• only capital letters — the earliest stage
• Dvorak theology — suggested theological changes
• stick with QWERTY
• new and improved



Other Information & Links:

“Sholes was an active inventor and developed several devices during his newspaper career, including a paging or numbering device in 1864 and a newspaper addressing machine. In 1867, he produced a crude writing machine, gained financial backing and developed a model by 1872 that became the prototype of all modern standard typewriters. Sholes continued to work at typewriter inventions for the rest of his life. He eventually sold his interest in the original machine piecemeal from 1872 to 1880.” — wisconsin history

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