Wednesday, August 16, 2006

QWERTY, adopted initially by some, but not all, manufacturers, was given a leg up in 1888 when the Shorthand and Typewriter Institute of Cincinnati sponsored a contest between Remington's QWERTY keyboard and a layout used by the American Writing Machine Company's Caligraph model. If typewriter historians are to be believed, the media were altered. "The world press was attracted," Wilfred A. Beeching writes in his Century of the Typewriter. Representing Remington was Frank E. McGurrin; in the Caligraph corner, using a double keyboard, the gallant Louis Taub. But, alas, like so many typewriting showdowns, this one didn't live up to its billing. Not only could McGurrin touch-type blindfolded using all ten fingers; poor Taub was proficient only with four. For an unscientific way of determining a keyboard's efficiency, this one is hard to beat. Nevertheless, when the Toronto Typewriters' Congress of 1888 advocated the standardization of the keyboard, nearly all manufacturers switched over to QWERTY. -- Arthur Krystal: "Against Type?", Harper's Magazine, Vol.305, No.1831 (December 2002), pp.82-88.

His name was Louis Traub, not Taub, and he was an eight-finger typist on Caligraph No.2. Furthermore, the "Toronto Typewriters' Congress" held on August 13, 1888, in the Convocation Hall of the Education Department, Toronto, never advocated the standardization of the keyboard. It was a typewriting tournament held as a part of Seventh Annual Convention of the Canadian Shorthand Society. In the tournament Miss Mae E. Orr, a two-finger typist on Remington No.2, won the gold medal against Mr. Frank Edward McGurrin (cf. "Canadian Shorthand Society", The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.9, No.8 (September 1888), pp.210-215).

The American Writing Machine Company, the manufacturer of Caligraph, changed its keyboard arrangements into QWERTY when releasing the New Century Caligraph in 1898 (cf. "The New Century Caligraph", Scientific American, Vol.79, No.24 (December 10, 1898), p.372). It is not due to the "Toronto Typewriters' Congress" but to the Typewriter Trust. On March 30, 1893, the Union Typewriter Company, known as the Typewriter Trust, was formed, combining the five leading typewriter companies, Remington, Smith-Premier, Yost, Densmore, and Caligraph. The first President of the Union Typewriter Company was Mr. Clarence Walker Seamans from Remington. The five companies accommodated each other with their patents and selling agents to push forward the oligopoly on the typewriter market. They also standardized their keyboard arrangements, thus the American Writing Machine Company should adopt QWERTY (cf. Koichi Yasuoka: "QWERTY Revisited", Journal of Information Processing and Management, Vol.48, No.2 (May 2005), pp.115-118).


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