Dvorak Simplified Keyboard

Posted by Remo Giuffré on

Battle of the Keyboards: Dvorak v. QWERTY

The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard is a layout that was developed and patented in 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak, an educational psychologist and professor of education at the University of Washington in Seattle. It was designed to address the problems of inefficiency and fatigue which characterised the QWERTY keyboard layout. The QWERTY layout was introduced in the 1860s, being used on the first commercially successful typewriter, the machine invented by Christopher Sholes. The QWERTY layout was designed so that successive keystrokes would alternate between sides of the keyboard so as to avoid jamming of the mechanical arms.

Some maintain that Sholes organised his keyboard so that common combinations of letters were HARD TO TYPE, thus making the keyboard slower and reducing the chance of jamming. Others believe that the QWERTY layout was not designed to slow the typist down, but rather to speed up typing by preventing jams. Indeed, there is evidence that, aside from the issue of jamming, placing often-used keys farther apart increases typing speed, because it encourages alternation between the hands.

The Dvorak keyboard layout is designed to minimise movement, and make typing as easy and painless as possible. The idea behind it is to have the most commonly typed keys under the fingers, making it as easy to type common words and combinations of letters. The average QWERTY typist’s fingers will travel up to 20 TIMES further than his or her Dvorak counterpart in a day of typing!

Mechanical typewriters have long been replaced by things that don’t jam. However, the QWERTY system remains dominant. Once the QWERTY layout was in place, it was simple economics that kept it there. Typists were trained to use it, which meant that makers of newer typewriters had to use the same layout, otherwise potential customers would need to re-train staff. The same has applied ever since. People make QWERTY keyboards because that is what people are trained to use, not because it is the best layout.

A discussion of the Dvorak layout is sometimes used as an exercise by management consultants to illustrate the difficulties of change and how inferior technologies sometimes succeed because they get locked in to the market. Remember Sony Betamax?

Are you really happy using something that some argue is intentionally designed to slow you down? Most computers keyboard layouts can be changed with the flick of a switch. Are you game? Have a crack at it, and let us know how it goes.




1. Dvorak Simplified Keyboard
2. August Dvorak
3. QWERTY Keyboard Typewriter
4. Dvorak gives typing class in 1932
5. Josue Salazar changes his MacBook to Dvora
6. Dvorak Merchandise by REMO HERE

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  • It appears to have Spanish symbols too.

    Jane Campbell on
  • the image of the QWERTY keyboard has two N’s.

    Maikki Toiva on
  • Paul A. David, a US economist/academic, wrote an interesting article in 1985 titled ‘Clio and the Economics of QWERTY’, where he introduced the term, ‘path dependent’, to describe the workings of the ‘simple economics’ you mention :)

    Amy Denmeade on

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