QWERTY VS. DVORAK
The first practical American typewriter was patented in 1868 by Sholes, Glidden, and Soule. It was manufactured and sold by Remington & Sons in 1874. The location of keys on the Remington typewriter soon became the standard arrangement for keyboards of nearly all other makes. With minor changes and additions, this standard or QWERTY keyboard is almost the same as that of the millions of typewriters used in homes, schools, and business and government offices even today.
Keyboard reform—efforts to make the typewriter keyboard more efficient and easier to operate - has a very long history. Hammond, for example, in 1881 marketed a machine with an “improved” keyboard. Hoke in 1924 was issued a patent for a keyboard arranged according to frequency of use of the letters and facility of the various fingers. Dvorak and Dealey in 1932 received a patent for still another keyboard arrangement which they called a “simplified” keyboard. Not one of these attempts to improve the arrangement of the letters received more than temporary interest.
From time to time, a new spark of interest in simplifying the QWERTY keyboard is ignited, flames for a while, then dies. This may turn out to be true today regarding the current interest in the Dvorak-Dealey keyboard, now referred to as the Dvorak simplified keyboard. It is believed by many that the Hoke and the Dvorak keyboards are more scientific in design than the standard or QWERTY keyboard and should be more efficient to operate. Just how much more efficient one or the other is remains a moot question, nevertheless. Many claims are made, but there is little proof that is based on valid, reliable research.
In 1956, Strong reported on the basis of his research data that to retrain a typist skilled on the standard keyboard to use a “simplified” keyboard with equal facility required about one hundred hours! Moreover, he reported that “traditional” typists outgained “simplified” typists during a period of further training to improve skill. He concluded that “adoption of the simplified keyboarding for use by the Federal Government cannot be justified based on the findings of this experiment".
For many years, cost of converting keyboards from the QWERTY to the Dvorak arrangement dissuaded schools and businesses from making the change. Now that conversion is as simple as pressing a key and using a template, at least on some computers, the choice rests on the comparative efficiency of operation. Unfortunately, “simplified” keyboard proponents have not provided comparative data on which to make a sound decision. Until valid and reliable data are available, the current interest in the Dvorak keyboard is likely to remain in the heads of a limited group of Dvorak devotees.