Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Of Donkeys and Men...and Qwerty

Some times life leaves us stumped. But in the end a thinking mind always unstumps herself - with some help from wikipedia and some pondering you can always get the answer!

If you have spent all you life wondering: "what ever in the world did happen to that island near the Carribean coast, which was made up enitrely of thousands of floating plastic bottles?", click here.

If however, you worry yourself sick over why the querty keyboard was arranged as a qwerty key board, then let me tell you, that there was a time, long long ago, when they keyboard was alphabetically arranged. It went from A to Z.

Then along came a Mr Sholes, in the 1800s. While we are on the topic of the 1800s may I just add what a cruel century that was? If it weren't for a thousand dead donkeys and suicidal dead people to vouch for that,we, my friends, would have still been ignorant. You see, in the 1800s, one dug a plot of land, buried a donkey, covered it up, and grew grape vines on that plot.

Land with grape vines, with out a dead donkey underneath? Unheard of! Now,why that was done I cannot tell you - you may have forgotten, but this blog is all about the man who made the modern day keyboard.

While we are on the topic of men, I might as well tell you that back in the 1800s, if you committed suicide but were unsuccessful, you were punished by death penalty. I say people should have the freedom to choose between death, death. I think.

Anyway...the qwerty keyboard, this poor chap was a type-writer maker and his type writer kept jamming up because the type bars became tangled. If, unlike me, you are a post-type-writer age person, see what it looks like here. If you've never seen a dead donkey before, click here

See, "the first typewriter had its letters on the end of rods called "typebars." The typebars hung in a circle. The roller which held the paper sat over this circle, and when a key was pressed, a typebar would swing up like this to hit the paper from underneath. If two typebars were near each other in the circle, they would tend to clash into each other when typed in succession."

So, Sholes figured he had to take the most common letter pairs such as "TH" and make sure their typebars hung at safe distances. Simple. He did this massive study and decided that the qwerty keyboard had all the keys at the perfect distance - for the type writer of course.

Now, why was this keyboard format adopted for computers? Man, is a creature of habit...we don't mind the qwerty any more, infact if it were changed to alphabetical-I'd be the first to complain.

Finally, while we are on the topic of firsts - here's an impressive fact about the word type-writer. All of it can be typed solely from the first row of the keyboard! That's Mr Sholes little joke.