There is no surprise that the origin of the keyboard started with the first typewriter. During the 18th century, Christopher Latham Sholes, along with the help of some other guys, came up with one that became the first commercially successful typewriter in the 1870s.
Origin of the typewriters
Like many typewriters, Shole’s device used characters and letters on the ends of rods, which were called typebars. The typebar would swing up when the key was struck and then would hit the ink-coated tale, which then would transfer the image onto paper. The difference between this and modern incarnations, however, was the first device more or less mimicked the layout of a piano keyboard and positioned the keys in alphabetical order in those two rows. But after quite some time problems arose when the keys started to jam. It happened when the people got faster at typing, causing the typebars’ more used combination of letters that were positioned close to get jammed. It was solved after rearranging the keys to put commonly used serial keys less further away from each other to reduce jams.
Was jamming the real reason behind the invention of QWERTY?
It is widely popular, and there is a possibility you might be thinking the same that the idea it happened was to fix the problem by making people type slower. But there is still no actual proof to it. The real reason behind this speculation was because of the book “The History of the Typewriter,” published in 1923. According to the authors of the book, slowing down the speed was the main reason for the changes made in the typewriter. But there is still no source for this claim. But if you want to get a fact check, you can verify from the original notes and letters to, but for that to go to Madison, WI.
But even after these speculations, some of them were very clear that it was not because of speed, Sholes wanted to stop the jamming which is why he started working with the telegraphists to prepare the final layout and cater to their needs in the best way he could.
In 1868, during collaboration with several other people, Sholes settled on an arrangement of the letters on the keyboard for better spacing between accessible keys used in combination. We can see that initially, it was difficult for people to find the letters they needed to type efficiently, unlike the one in alphabetical order as given before. However, it was all a big thanks to the less jamming, that after becoming proficient in typing the person was much faster in the new layout. They were even faster and efficient than the earlier ones. But as people take time to learn, so of course, people were using the hunt and peck method instead of typing with ten fingers, so only a few people were blazing fast speed while the rest of them were slow.
As far we are concerned, this was the beginning of some semblance of the QWERTY we know today, which appeared in 1872. It wasn’t quite the exact we use today, but yes, it was more of the same, which was later modified. After this successful invention, typewriters started selling widely across the globe and gained acclamations all around.
Shift key, as we know on the keyboard today, had a different function on a typewriter. It received its name because it caused the carriage to shift position to type either lowercase or capital letter, which were on the same type bar. Although the same process happens even today when we use the shift key, it doesn’t cause the machine to shift mechanically, but the name got stuck.
After some years, Dr. Dvorak invented a keyboard by making some changes in the QWERTY, but it failed as people were more comfortable with the qwerty layout. The widespread popularity of the typewriters made qwerty even more successful, and this is the reason why qwertyth century became a massive success.