Practical Solutions Communication History of Qwerty Keyboard Part 5

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



The Tyranny of Qwerty

Suppose you want to introduce DSK in your home or office. Can you easily get the equipment and retrain yourself and your staff? The equipment is easy enough to get, as is the instructional material. And you can retrain yourself or others if you can spare the time or persuade people to relearn on machines that they will find almost nowhere else. It takes a minimum of six weeks to switch, preferably after you take a rest from qwerty. Unlike being bilingual, however, you can't be bidigital to the extent that you can switch from one multikeyed machine to another with a different setup.

How do you get a DSK? Any typewriter company will sell you one. Like any company, typewriter firms are first interested in profits; revolution comes second, if at all. So they don't push DSK.

Remington makes no additional charge for the keyboard if it is ordered with pica type. Smith-Corona Marchant makes a "slight additional charge," depending on the model ordered. It adds that "the demand is increasing as people learn of the advantages of DSK."

Royal reveals that it sells "fewer than 25 machines a year" with DSK, adding that there is a fixed charge of $20 extra for DSK and "all nonstandard keyboards."

IBM offers DSK on one model only, at an additional charge of $40.

So there it is-perhaps the perfect keyboard. Supporters like Phil Davis believe the arrival of the computer will hasten its adoption. You talk to a computer by keyboard, he says, and it doesn't make much sense to use the 1872 arrangement to slow down a lightning-swift machine.

Others aren't so sure. They think electronics may find other ways of transferring information into machine language. Also, critics say, if Dvorak's keyboard were going to be adopted, it would have happened before this.

Still, it's hard for an observer to plow through all the history, consider all the facts, think of all the wasted time and effort and failure connected with qwerty, and then conclude that DSK is doomed. August Dvorak, in his 80s and living in Seattle, certainly doesn't think so, even though his patent rights ran out in 1962 and he can no longer profit financially from his creation.

Inquiries about, and individual conversion to, DSK are constant even if adoption by industry and schools is not. As the years go by, in fact, DSK looks more and more like some sleeping beauty waiting for a handsome, efficiency-conscious prince to awaken her with a kiss. It may be a long, long time before the world stops thinking of "Humoresque" every time it hears the name Dvorak, but it can happen. There must, after all, be a better way for that silly, quick brown fox to jump over that lazy dog.

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