Myth Number 1
--He did it to make typists SLOW DOWN!
Above, we see typewriter inventor Christopher Latham Sholes. For over
100 years, he has suffered a bad rap. According to MYTH, his original machine
was so clumsy that it tended to jam when operated by typists working at
high speed. Biologist Stephen Jay Gould used the keyboard to compare technological
evolution, to biological evolution, both of which depend on what you start
with. In the keyboard's case, by starting with QWERTY, we became stuck with
it, because it was just too difficult to replace. However, in "The
Panda's Thumb," Gould attributes this reason to the creation of QWERTY.
"In other words--and here comes the epitome of the tale in a phrase--QWERTY
arose in order to slow down the maximal speed of typing and prevent jamming
of keys. Common letters were either alloted to weak fingers or dispersed
to positions requiring a long stretch from the home row."
BZZZT! .... WRONG! ... NUH-UH!
Actually, Sholes artfully arranged the inside of his machine to lower
the frequency of jams. The effect was to reduce trouble, and help fast typists
go FASTER. For a detailed explanation of the REAL reasoning behind QWERTY,
see "Why QWERTY was Invented."
Myth Number Two
-It was a Selling point!
The picture above is from the first typewriter catalog, issued by E.
Remington & Sons, who manufactured the first machine in 1874. Here's
the way this story goes.... the QWERTY keyboard was invented so that a salesman
could quickly type the word "Typewriter" by placing his fingers
on the top row of letter keys. Check it out... all the letters are there.
The salesmen COULD have done that trick... but that's not what the inventor
had in mind.
To read about the invention & marketing of these early machines, see
"The First Typewriter."
Myth Number 3
-It was an EGO trip!
What some people won't THINK of! The photo shows the "Daugherty"
typewriter, invented around 1893 by James Daugherty of Kittaning, PA. According
to local legend, Daugherty was the one who invented the QWERTY keyboard,
placing the "e-r-t-y" keys in sequence to make it easier to type
his own name. No mention made, of course, about the placement of "d-a-u-g-h."
Daugherty himself would have laughed at this. Not so funny is the treatment
history gave to his machine. With its mechanism arranged so you could SEE
what you were typing (earlier machines typed underneath the platen, keeping
work hidden from view), the Daugherty machine is actually the first "modern"
typewriter. Typewriter people, however, usually give that distinction to
the Underwood, which used the same configuration. The Underwood was better,
to be sure, but the Daugherty was first.
Return to The QWERTY Connection.