Keyboard Story #AToZChallenge




11th of April is the “K” day, right? And what “K” invention did I choose today? Yes, it is the “KEYBOARD”. As long as you live in this century then you must have used, seen or even heard about keyboards (if not, then you are an Alien my friend). We use keyboard in everything these days. We have musical keyboards, digits security keyboards, …. etc. But, most importantly is the Computer Keyboard. 

For my introduction I’ll quote a paragraph that says my idea in the best way possible: 

We use it practically every day of our natural lives yet we don’t know much about the keyboard, do we? Or at least, we don’t know much about how old the concept is and how far back they actually go, because believe it or not, keyboards were not always used for computers. Besides the musical instrument, there were many earlier forms of keyboards around throughout history, but it wasn’t until the true niche of the keyboard was revealed in the 20th century that it found its home with personal computers.

The invention of the modern computer keyboard began with the invention of the typewriter. Typewriters had been invented as early as 1714 by Henry Mill and reinvented in various forms throughout the 1800s. It was to be Christopher Latham Sholes, however, who invented the first one to be commercially successful. Sholes patented the typewriter that we commonly use today in 1868. The Remington Company mass marketed the first typewriters starting in 1877. 

The Sholes typewriter had a type-bar system and the universal keyboard was the machine’s novelty, however, the keys jammed easily. To solve the jamming problem, another business associate, James Densmore, suggested splitting up keys for letters commonly used together to slow down typing. This became today’s standard “QWERTY” keyboard. Other sources suggests that Matthew Roper is the one who invented the QWERTY layout back in 1875 but I actually didn’t find any historical proof of it. 

A few key technological developments created the transition of the typewriter into the computer keyboard. The teletype machine, introduced in the 1930s, combined the technology of the typewriter (used as an input and a printing device) with the telegraph. Elsewhere, punched card systems were combined with typewriters to create what was called keypunches. Keypunches were the basis of early adding machines and IBM was selling over one million dollars worth of adding machines in 1931.

The keyboard on the teleprinter played a strong role in point-to-point and point-to-multipoint communication for most of the 20th century, while the keyboard on the keypunch device played a strong role in data entry and storage for just as long. The development of the earliest computers incorporated electric typewriter keyboards: the development of the ENIAC computer incorporated a keypunch device as both the input and paper-based output device, while the BINAC computer also made use of an electromechanically controlled typewriter for both data entry onto magnetic tape (instead of paper) and data output. 

The keyboard remained the primary, most integrated computer peripheral well into the era of personal computing until the introduction of the mouse as a consumer device in 1984. By this time, text-only user interfaces with sparse graphics gave way to comparatively graphics-rich icons on screen. However, keyboards remain central to human-computer interaction to the present, even as mobile personal computing devices such as smartphones and tablets adapt the keyboard as an optional virtual, touchscreen-based means of data entry.


4 thoughts on “Keyboard Story #AToZChallenge

  1. Loved that picture with the keyboard that’s there and that isn’t! And really enjoyed your post about its history, very interesting! What caught my attention is that this setup was created to SLOW DOWN typing? As in: we could type quicker if the letters were placed differently? Why do we stick to this then? lol I know it would be hard to change it everywhere we got used to it so much but it’s a tad annoying that we’re not using the best setup though!
    Thanks for this, following your blog now!
    Andrea, #atozchallenge Mighty Minion Asset

    • It was slowing them down because fast typing was jamming old typewriters
      this problem is nothing now, but unfortunately it would take a lot to change the most famous layout 🙂

  2. Not your run-of-the-mill keyboard rundown. That explains why the DVORAK layout can do so well on computers. Without the mechanicals to get jammed up, we can revert to a layout more conducive to our ergonomics. Unfortunately, QWERTY is so entrenched, it’s been difficult to change.

    Jean, visiting for the A-Z Challenge from Rantings and Ravings of an Insane Writer

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