UX Pickle

Why are keyboard keys staggered?

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On every keyboard, the keys are staggered a little amount to the left of the previous row. Both Q and A are located above and somewhat to the left of Z. This is a recurring theme throughout the board.

What is the reason for such a design?

Essentially, this is a form of path dependency. The mechanical links between the keys and the levers necessitated a staggered configuration.

What followed was a matter of industry’s capabilities and people’s familiarity. As a result, most people haven’t made the switch to a matrix (non-staggered) layout since. Even though there are better layouts out there, most people still use the qwerty layout.

Since many individuals had previously learned to type on mechanical typewriters at the time of the first computers’ development, using the old design for marketing and avoiding the need to retrain was advantageous.

Typewriters vs. Keyboards

Typewriters had been around for more than a century by the time computers were invented, and they had undergone a significant change in that period. This progression has had one constant: the positioning of keys on the keyboard.

The Sholes and Glidden typewriter, invented in 1868, is where the “QWERTY” keyboard comes from. Since then, there have been many other typewriters, but the Sholes and Glidden one has been the most popular. The inventors’ notes reveal that they based their keyboard on the pianos (there were only two rows of keys originally).

What about the arguments in favor of preserving the keyboard’s original configuration? This is most probably due to the reason that such a design is more ergonomic:

  • Each key in the center has six equidistant neighbors when the rows are shifted in relation to one another. These six keys can be conveniently accessed by a single finger. Only four direct neighbors would have existed for each key in the rectangular grid; the other four neighbors would have been approximately 1.4 times further away.
  • The triangle grid is more ergonomic with a 10-finger typing mode since the fingers rarely have to travel more than one key away from their “home” position.
  • A rectangular grid is used for the “virtual keyboard” on mobile devices and tablets on most devices. A rectangular keyboard is preferred on smartphones since no one employs a 10-finger typing style.

It can be said that typewriter keyboards are far superior to modern ones in terms of convenience and efficiency. It’s just more comfortable for folks who type with their actual fingers.

However, you can still get high-quality computer keyboards. However, they are frequently sold at a greater price as “gaming” or “professional” keyboards. Using a keyboard from the Windows XP or Vista period is as excellent as using one on a gaming PC for typing speed and accuracy. The problem is that they may not work with your device, as most were not made with USB or wifi connections.

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