QWERTY VS. DVORAK

My first typing experience began in a 1st semester class, during Junior High School. Like many of us, I was able to ease out 15 to 20 words per minute. Clearly not impressive by many standards, but this led me as I started working on computers in 1984 (yes, 1984!). Luckily, I found “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing,” which made learning how to type as interesting as the modern-day “Dummies” franchise.

A fascinating thing happened. There was in instruction booklet that came with the program that explained something about the history of the typewriter, and how we all came to accept the default QWERTY layout that all typewriters have. The interesting part was that Mavis Beacon offered an alternative. How strange, I thought.

As I read on, I found out that the QWERTY layout was actually an exercise in inefficiency….in fact it was designed inefficiently by design. Now, I thought back to my experience in Junior High, and how in those days, I used a Mechanical Typewriter. On a Mechanical Typewriter, if you hit two keys at the same time, the keys lock-up and you have to separate them before you can continue typing. This is why the QWERTY keyboard layout came to be.

The QWERTY was designed to keep early typewriters from jamming. But now, with the advent of the Computer, there are no more keys to jam, yet everyone has been so indoctrinated by QWERTY that it has continued to be the default layout for typing, even though QWERTY’s usefulness was outlived long ago.

The answer to this problem was invented way back in 1936 by August Dvorak, at the same time as IBM invented the electric typewriter. The DVORAK layout was designed to make it easier and faster to type and with fewer mistakes. And MS Windows and Apple Computers followed the advancements of IBM.

Needless to say, I decided to take the plunge and learn to type using DVORAK and I’ve never looked back. Later on, I found out that there were other reasons that made my choice to type using DVORAK a wise decision. Using DVORAK makes it much less likely to develop RSD (Repetitive Stress Disorder) issues like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other ergonomics related hand injuries.

Whenever possible we need to overrule our resistance to take advantage of new technologies that can help us to live healthier lives.

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