The modern keyboard design was invented to stop frequently paired alphabet keys from getting jammed on a typewriter

Have you ever wondered how your cellphone’s keyboard was designed? How and why did Qwerty become so popular?

It all started when typewriters were invented and heralded as a new way to write—one that would make it faster and easier to read.

In the 1870s, American inventor Christopher Latham Sholes was working on typewriters. Sholes’ original design had the second half of the English alphabet in order on a top row, followed by the first half of the alphabet in the bottom row. When the letters were typed in rapid succession, however, the keys, which were mounted on metal arms, would get jammed.

Sholes found a solution by putting frequently used letter pairings (as found in the Bigram frequency) away from each other, such as TH, HE and ST. He sold this design to Remington in 1873. But the first row now stood as QWE.TYIUOP. Remington made several adjustments, including replacing ‘.’ with ‘R’. The numericals 2-9 were all there (‘1’ and ‘0’ were left out because that could be typed with the alphabets ‘I’ and ‘O’).

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