Typewriters

    Towards the end of the nineteenth century people began to develop typing skills. Many arguments raged over which method of typing and what size of keyboard should be used. One technique was touch-typing, which was learning where the letters were on the keyboard and using all fingers while looking at the paper. This involved operating a single keyboard. The second was based around the double keyboard and involved using two or four fingers while still looking at the keys. A double keyboard has twice the amount of keys, with the capitals above and lowercase below. Both claimed to be the fastest way to type. This dispute was finally resolved when a Mr. McGurrin (an advocater of touch-typing) and a Mr. Tubb, had a competition using the two methods.

    The challenge took place in Cincinnati in July 1888 and attracted worldwide attention. The winner was Mr. Gurin who beat Mr. Tubb with ease and at the same time introduced the method that would be used by typists in various forms from then on.

     

    Though this argument had been settled it did not stop the competitions. Many typewriter manufacturers saw the potential of selling their products by creating typing challenges and the craze continued. However, one person and one type of machine prevailed. Charles. E. Smith continually won the speed-typing competition on an Underwood machine until the public lost interest and the contests stopped.

    QWERTY refers to the most common form of layout of letters found on the keyboard of a typewriter or computer. The name refers to the first six letters at the top of the board. The initial idea and later development of this design came from one of the first pioneers of the typewriter, Christopher Sholes, who invented the first commercially successful machine. The original layout of letters was in an ABC format, but Sholes found this continually jammed his typewriters. To solve the problem, he asked his brother-in-law, a mathematician, to work out an arrangement that would for most of the time prevent the bars from clashing. Sholes later claimed that this was a highly 'scientific arrangement'. From this the QWERTY idea was evolved in 1873.

    It has been argued that Sholes' intention in creating such a keyboard was not to produce a more efficient machine but to slow down the typist deliberately so that the flaws in his typewriter were never seen! Either way the QWERTY keyboard is still with us today. Attempts have been made to alter the design but none has been successful at winning over public opinion. Other designs have included one by Dr. August Dvorak, who attempted to simplify the keyboardand increase speed typing by 35%. However, like others before him, his ideas were not well received. He claimed changing the keyboard format was like proposing to "reverse the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, discard every moral principle, and ridicule motherhood"!

    Those machines which adopted the accepted design, such as the Underwood,proved successful; those who tried to break with tradition, such as the Hammond typewriter, generally failed.