Right now, I am typing. While I’ve never been one to use the traditional method of putting both hands to keyboard and going to town, I do pretty well using the tried and true “two finger method.” Even though I know where the keys are by heart and have for years, I still usually look at the keys as I type. Might not be the most professional method, but whatever works, right? Like most of you, I use a QWERTY keyboard, since it’s what came with my laptop. It was the first keyboard I saw when my mother used let me experiment with her old typewriter, and the layout transitioned over to computers when they became popular. Still, I’ve always wondered, “Whose bright idea was it to put the letters in this layout I’ve been typing on so frequently?”
Before I checked out The Dvorak Zine, I had no idea there were other options out there. I mean, I had heard random spattering of information about a Dvorak Keyboard from friends of mine, but nothing too intensive; quite frankly I’m more familiar with John C. Dvorak than the keyboard that shares his last name. Even the name QWERTY was foreign to me, but the designation makes sense. The keyboard we usually use starts with the letters Q-W-E-R-T-Y on its top letter bar, so what else would you call it? But why is A next to S and I next to O on a completely different letter bar? Do we really need to place B next to N? The Dvorak Zine explains the answer to us and why we still use it today. It breaks down to three familiar factors; experimentation, familiarity and fear of change.
Originally, typewriters would jam if you tried to type two letters on the same bar in succession right next to one another. This was due to a defective “type bar.” So the guy who created the type bar and the concept for the typewriter, Latham Sholes, began work on a keyboard that would avoid this problem. How do you do that? Yup, by making the key arrangement totally freaking random! When the type bar issue was fixed by a better design, typewriter sales were already through the room, making QWERTY the norm! It sucks, but what comes first is often what is accepted by the majority; iPod anyone?
Is this still the only option out there? Far from it. Dr. August Dvorak invented the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard Layout in 1932 based on careful research into what keys we touch the most when typing. His design put the most popular letters all in the same row, giving you a familiar, safe spot to put your fingers. The Dvorak is supported by Windows and Mac operating systems; all you need is to either buy a keyboard with the layout for as cheap as $20, put the layout onto your keys yourself via stickers, or put a printout next to your compy and look at it for reference.
Obviously, I recommend checking out the full webcomic at DVZine.org to get the complete scope of Dvorak and to see if it is right for you. As for the Zine itself, The art is as fun as the information being told. And hey, you might even walk away with a new outlook on a very familiar task.