The QWERTY keyboard came into existence in 1866 in a small workshop in Milwaukee. A publisher called Christopher Latham Sholes set out to create an invention that would make him rich. He wanted to create a machine that automatically numbered the pages on a book.
Sholes, along with his business partner Carlos Gidden, read about the typing machine in Scientific American and changed the plans. They no longer wanted to create an automatic numbering machine, they were all in on a typewriter.
Creating The Patent
Just a few short years after reading about the typing machine Sholes and Gidden had three patents that created a rudimentary typewriter. Their first creation looked more like a piano than anything else and was prone to jamming pretty regularly.
Sholes used this machine to write to potential investors and he was in luck, one came along and bought 25 percent of the business. After some investment Sholes changed the configuration of the keys from a piano set up to a more circular formation, something closer to the keyboards of today.
The initial configuration of Sholes’ keyboard began with QWE.TY, but when gun manufacturer E. Remington & Sons got involved it was changed. The gunmaker was branching out and looking to get into the home appliances market and signed a contract to manufacture the typing machine.
Remington wanted the keyboard configuration to read QWERTUIOPY, but Sholes was adamant that the Y should be between the T and the U. The company agreed to Sholes’ request, and it went to market, becoming the most popular typewriter in the 1800s.
Despite many attempts to understand why QWERTY keyboards are configured this way, there is no real answer. Many believe that common letter pairings were separated as much as possible to prevent the keys from jamming.
There might not be a real reason why QWERTY keyboards are the way they are, but it has survived every attempt by experts to create a new and improved version.