QWERTY /kwer'tee/ Adj. [from The Keycaps At The Upper Left] Pertaining To A Standard English-language Typewriter Keyboard (sometimes Called The Sholes Keyboard After Its Inventor)

HomeFortune CookiesJargon File

QWERTY /kwer'tee/ adj.

[from the keycaps at the upper
left] Pertaining to a standard English-language typewriter keyboard
(sometimes called the Sholes keyboard after its inventor), as
opposed to Dvorak or non-US-ASCII layouts or a space-cadet keyboard or APL keybo

Historical note: The QWERTY layout is a fine example of a fossil.
It is sometimes said that it was designed to slow down the typist,
but this is wrong; it was designed to allow faster typing
-- under a constraint now long obsolete. In early typewriters,
fast typing using nearby type-bars jammed the mechanism. So Sholes
fiddled the layout to separate the letters of many common digraphs
(he did a far from perfect job, though; `th', `tr', `ed', and `er',
for example, each use two nearby keys). Also, putting the letters
of `typewriter' on one line allowed it to be typed with particular
speed and accuracy for demos. The jamming problem was
essentially solved soon afterward by a suitable use of springs, but
the keyboard layout lives on.

The QWERTY keyboard has also spawned some unhelpful economic myths
about how technical standards get and stay established; see