Who Invented the QWERTY Keyboard?


The QWERTY is called so because of the first 6 letters on its top left side. The QWERTY was not originally a computer keyboard. It was a design for typewriters.

The QWERTY Inventor

The American inventor Christopher Sholes designed the QWERTY keyboard. Sholes worked as a newspaper in Milwaukee. When his compositors went on a strike, he tried to invent a typesetting machine so he wouldn’t have to rely on them anymore. But he did not succeed. Sholes also wanted to invent a device that would number pages in a book easily. Together with another inventor, Samuel Soule, he created a machine for numbering in 1866.

Sholes would have stopped there. But a fellow inventor Carlos Glidden suggested that the machine might be able to type letters as well. Later on in 1867, Sholes was the Scientific American magazine. He read an article about the Plerotype typewriter invented by John Pratt, an Englishman. Sholes then had the idea to invent his own typewriter.

So Sholes got together with Soule and Glidden once again. Their very first collaboration was a piano-like machine with white and black keys. There were no separate keys for the numbers 0 and 1 since the letters O and I could be substituted. The trio of inventors patented their work on July 1868.

The three men approached many people with their invention, using letters made with their typewriter. James Desmore of Pennsylvania became interested and bought one-fourth of the patent rights without inspecting design first. When he finally saw it, he said more work needed to be done before it could be marketed. Soule and Glidden soon gave up, relinquishing the rest of the patent to Sholes.
Sholes next turned to stenographers to test their typewriter. James Clephane tested their works so mercilessly that they broke down almost as soon as he got them. After much testing and expenses, the trio sent their design to E. Remington and Sons for inspection. Finally Sholes gave up and sold his patent share for $12,000. Desmore, who’d invested in it as well, agreed to royalty shares.

With financial problems solved, Sholes resumed work on the typewriter. A recurring problem was key jamming. That is, the typing bars would stick together when the typist worked too fast. So Sholes split up the most commonly used letters in the design. After much trial and error, he came up with the QWERTY design. The final design made sure the word “TYPE WRITER” could be typed just from the top row. Remington approved the design and the rest is history.

Today the key jamming is no longer a problem with computer keyboards. But the QWERTY remains in standard use. Not even the Dvorak keyboard can replace it, even though it is easier on the hands.

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