Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The QWERTY Conspiracy

I am really mad at someone, or maybe a lot of people. I just wish I knew who they were, so I could yell at them. You see, I can’t type. Up until yesterday, I thought that was largely my own fault. Up until yesterday I took full ownership of the fact that I avoided high school typing class like the plague. At the time, I think I would have rather cut a few fingers off in shop class than have sat through one hour of typing, and ironically, the way I type, missing a few digits would not slow me down at all.

As I write this, I am using the index fingers on both hands, along with the middle finger on my right hand and occasionally, the ring finger on my left hand. My thumbs operate the space bar, and that’s it. Six fingers out of ten make up my typing tools. I look like E.T. phoning home on the Speak and Spell. Since I don’t have proper typing form, I have to look at the keyboard instead of the screen while I type. I did not see this entence being written.

Now, since I am a writer and an author, you may be wondering to yourself, what’s the matter with you? Believe me, I have been wondering the same thing for years! I actually type pretty fast using my caveman style, but yesterday I figured that I’d better finally bite the bullet and teach myself to type correctly. I was curious how fast I currently type with my head-down, six-finger style, so I timed myself. I cruise at 50-60 words per minute, with occasional bursts of up to 3,000 words per minute when I get into sentences like, “I am at an inn.”

I was pretty impressed with myself until I looked up average typing speeds. I am definitely not dragging the world-wide average down, but I was shocked to read about how Stella Pajunas banged out 216 words per minute on a typewriter in 1946. That’s impressive. Then I learned about Barbara Blackburn, and how she could hold steady for hours at 150 words per minute, with a top speed of 212. That was also impressive. Then I learned that Barbara didn’t use a standard QWERTY keyboard. She used a Dvorak Simplified Keyboard.

Excuse me? A what?

That is when I started to get mad. The QWERTY keyboard layout has always seemed a little off to me, but I just figured that it was laid out in some optimal manner for true typists that my small brain couldn’t understand because I don’t type correctly. That could not be further from the truth! It turns out the keyboard layout was designed strictly from a mechanical point of view, to keep the first typewriters from jamming. If you are under 40 years old, you will just have to take my word for it. The first typewriters had long “hammers” with the letters on the ends of them, and when you pressed the key, the hammer had to swing up and out and hit the paper. I know, crazy, right! OMG, how did people even live back then?

Are you kidding me, typewriter manufacturers? And are you even more kidding me, first word processer manufacturers? There was a better keyboard and you guys never adopted it? Now I’m trying to learn how to type correctly, and I am burdened by the knowledge that this infernal keyboard layout has absolutely nothing to do with typing efficiency or ease? Now I’m really mad! Why did I just have to hit the “shift” key and the “1” key to make an exclamation point? Why do I have to hit “shift” to make a question mark? There it is again! And again. Why would either of these frequently used punctuations get second billing to a number and a slash?!?

And why is my right pinky finger wasting away over here resting on the colon key? I use a colon about twice a year. I use a semicolon never. And why are the vowels spread all over the keyboard like a shotgun blast? What are F,G,J, and K doing in the home row? Look at a Scrabble board, people. Those are high value letters[shift][1]

And speaking of brackets, how is it that the normal (parentheses) are “shift” keys that live over the “9” and the “0” in the infernal top row, but the ridiculous [brackets] and {whatever these are called} that nobody ever uses end up being main keys?

The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard is genius. At least, it’s way more genius than this now confounding QWERTY mess. The home row of keys on the Dvorak is AOEUIDHTNS. Imagine that! Being able to type the word “the” without having to lift a finger. I’d call that genius. Why wasn’t this immediately adopted the day after IBM came out with their first electric typewriter? Or at the very least, when the first word processor came along???? Sure, it might have been painful for a week or two for anyone who could already fly on the QWERTY, but let’s be serious; they would have learned the Dvorak quicker than anyone. If you can master this stupendously incomprehensible key layout, you can learn anything. You could be a classical guitar player, a rocket scientist, or a genetic physicist, if that’s even a thing. If you can type 100 words per minute on a keyboard that has F and J as your home keys, you have no limits.

I really do want to finally learn how to type, but now I’m conflicted. I think maybe I want to hold off, and instead, launch a nationwide campaign to adopt the Dvorak keyboard. If it catches on, I could save myself a ton of time and headache.

Maybe I’ll roll the metric system into the campaign as well. Its time is finally coming, too. I can feel it!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!


  1. Hey Smidge, Kurt Alderman here. First off, great piece! Second, I played against this guy, Ron Mingo, when I was with the Sacramento Smokey's umpteen years ago. Watch some of the videos. He'd bring his type writer to the ball park and put on a typing display, then turn around and put on a hitting display. I don't know what was more impressive, his typing, the homeruns he hit, or the amount of talking he did while playing. He was kind of a pain in the ass really, but a great guy. Here is the link,

  2. What a great video! That guy sounds like a character. I loved the story in the article when he gives up 8 runs pitching, moves over to play first base and yells, "Mingo, you suck!" Hilarious.
    Thanks, Kurt!