The iPhone, iPad, and the End of QWERTY

“It is just a tragedy that we are taking QWERTY into a new era of devices” – Alec Longstreth in a Wall Street Journal article on this topic.

“The solution was to place commonly used letter-pairs (like ‘th’ or ‘st’) so that their typebars were not neighboring, avoiding jams. While it is often said that QWERTY was designed to “slow down” typists, this is incorrect – it was designed to prevent jams while typing at speed” – Wikipedia

For as long as I can remember, there have been attempts to displace QWERTY as the dominant Latin character keyboard layout – if only because the hardware problem QWERTY solved no longer exists.

Back college, I remember a fellow geek blacking out his keyboard and re-mapping it to Dvorak.

Efforts like the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard or Maltron are designed to increase typing efficiency (minimizing finger movement) by ordering characters based on frequent letter combinations within a specific language. In the case of the Neo layout – German is the target language.

The iPhones’ soft keyboard has quite a few layouts in it; QWERTY, numeric + punctuation, 9 key, URL-optimized, email address-optimized, not to mention all the international options.

While I only have the iPod Touch and it is missing some of the capabilities of the iPhone – I haven’t seen any mechanical typebars that may collide if I type too fast.

I have seen signs of a sophisticated spelling correction engine – which I imagine wouldn’t have to work so hard if the alphabet wasn’t all jumbled up on screen.

The larger format of the forthcoming Apple iPad, JooJoo, and HP Tablet, have the potential to be easier to write on – an write more on than on smaller phones. This with the increasing number of electronic devices with soft keyboards provide an huge opportunity to re-evaluate the usability of our keyboard layouts. Let’s find one that doesn’t apologize for the failings of a 125 year old technology.

Perhaps there’s an app for that?

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