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When did the Standard keyboard qwerty layout begin?

When did the standard keyboard QWERTY layout begin? This question often piques the curiosity of those interested in the history of typing.

The QWERTY keyboard layout, ubiquitous in our modern digital world, traces its origins back to the early 1870s.

Its inception can be attributed to Christopher Latham Sholes, an inventor who sought to solve the challenges of early typewriter users.

This article will delve into the fascinating journey of the QWERTY layout, exploring its birth, initial reception, and the factors that contributed to its enduring dominance.

Join us on this exploration as we uncover the story behind the QWERTY keyboard layout’s emergence and evolution.

Pre-QWERTY Era: The Need for a Typing Solution

Picture Credit: CNN

Before the QWERTY keyboard layout existed, there was a pressing need for a practical and efficient typing system.

In the 19th century, we witnessed the emergence of typewriters, which promised to revolutionize how we put words on paper.

However, early typewriter models faced numerous challenges that could have improved the typing experience.

Mechanical issues often caused jams, and typists struggled to achieve high speeds due to the arrangement of keys.

During this era, the question, “When did the standard keyboard QWERTY layout begin?” became relevant.

People sought a solution that could streamline typing and make it more efficient.

In the next section, we will explore how Christopher Latham Sholes and the Remington Typewriter Company addressed this need and introduced the QWERTY layout, forever changing how we interact with keyboards.

The Birth of QWERTY: Christopher Sholes and the Remington Typewriter

Birth of QWERTY
Picture Credit: CNN

The story of the QWERTY keyboard layout begins with the visionary inventor Christopher Latham Sholes and his collaboration with the renowned Remington Typewriter Company.

In the late 1860s and early 1870s, Sholes and his partners sought to develop a practical and reliable typing machine.

During the design process, Sholes faced the challenge of preventing the mechanical keys from jamming.

He experimented with different keyboard arrangements, including the alphabetical layout, to address this issue.

However, this arrangement often caused neighboring keys to clash and jam the typewriter.

After much trial and error, Sholes arrived at the QWERTY layout we know today. The arrangement of the letters on the keyboard was strategically designed to reduce the likelihood of jamming.

By placing frequently used letters apart from each other, Sholes minimized the chances of typists typing too quickly and causing a mechanical collision.

In 1873, the Remington Typewriter Company began manufacturing typewriters based on the QWERTY layout, recognizing the potential of Sholes’ invention.

The Remington No. 2, released in 1878, was the first commercially successful typewriter model to feature the QWERTY keyboard.

The QWERTY layout quickly gained popularity, thanks to Remington’s marketing efforts and the typewriter’s reliability. This adoption began the standard keyboard QWERTY layout we still use today.

However, it is essential to note that the layout’s success was not solely based on its efficiency but also on factors such as industry influence and market dominance.

QWERTY’s Early Acceptance and Use

The QWERTY keyboard layout faced both praise and skepticism upon its introduction. Here are some key points about its initial reception and subsequent adoption:

Typist Concerns:

Some typists expressed concerns about the arrangement of the QWERTY keys, suggesting that it might hinder typing speed.

They believed placing frequently used letters apart could slow down their typing rhythm.

Remington’s Influence:

Despite these concerns, the Remington Typewriter Company significantly promoted the QWERTY layout.

As one of the leading typewriter manufacturers of the time, their marketing efforts and widespread adoption of QWERTY helped solidify its position as the standard keyboard layout.

Established Infrastructure:

The growing infrastructure surrounding QWERTY, such as typewriting schools, training materials, and typists’ familiarity with the layout, further cemented its dominance.

Shifting to an alternative layout would have required significant effort and retraining for typists, which proved to be a substantial barrier.

Network Effect:

The network effect also contributed to QWERTY’s continued use. As more typists learned and used QWERTY, it became the de facto standard.

Compatibility between typewriters’ and typists’ ability to share typed documents further reinforced its widespread adoption.

Path Dependence:

Path dependence, a concept in which initial choices have long-lasting effects, played a role in QWERTY’s persistence.

Once QWERTY became the standard, the costs associated with switching to a new layout outweighed the perceived benefits.

Despite the emergence of alternative keyboard layouts, such as the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, QWERTY’s dominance remained largely unchallenged.

Alternatives and Competing Keyboard Layouts

Despite the dominance of the QWERTY layout, several alternative keyboard arrangements have emerged over the years, each claiming to offer improved efficiency and typing speed.

Let’s explore some of these competing layouts:

Dvorak Simplified Keyboard:

Developed in the 1930s by Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law, Dr. William Dealey, the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard aimed to address the perceived shortcomings of QWERTY.

It placed the most commonly used letters on the “home row,” minimizing finger movement and promoting faster typing.

However, despite its ergonomic design and endorsements from enthusiasts, the Dvorak layout struggled to gain widespread acceptance and remains a niche choice.


Created by Shai Coleman in 2006, Colemak sought to strike a balance between the familiarity of QWERTY and the efficiency of alternative layouts.

It preserved the QWERTY arrangement of keys but made changes to optimize finger movement and reduce strain.

Colemak gained a modest following among users seeking a more comfortable typing experience within a reasonable distance from QWERTY.

Workman Keyboard Layout:

Introduced by OJ Bucao in 2010, the Workman layout aimed to minimize finger movement by placing frequently used letters on the more substantial fingers.

It prioritized comfort and reduced the risk of repetitive strain injuries. Though less widely known than other alternatives, the Workman layout has gained a small but dedicated community of users.

It’s important to note that keyboard layouts are not one-size-fits-all solutions. Different individuals have varying preferences, needs, and typing styles.

Exploring alternative layouts can be beneficial for those seeking improved ergonomics or efficiency. However, QWERTY remains the default choice for most users due to its ubiquity and familiarity.

Persistence of QWERTY: Path Dependence and Inertia

The continued dominance of the QWERTY keyboard layout can be attributed to path dependence and human inertia. Here are some key factors contributing to the persistence of QWERTY:

Path Dependence:

The QWERTY layout’s success is rooted in the historical choices made during the early days of typewriters.

Once Remington established QWERTY as the standard, it created a path that subsequent manufacturers and users followed.

This path dependence means the QWERTY layout has become deeply ingrained in our typing practices and infrastructure.


People are creatures of habit, and familiarity with it dramatically influences the QWERTY keyboard layout’s persistence.

Users have invested time and effort in mastering the QWERTY keyboard, making switching to a different layout challenging.

The muscle memory developed over years of typing reinforces the preference for QWERTY.

Existing Infrastructure:

QWERTY’s prevalence extends beyond keyboards. Typing manuals, educational curricula, and typing software are all designed around the QWERTY layout.

Switching to an alternative layout would require substantial changes in training programs and a significant overhaul of existing systems.

Resistance to Change:

People resist change, especially regarding something fundamental to the keyboard layout. The inertia against adopting a new layout stems from the effort required to relearn typing skills and adapt to a different arrangement. This resistance often outweighs the potential benefits of alternative layouts.

Despite the ongoing discussions and the introduction of alternative layouts, the QWERTY keyboard layout’s persistence remains strong.

Its path dependence, familiarity, existing infrastructure, and human inertia collectively contribute to its continued dominance.

Modern Adaptations and Evolving Technologies

The QWERTY keyboard layout has not only withstood the test of time but has also adapted and evolved with modern technologies.

Here are some notable modern adaptations and advancements related to keyboard layouts:

Integration into Computing Devices:

QWERTY keyboards have been seamlessly integrated into computers, laptops, and other computing devices.

The layout has become the standard input method for typing, enabling users to interact with various digital platforms effortlessly.

Expansion to Mobile Devices:

With the rise of smartphones and tablets, QWERTY keyboards have been adapted for smaller touchscreens.

Virtual keyboards mimic the QWERTY layout, making it familiar and accessible for mobile users.

Alternative Input Methods:

Evolving technologies have introduced alternative input methods beyond traditional physical keyboards.

Touchscreen keyboards, voice recognition software, and gesture-based inputs offer new ways to interact with devices, reducing reliance on physical keyboards altogether.

Customization and Personalization:

Modern technologies allow users to customize and personalize their keyboard layouts. Software and applications enable users to remap keys, create shortcuts, and switch to alternative layouts according to their preferences and needs.

As technology advances, the future of keyboard layouts remains an open question. Will alternative arrangements gain more prominence? Or will the QWERTY layout continue to dominate?

Only time will tell. Nonetheless, the adaptability of the QWERTY layout and the emergence of new input methods ensure that typing will continue to evolve in response to our ever-changing digital landscape.


In conclusion, the standard keyboard QWERTY layout began in the early 1870s, revolutionizing typing with the advent of typewriters.

Since then, it has become deeply entrenched in our typing habits, thanks to its widespread adoption and user familiarity.

Despite the emergence of alternative layouts, QWERTY’s persistence can be attributed to path dependence, infrastructure investments, and resistance to change.

However, as technology advances, new input methods and evolving user preferences may challenge the dominance of QWERTY in the future.

The question of “When did the standard keyboard QWERTY layout begin?” holds the key to understanding our typing practices’ rich history and evolution.