Why is the keyboard not in alphabetical order? – The clear people

The vast majority of languages ​​spoken in the world follow the alphabetical pattern in alphabetical order – A, B, C, D, E, F and so on. This makes it easier to understand letters when learning a new language, while helping to remember them more easily.

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It turns out that this concept does not apply to keyboards of computers, laptops, smartphones and other devices. Instead of following this layout, all the letters are shuffled, creating the well-known QWERTY pattern, which has been adopted since the creation of the first typewriters.

But what was the idea behind this format? And does that just explain the fact that the keyboard keys are not in alphabetical order? Why does the industry persist in this model? For these and other questions, follow the following article.

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When it all started …

Some people may believe that the QWERTY standard appeared with the creation of the first modern keyboards. I say “modern” because they didn’t gain space among the common population until the 1868s, around the same time that personal computers were introduced to the market, even if they were expensive. one arm and one leg.

Early versions of typewriters followed alphabetical order, but that changed with the creation of the QWERTY pattern (Image: Nick Fewings / Unsplash)

However, the history of mixed keys dates back to the 19th century, when the American printer Christopher Latham Sholes (1024-1890) invented the typewriter, more precisely in 1024. At the time, the keys of the machine had a arrangement that followed alphabetical order, which at first did not seem to be a problem for those who used the object, especially typists.

The problem was that leaving the buttons in alphabetical order made typing too fast, increasing the chances of spelling errors and forcing the typist to start from scratch on a new sheet of paper. Keep in mind that we are talking about a typewriter on paper and any mistake, however small, could force the person to retype everything.

In addition, when typing very fast, the metal bars of the typewriter, which in turn had the image with the shape of the letter or character, ended up forming spots on the paper. It might even lock the typewriter, as the bars, pressed almost at the same time, could get tangled in the tangle of metal just below each key.

Why is the keyboard not in alphabetical order?

Due to the rapid and unrestrained typing caused by the keys in alphabetical order, Sholes himself changed the position of certain letters on the typewriter. The objective was precisely to slow down typing, to reduce, or at least minimize, the risk of errors when typing. It also reduced the risk of the metal bars jamming, preventing the typist from unscrewing the wires manually.

Sholes organized the keys by separating the letter pairs most used in English to reduce the number of possible errors and even crashes on the typewriter, as the typing speed was much slower.

To make typing slower and more efficient, Sholes moved the letters E and I, two of the most used words in English, from the second row to the first row of the typewriter. The letter A, which is also quite common in English words, continued in the second row, but was placed in a less prominent position.

And so was born the QWERTY pattern.


The QWERTY pattern is the dominant layout on most keyboards, but it’s not the only one (Image: Clint Patterson / Unsplash)

The most common format used in keyboards today is the QWERTY standard, which started a long time ago when the change was made. offered by Sholes. The name “QWERTY” comes from the fact that it is the first five keys of the first row of letters of the alphabet. That is, the order of the letters on the keyboard is nothing more than a copy of the typewriter model.

The layout is written entirely in the English language, so much so that if you look at your keyboard while reading this article, you will notice that some words in the English language, like “are” and “you”, always have the keys next to them. the other. The layout is so effective for the language that these and other words can be written with one hand.

However, the layout of the QWERTY keys has become the norm for virtually all computer models. keyboard. And even with the advent of computer keyboards – which include components with less chance of error compared to the wires of old-fashioned typists – people who were already accustomed to the QWERTY layout of the typewriter might not see the point in adopting an alphabetical key layout.

ABNT, AZERTY, DVORAK and other locations

Of course, not everyone adapts or likes the QWERTY format, which is designed for the English language. Over the years, new layouts have appeared with keys in different layouts to suit a particular audience or language, but overall this remains the essence of the QWERTY standard. Below we list some examples.

ABNT and ABNT 2 The ABNT standard has the “Ç” and Alt Gr keys (Image: Wikimedia Commons / Wikipedia)

Yes, we have a keyboard layout to call ours. The standard used in Brazil follows the standards imposed by the Brazilian Association of Technical Standards (ABNT). Hence the name “ABNT”, which is already in its second version, ABNT 2.

But wait: if the standard used in Brazil is ABNT, why are the initial keys of the first row of letters not… ABNT?

The answer is simple: the other keyboard layouts don’t offer drastic changes in QWERTY as we know it, but change one thing or another whether very specific to a particular audience or language. In the case of ABNT, the biggest differences are the cedilla (Ç) key, which does not usually come on English keyboards, and the “Alt Gr” key, which sits to the right of the space bar and is used to activate the third function of certain keys.

AZERTY In France, the default keyboard is the AZERTY model, which displaces several keys used in the French language (Image: Wikimedia Commons / Wikipedia)

AZERTY is the keyboard layout used in France and other French speaking countries. Belgium also uses this model, although it has created a Belgian version of the format. In AZERTY, much of the QWERTY layout has been retained. However, the keys A, Q, Z, W and M are in different places to facilitate the entry of French words.


The COLEMAK layout does not have a dedicated caps lock key, which in this case is replaced by another backspace key (Image: Wikimedia Commons / Wikipedia)

Based on the DVORAK model, the COLEMAK layout was created for alphabets of Latin American origin. The format is designed to make typing more comfortable and efficient, leaving the most used keys to the fingers with more force, such as the index and middle fingers. Interestingly, this is one of the few keyboard layouts that doesn’t have a caps lock key – in its place is an additional Backspace key.

DVORAK There are a few variations of the DVORAK layout. This one, for example, is one of the most popular in the United States (Image: Wikimedia Commons / Wikipedia)

Although it is one of the most common alternatives to QWERTY, the DVORAK standard has never been widely adopted by the industry. It is still a keyboard turned to the English language, but the keys are distributed over the entire keyboard that typing is done with both hands, especially with the left. There are also versions of the DVORAK for one-handed use and a model suitable for Brazilian Portuguese called BR-Nativo.


By default, the German layout QWERTZ has several keys with local characters and which replace the common letters (Image: Wikimedia Commons / Wikipedia)

This is the keyboard layout used in German speaking regions. The name is very similar to QWERTY, except for the last letter, Z, which is mainly used in the German language. There is also the inclusion of local characters such as ö, ä and ü. In addition, there are provisions based on the German QWERTZ, including Italian and Swiss models.

To change or not to change the layout: that is the question

It’s nice to see keyboard layouts appear with new letter layouts, each template suited to a specific scenario. But in the end, it’s true: unless you have a very targeted use, it is better to stick to the good old QWERTY, because it is the standard to which we are accustomed since the beginning of our entry into the environment. digital. .

It is also true that everything is a matter of custom, and it can take some getting used to from one layout to another. But, of course, there’s nothing stopping you from migrating to a new keyboard layout.

Source: Wikipedia (1, 2, 3)

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