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Designing Mobile Interfaces by Eric Berkman, Steven Hoober

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Chapter 9. Text and Character Input

Slow Down, You’re Too Fast!

Some say he was doing it to annoy the writers. He may argue that it was because the adjacent alphabetized keys kept jamming up due to interference when people were typing too fast. For whatever reason, in the early 1870s, Christopher Latham Sholes, a newspaper editor and printer in Milwaukee, continued to redesign his keyboard layout on his early writing machine into ways that seemed nonsensical.

After studying letter-frequency pairs, Sholes, along with the guidance and support of his backer, James Densmore, separated the most commonly paired letters in his latest layout. In 1873, with that layout, he sold the manufacturing rights for his Sholes & Glidden Type-Writer to the company E. Remington and Sons.

In order to impress customers, the workers at Remington made a slight change to the final key layout. They moved the letter R to the top row. This allowed their salesman to impress their customers by typing the brand name TYPE WRITER all from just one row. This became what is known today as the QWERTY layout.

When the QWERTY keyboard was introduced, writers struggled to learn its layout. The key-jamming problem was less problematic; however, typing speed, along with user satisfaction, was immediately reduced. Sales of the typewriter were poor. It wasn’t until 1878, when the Remington No. 2 model was released, which incorporated both lower- and uppercase letters, that sales and performance increased.

An Improved Design?

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