Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back in the 1870's, Sholes & Co., a leading manufacturer of typewriters at the time, received many complaints from users about typewriter keys sticking together if the operator went too fast. In response, management asked its engineers to figure out a way to prevent this from happening. The engineers discussed the problem for a bit and then one of them said, "What if we slowed the operator down? If we did that, the keys wouldn't jam together nearly as much." The result was to have an inefficient keyboard configuration. For example, the letters "O" and "I" are the third and sixth most frequently used letters in the English language, and yet the engineers positioned them on the keyboard so that the relatively weaker fingers had to depress them. This "inefficient logic" pervaded the keyboard, and this brilliant idea solved the problem of keyboard jam-up. -- Roger von Oech: A Whack on the Side of the Head, Creative Think, Menlo Park (1983).

It was E. Remington & Sons, not Sholes & Co., that manufactured the first commercial typewriter, Sholes & Glidden Type-Writer, in September, 1873 (cf. John A. Zellers: The Typewriter - A Short History on Its 75th Anniversary 1873-1948, Newcomen Society of England American Branch, New York (1948)). Original QWERTY keyboard The Sholes & Glid­den Type-Writer was in­vent­ed by Messrs. Chris­to­pher Latham Sholes and Carlos Glid­den, and it had QWERTY key­board at the early be­gin­ning (shown above, taken from U. S. Patent No.207559). The engineers of E. Remington & Sons, including Messrs. Jefferson Moody Clough and William McKendree Jenne, did improve the mechanism of the Type-Writer to speed up, but they never changed the arrangement of the keyboard (cf. U. S. Patent No.199263). Furthermore, the eight-finger typing method was originated by Mrs. Elizabeth Margaret Vater Longley in 1881, eight years after the birth of the original QWERTY keyboard (cf. "Pioneers of Touch Typewriting", Remington Notes, Vol.2, No.12 (September 1912), p.5). Average typists in the 1870's used the forefingers only, never using relatively weaker fingers. Dr. Roger von Oech's "whack" on the QWERTY keyboard is totally fictitious.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Before going on with the history of Dr. Dvorak's struggle to have his invention accepted, we should look at how the typewriter keyboard most in use today came about. It turns out that this keyboard was designed experimentally by Christopher Sholes, the inventor of the typewriter, to SLOW THE TYPIST DOWN. The keys on the early machines hung down in sort of a basket arrangement, and pivoted up to strike the platen (roller) from underneath. ... Since the keys had no springs on them, they fell back into place by gravity. This meant their action was very sluggish, and if two keys that were close together in one quadrant of this "basket" were struck rapidly, one after another, they would jam. To overcome this problem, Sholes moved the keys around experimentally until the machine seemed to operate with a minimum of jamming. What he actually did was to make many commonly-used letter sequences awkward and slow to execute. Thus, by "anti-engineering" his typewriter from a human factors point of view, he was able to slow it down so it would function to his satisfaction. -- Robert Parkinson: "The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard: Forty Years of Frustration", Computers and Automation, Vol.21, No.11 (November 1972), pp.18-25.

Hoax. Or else, Mr. Parkinson was too credulous of Dr. August Dvorak's hypothesis. In English the most frequently-used letter sequence is "th". On QWERTY keyboard, you see T and H are very easy to strike rapidly. They are neither awkward nor slow to execute. The second frequently-used letter sequence is "er" + "re", which is not awkward, either.

As I mentioned before, Mr. Christopher Latham Sholes started his keyboard from alphabetical arrangement, Keyboard of Hughes-Phelps printing telegraph and then imi­tated piano-like key­board of the Hughes-Phelps print­ing tele­graph (shown right, taken from U. S. Patent No.26003) in 1867. He changed the keys into button-like ones in April, 1870. In his new model he moved vowels to the upper row of the keyboard in order to put the twenty-six letters in ten columns (shown below, taken from Koichi Yasuoka: "QWERTY Revisited", Journal of Information Processing and Management, Vol.48, No.2 (May 2005), pp.115-118). It's the origin of QWERTY.

Origin of QWERTY

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mrs L. V. Longley's Typewriter Lessons were not sufficient to carry the day immediately for the proponents of eight-finger typing. She was denounced repeatedly in the pages of Cosmopolitan Shorthander and eventually was challenged to prove her case by another teacher of typewriting from her own city. The challenger, one Louis Taub, proclaimed the superiority of four-finger typing on the Caligraph. This was a rival machine which had been brought out in 1881 by Densmore's former partner, Yost. It came equipped with a six-row keyboard, accommodating upper- and lower-case keys to make up for its lack of the Remington's shift-action. In 1888, when the first public speed-typing competition was organized which put to the test these contending systems, the honor of Mrs Longley and the Remington was vindicated by a Federal Court stenographer from Salt Lake City who had taught himself to type on a Remington No. 1, way back in 1878. Frank E. McGurrin, the man who entered the lists as their champion against Louis Taub, already had won fame in demonstrations before gasping audiences throughout the West, because, in addition to deploying the `all-finger' technique, he had memorized the QWERTY keyboard. -- Paul A. David: "Understanding the Economics of QWERTY: the Necessity of History", Economic History and the Modern Economist (William N. Parker ed., Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1986), pp.30-49.

Scrutinizing the Cosmopolitan Shorthander, from June/1884 to February/1889 issues, I could find only one article that denounced eight-finger typing (cf. "Typewriting Instruction", The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.8, No.5 (May 1887), p.113) but no other. Denounced repeatedly? No. Several articles recommended use of the ring finger and sometimes the little finger. If Prof. David really read the Cosmopolitan Shorthander, he would never mistake the competitor's name, Mr. Louis Traub, for Taub, and would never argue that Mr. Frank Edward McGurrin vindicated Mrs. Elizabeth Margaret Vater Longley.

In 1888 Mr. Louis Traub was a principal of Longley's Shorthand and Typewriting Institute, Cincinnati (cf. "The Challenge Accepted", The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.9, No.6 (June 1888), p.155). He had been an eight-finger typist on Caligraph No.2 since Mrs. Longley moved to Los Angeles in May, 1885 (cf. "Elias Longley's Farewell", The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.6, No.11 (November 1885), p.200). Mr. Traub did not challenge Mrs. Longley, but he vindicated her eight-finger method. Mr. Frank Edward McGurrin was an official stenographer of the Third District Court in Salt Lake City, not of the Federal Court there (cf. "The Question Settled", The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.9, No.8 (September 1888), pp.226-227). He was an all-finger typist on Remington No.2 and could operate it blindfolded (cf. "The Metropolitan Stenographers' Association Typewriter Contest", The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.9, No.8 (September 1888), pp.217-218). Mr. McGurrin did not vindicate Mrs. Longley, but he was challenged by one of her pupils. On July 25, 1888, Mr. McGurrin won the typewriter competition in Cincinnati against Mr. Traub. After the competition, Mr. Traub threw his Caligraph away, and started to practice with Remington (cf. "McGurrin vs. Traub", The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.10, No.2 (February 1889), pp.21-23).

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).

Monday, August 14, 2006

Then a crucial event in 1888 probably added the decisive increment to QWERTY's small advantage. Longley was challenged to prove the superiority of her eight-finger method by Louis Taub, another Cincinnati typing teacher, who worked with four fingers on a rival non-QWERTY keyboard with six rows, no shift action, and (therefore) separate keys for upper and lower case letters. As her champion Longley engaged Frank E. McGurrin, an experienced QWERTY typist who had given himself a decisive advantage that, apparently, no one had thought of before. He had memorized the QWERTY keyboard and could therefore operate his machine as all competent typists do today - by what we now call touch-typing. McGurrin trounced Taub in a well-advertised and well-reported public competition. -- Stephen Jay Gould: "The Panda's Thumb of Technology", Natural History, Vol.96, No.1 (January 1987), pp.14-23.

Prof. Gould's article shown above is totally a fable. First, in the typing contest at Cincinnati on July 25, 1888, Mr. Frank Edward McGurrin competed with Mr. Louis Traub, not Taub. Second, Mrs. Elizabeth Margaret Vater Longley was never challenged by Mr. Louis Traub in 1888. In May, 1885, Mrs. Longley left Cincinnati to Los Angeles, transferring her Shorthand and Type-Writer Institute to her pupils including Mr. Louis Traub. Third, Mr. Louis Traub was after Mrs. Longley, so he was also an eight-finger typist on Caligraph No.2. Furthermore, Mr. Traub could operate Caligraph No.2 with a blank keyboard. Fourth and last, Mr. Frank Edward McGurrin was never engaged by Mrs. Longley. At the beginning Mr. McGurrin challenged to public on typing speed, then Mr. Traub of Longley's Institute accepted the challenge. Mr. McGurrin won the competition, writing 8709 words in ninety minutes on Remington No.2, while Mr. Traub reached 6938 words on Caligraph No.2.

Additionally, Mr. Frank Edward McGurrin and Mr. Louis Traub competed again on January 22, 1889, at Cincinnati. At this time both competitors operated Remington No.2. Mr. Traub was given a handicap of ten percent and won the competition, writing 434 words in five minutes, while Mr. McGurrin wrote 447 words (cf. "McGurrin vs. Traub", The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.10, No.2 (February 1889), pp.21-23).

Friday, August 11, 2006

Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 13, 1887.
Editor the Typewriter Operator.
In view of the large number of typewriter operators now in the country, the various kinds of typewriters in use, and the conflicting statements as to what speed can be and has been attained by different operators, and on different machines, it seems to me the question of speed on typewriters should, if possible, be determined in some way. To this end, therefore, I desire to make, through your valuable paper, the official organ of typewriting, the following announcement: -
I hereby challenge any one or more typewriter operators to a speed contest in typewriting, for a purse of not less than five hundred dollars, which shall be contributed pro rata by those competing, proper provision as to forfeits being made; to take place in the city of Chicago, or any city in the United States west of Chicago, at any time during the months of July or August, 1888; provided, that, so far as I am concerned, if it take place in Salt Lake City, Utah, the purse need not exceed fifty dollars, and the contest may take place at any time; the writing to consist of copying, for not less than two hours, of ordinary court proceedings, new to the operators; the writing to be done in full English longhand, on any machine having both capitals and small letters; and the contest to be decided by three competent and disinterested judges.
Any suggestions will be thankfully received.
F. E. McGurrin.

-- "Still Another Challenge", The Typewriter Operator, Vol.1, No.10 (January 1888), p.51.

January 1888 issue of The Typewriter Operator published Mr. Frank Edward McGurrin's letter to challenge to public on typing speed. His other letter was printed on February issue of The Typewriter Operator (Vol.1, No.11, p.56) and it was reprinted on May issue of The Cosmopolitan Shorthander (Vol.9, No.5, p.123). Then, June issue of The Cosmopolitan Shorthander published a letter of the acceptance:

To the Editor of the Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Toronto, Canada.
Dear Sir, - I have read the challenge published in the last number of your paper, issued by Mr. Frank McGurrin of Salt Lake City, and as you seem anxious that some one should accept this challenge, I wish hereby to signify my readiness to do so. Mr. McGurrin's challenge is in the main fair, still I wish to modify it as follows:
First, instead of making the test of one half hour's duration, I propose it be at least three hours.
Second, I would insist that the dictator be chosen by each contestant, and that the matter to be dictated be of a character that will secure a fair test of speed.
Third, I will under no circumstances consent that Messrs. Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict or any other manufacturers of writing machines shall become the stakeholders, or be in any way, directly or indirectly, connected with the test, since I propose that this shall be a fair and impartial test of speed.
If this be satisfactory to Mr. McGurrin, I stand ready to make the necessary deposit and proceed further with the preliminaries of the contest.
Very respectfully yours,
Louis Traub.
Longley's Shorthand and Typewriting Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio.
May 27th, 1888.

-- "The Challenge Accepted", The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.9, No.6 (June 1888), p.155.

On July 25, 1888, at Cincinnati, Mr. Frank Edward McGurrin and Mr. Louis Traub competed typing speed for $500. Mr. McGurrin operated Remington No.2 and Mr. Traub did Caligraph No.2. The ninety-minute competition was half from dictation and half from manuscript. Mr. McGurrin won the competition, writing 8709 words, while Mr. Traub reached 6938 words (cf. "The Question Settled", The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.9, No.8 (September 1888), pp.226-227).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Frank E. McGurrin of Salt Lake City, the official stenographer for the Federal Court there, developed independently from Longley the true touch typing method. Namely, he typed with ten fingers, and without looking at the keyboard. Any pioneer who suggested that typists need not look at the keys was jeered as a faker. -- Hisao Yamada: "A Historical Study of Typewriters and Typing Methods: from the Position of Planning Japanese Parallels", Journal of Information Processing, Vol.2, No.4 (February 1980), pp.175-202.

Mr. Frank Edward McGurrin was at the position of official stenographer of the Third District Court in Salt Lake City from 1886 to 1894 (cf. "The Court Stenographer", The Salt Lake Tribune, Vol.43, No.273 (January 23, 1894), p.5, l.2). He was at the Third District Court, and has never been at the Federal Court there. Surely Mr. McGurrin could operate his Remington No.2 blindfolded, using all the fingers. He was never jeered as a faker, but gained respect and admiration for his skill (cf. F. E. McGurrin: "Typewriting without Looking at the Keyboard", The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.9, Nos.11&12 (December 1888), pp.249-250).

Monday, August 07, 2006

Now Cincinnati had another typewriting teacher besides Mrs. Longley, a certain Louis Taub, who took a poor view of ten-fingered typists. He believed, like the editors of the Cosmopolitan Shorthander, that four fingers were plenty. Moreover, Taub thought that the Remington and Remington's shift for capital letters was outmoded by the Caligraph and Caligraph's double keyboard with its two keys per letter, one upper- and the other lower-case. Finally, Taub felt reasonably certain that he was the fastest typewriter operator in the world. -- Bruce Bliven, Jr.: The Wonderful Writing Machine, Random House, New York (1954), p.114.

His name was Louis Traub, not Taub. When Mrs. Elizabeth Margaret Vater Longley left Cincinnati to Los Angeles in May, 1885, she transferred her Shorthand and Type-Writer Institute to two of her pupils, Messrs. William H. Wagner and Louis Traub. Mr. Louis Traub mainly operated Caligraph No.2 at that time, but he never believed that four fingers were plenty. He was after Mrs. M. V. Longley and used her eight-finger method on Caligraph No.2. Thus he could operate Caligraph No.2 with a blank keyboard. Mr. Traub exhibited his skill with the blank keyboard at the Cincinnati Exposition in 1886 and at the Indiana State Fair in 1887 (cf. History of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio; S. B. Nelson, Cincinnati (1894), pp.735-737). Mr. Bliven's story about "Louis Taub" is nothing but a fiction.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

In 1882, the Shorthand and Typewriter Institute in Cincinnati was founded by one Ms. Longley, who chose to adopt, among the many competing keyboard arrangements, the QWERTY system. As the school became well-known her teaching methods became the industry standard, even adopted by Remington, which also began to set up typing schools using QWERTY. -- Michael Shermer: "Exorcising Laplace's Demon", History and Theory, Vol.34, No.1 (February 1995), pp.59-83.

Mrs. Elizabeth Margaret Vater Longley surely published "Type-Writer Lessons for the Use of Teachers and Learners Adapted to Remington's Perfected Type-Writers" in 1882 to spread her eight-finger method. However, Mrs. M. V. Longley never stuck to Remington and never chose to adopt QWERTY. She also published "Caligraph Lessons for the Use of Teachers and Learners Designed to Develop Accurate and Reliable Operators" in 1882 with her eight-finger method. She taught her eight-finger typewriting method with Remington Type-Writer No.2 (QWERTY) and also with Caligraph No.2 (non-QWERTY) until she left Cincinnati on the last day of May, 1885.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Printing Telegraphic Dispatches. -- The Western Union Telegraph Company is now putting in a new patent telegraph printing machine on the Chicago line and hereafter dispatches transmitted over this line will be printed as they are received at the office in this city. The machine is furnished with keys similar to a piano, each key representing a letter in the alphabet, and by a peculiar mechanical arrangement each letter is printed as it is received at the office. Thus all mistakes arising from blind chirography will be thoroughly appreciated by our citizens. The machine will be put into operation this afternoon. -- Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, Vol.24, No.232 (October 9, 1867), p.1, l.4.

On the days around in 1867 Mr. Christopher Latham Sholes often visited the office of the Western Union Telegraph Company in Milwaukee (cf. Chas. E. Weller: The Early History of the Typewriter, La Porte (1921)). Keyboard of Hughes-Phelps printing telegraphHe saw the Hughes-Phelps printing telegraph there. Its key­board looked like a piano, arrang­ing A to N left to right and O to Z right to left (shown right, taken from U. S. Patent No.26003). Mr. Sholes adopted a piano-like keyboard in his Type-Writing Machine, in which he could place but twenty-one keys (U. S. Patent No.79265) and later twenty-eight keys (cf. "Writing by Machinery", Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, Vol.26, No.236 (October 6, 1869), p.1, l.4). He changed the keys into button-like ones in April of 1870 (cf. Chas. E. Weller: The Early History of the Typewriter, La Porte (1921)) when he invented a new Type-Writer with a four-row keyboard, in which each row consisted of ten or eleven keys (U. S. Patent No.182511 but it has only three rows). In his new model Mr. Sholes moved vowels to the upper row of the keyboard in order to put the twenty-six letters in ten columns (shown below, taken from Koichi Yasuoka: "QWERTY Revisited", Journal of Information Processing and Management, Vol.48, No.2 (May 2005), pp.115-118). This is the origin of QWERTY.

Origin of QWERTY

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sholes discovered that many English words contained combinations of letters next to each other in the alphabet. ... His solution was as simple as it was ingenious: move common letter-pairs away from each other. He went about the task in a scientific way. He got the educator Amos Densmore (his sponsor's brother) to prepare a frequency study of letter-pairs in the English language. He then used the study to split up as many common letter-combinations as he could and scatter them across his keyboard. When he was finished, the result was the alphabet soup that is the QWERTY keyboard. -- Torbjörn Lundmark: Quirky QWERTY, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney (2002).

Wrong. The most common letter-pair in English words is "th", which is placed adjacently in the QWERTY keyboard. The second is "er" + "re", also placed in the neighborhood of one another. They never stay away in the QWERTY keyboard. Mr. Lundmark's story does not tell the truth of QWERTY.

Additionally, Mr. Amos Densmore was not an educator at that time in 1860's. He was then a proprietor of Densmore Oil Company at Meadville, Pennsylvania, which manufactured train cars for transporting petroleum (cf. U. S. Patent No.53794).