Practical Solutions Communication History of Qwerty Keyboard Part 3

About the history of keyboard layouts Qwerty and Dvorak or DSK.



The Tyranny of Qwerty

Part of that evidence was accumulated during the 1940s, when typing competitions were the vogue. Between 1933 and 1941, DSK typists captured 26 first places and 4 grand championships.

The outstanding virtuoso on DSK was one of Dvorak's own pupils, Lenore Fenton MacClain, who won eight world records in typing and transcription. Mrs. MacClain typed 70 words a minute pre-DSK, then switched and reached a zippy 182 words a minute, net, in one unofficial test. A net score is computed by subtracting 10 words typed for each error. You could say that Mrs. MacClain's achievement is unusual, and you would be right. But many DSK typists do double their former speeds and break the 100-word-a-minute barrier.

Looking at such results, Robert L. McCauley, a former computer man and now promoter of instructional literature for DSK asks: "Is the DSK that good, or is the standard keyboard just that bad?" To these questions his answers are "Yes!" and "Yes!" McCauley, now based in Burbank, Calif., turned to DSK a few years ago. He maintains that:

--anyone, including children, can begin to master DSK in less than two weeks;

--speeds of 40 to 50 words a minute can be attained in two to three months;

--superspeeds of more than 100 words a minute are possible for many in less than a year;

--fatigue and mistakes are greatly lessened. But McCauley doesn't believe DSK is for everyone, even though it is obviously hands-down superior. Like power steering and automatic transmissions for automobiles, it should, he feels, be available for those who want it. He believes the "let's-all-change-to-DSK" talk turns a lot of people off and is actually slowing down acceptance of a new keyboard.

Such fears, however, don't seem to bother the other main advocate of DSK, Philip Davis of Irvington, N.J.

Davis, a journeyman printer and former teacher, became seriously interested in DSK in 1964 and now heads a company that offers typewriters with the new keyboard. (Davis recently delivered a DSK typewriter to Ralph Nader at the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, D.C. Interestingly, Nader requested a manual machine rather than an electric one. He believes, it seems, that electric typewriters add to the nation's energy crisis.)

Davis wants DSK adopted by individual typists and, especially, by the printing industry for its composing machines, many of which are now the so-called cold-type perforators that use qwerty instead of the old linotype keyboard, itself a special monster. A perforator is a sort of minicomputer with typewriter keyboard that produces holes in a tape. After typing up a tape, the operator feeds it back into the machine and out comes column after column of justified type.

Unlike Bob McCauley, Davis looks for total conversion to DSK eventually. "But a switch to Dvorak keyboarding is not like changing the rules about which side of the street to drive on," he says, attacking what he calls the "clean-sweep" theory.

"The change can be made perfectly well," he says, "one person at a time, one operator at a time. Any office manager can rearrange work loads to fit his schedule."

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