[Purdue-pm] Dvorak vs. QWERTY

Mark Senn mark at ecn.purdue.edu
Wed Jul 20 19:15:16 PDT 2011

  > A followup to yesterday's meeting, I enclose a rather heavy article on
  > why Dvorak keyboard may not be better than QWERTY. The article comes
  > from the economic view of why, if Dvorak was so better, it did not
  > displace QWERTY.
  > http://www.utdallas.edu/~liebowit/keys1.html
  > Basically the article says that the few studies that supposedly prove
  > the superiority of Dvorak are potentially flawed.  Also the article
  > points out there were many more keyboards beside the QWERTY one during
  > in the early years of the invention of the typewriter.  With lots of
  > competition between manufacturers and keyboards why did QWERTY win out
  > ... unless it was the best or at least 'good enough'.
  > -- 
  > Rick Westerman 
  > westerman at purdue.edu

The paper was published in 1990.  Lots has happened in Biomechanics,
Economics, Ergonomics, and Human Factors research since then.
You may want to Google for "dvorak vs qwerty" for more up-to-date
information.  You may find the
web page interesting.

This preceding paragraph had "Overall Effort" scores of
1048 for QWERTY and 817 for Dvorak using the web page.

A "j" is very easy to type on a QWERTY keyboard but it is the least
frequent letter in Fedora 15's /usr/share/dict/words dictionary---that
doesn't make a lot of sense.  The word "the" occurs relatvely frequently
in English text.  On a QWERTY keyboard two of the three keys needed are
not on the home row---on a Dvorak keyboard they are all on the home row.

I've checked to see if people not in the Purdue Human Factors and
Ergonomic Society can attend the (tentative title) "Keyboard Evolution"
talk I'm giving to them in September---will send out another note when I
know one way or another.  I'll also be putting the talk information on the
web after that but in a different format.

As far as I know as of right now, no one has done a definitive study for
exactly how much effort it takes to type a "j" vs.  typing a "k" for
example.  There are lots of metrics used but I've been unable to find
definitive underlying science so metrics can be compared scientifically.

My take on why QWERTY is more popular: it's hard to displace a
technology that is already in place.  Mice are commonly used
for desktop computers---I find ITAC mouse-trak trackballs more
comfortable and use those.  For a person that buys a computer that
comes with a QWERTY keyboard it takes extra effort to configure
the computer to use Dvorak or buy a Dvorak keyboard----some people
don't want to go to that effort or take the time to learn Dvorak
even though it may save time and repetitive strain injuries in the future.


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