Friday, July 06, 2007

In the late 1800s, there was no standard pattern for the arrangement of letters on the typewriter keyboard. Then in 1873 Christopher Scholes helped design a "new improved" layout. The layout became known as QWERTY, after the letter arrangement of the six letters in the top left row. QWERTY was chosen to maximize the distance between the most frequently used letters. This was a good solution in its day, it deliberately slowed down the typist, and reduced the jamming of keys on manual typewriters. By 1904, the Remington Sewing Machine Company of New York was mass-producing typewriters with this layout, and it became the de facto industry standard. -- Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff: Thinking Strategically, W. W. Norton, New York (1991).

It is proper that there was no standard arrangement for the typewriter keyboard before 1873, since there had been no commercial typewriter before 1873. QWERTY keyboard was designed by Mr. Christopher Latham Sholes, not Scholes, for the first commercial typewriter manufactured by E. Remington & Sons. In fact, Mr. Sholes didn't intend to maximize the distance between the most frequently used letters. In English the most frequently-used letter sequence is "th". You see T and H are near on QWERTY. The second frequently-used letter sequence is "er" + "re", where E and R are next to one another on QWERTY.

Furthermore, the Remington Sewing Machine Company, a subsidiary of E. Remington & Sons, was a manufacturer of the sewing machines, but it never manufactured any typewriters. The Remington Sewing Machine Company was absorbed by the Remington Arms Company in March, 1888, so it never existed in 1904. E. Remington & Sons sold its typewriter division to Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict in March, 1886, and the rest of E. Remington & Sons was bought by Hartley & Graham in February, 1888, forming the Remington Arms Company.