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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Are you a Dvork or a Qwerty?

If you recognize Dvork or Qwerty, then you know those names refer to the keypad designs on any computer keyboard. I was going to add typewriter too, but some will ask, what's a typewriter? Typewriters were actually developed in the 1860s and have virtually disappeared with the growth of word processors.

Almost all keypads today are Qwerty (referring to the first six letters of the keyboard reading left to right). The Dvork keyboard is named after it's designer.

Originally, the first keyboards were arranged using the letters of the alphabet in correct order, but that soon proved to be unefficient. Keys jammed when struck in rapid succession.

The Qwerty keyboard was designed by placing the most commonly used letters apart from one-another. That's the way all of us learned, so today that seems most correct and easy.

Along came August Dvork, a professor of education at the University of Washington. He designed his layout in the 1930s, placing the most commonly used letters, like vowels, on the home row. The lesser used, like J, K and Q, were moved to less busy positions. He found that if a person typed 40 words-per-minute on a Qwerty keyboard, that same individual could commonly type at twice or greater speed with his system.

Then, he campaigned diligently to get his more efficient system to be the standard. And he did gain followers who swear by his system for valid reasons. There are a great many Dvork aficionado's who champion that cause and naturally, use Dvork keyboards. And so can you.

All of today's popular computers have a "Dvork" setting that will transform the Qwerty keyboard to Dvork with a change in the computer's preference settings. The letters on the keys will not change, of course, but the Dvork keystrokes will be the results of the key strikes. And, if you know how to 'type,' seeing the letters on the keys is not an issue. The rub is, you have to learn the system... no cheating by peeking at the letters printed on the keys, or get a bonafide Dvork keyboard. There are even apps that work on unbound iphones if that is your thing.

Is it a big deal? Some think so. Others, per the Wall Street Journal, aren't sympathetic. One wrote: "How's that Beta max tape player working for you?"

Which brings to mind the question: How did the order of letters of the alphabet become as we know them? Comedian Steven Wright theorizes, "Do you think it is because of that song?"

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