Q: so, how did they decide to make the keyboard in non-alphabetical order? What’s up with the QWERTY thing?

— Sweetwater

A: ask Doug has been answering your questions for 9 ½ years. this is one of the queries that crops up about once a year.

I don’t ever remember it being asked by a student learning to use the computer, formerly typewriter, keyboard. It’s always someone with some maturity, at least in age.

Here’s my answer from years gone by:

C.L. Sholes, a Milwaukee inventor, built the first typewriter in 1868 with the keys arranged alphabetically in only two rows.

The machine was pretty clumsy and the keys kept sticking. he figured out, after seeing a study by educator Amos Densmore, that arranging the keys differently would reduce those jams simply by moving keys that are commonly used together, like “th,” away from each other.

Thus was born the QWERTY keyboard, named after the first six keys on the top left of the typewriter.

For years, popular writers have accused Sholes of deliberately arranging his keyboard to slow down fast typists who would otherwise jam up his sluggish machine. in fact, his motives were just the opposite.

Ask Doug enjoys answering your questions, and sometimes recycling some of those answers, Monday through Thursday in the Reporter-News.

© 2010 Abilene Reporter-News. all rights reserved. this material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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