Industrial Design

How Design Dictated How We Type

Reflect on this: the English-language QWERTY keyboard layout was designed by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1873 not to make typists faster, but to slow them down – and we have been living with that ever since.

As with so many inventions, the design was driven by available materials and technology.

Sholes was the fifty-second known person to try inventing a mechanical writing machine, but the first to call it a “type-writer.” He worked out the basic design of the type-writer readily — each key was attached to a metal typebar that had the corresponding letter, molded in reverse, to the striking head. The problem was that when multiple keys were hit too fast or simultaneously, the typebars became entangled and would have to be unjammed by hand.

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