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May 16, 2024 42 mins

If you're like most folks in the West, your laptop and phone use something called the QWERTY keyboard, named for the six letters at the upper left of the board. At first glance, this layout makes no sense. It's not in alphabetical order, and most of the typing is done by the left hand. So how did we end up with this thing? Join Ben, Noel and Max as they break down the strange story of the QWERTY keyboard -- and why it remains so commonplace today.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Ridiculous History is a production of iHeartRadio. Welcome back to

(00:27):
the show, Ridiculous Historians. Thank you, as always so much
for tuning in. Let's give a tippity tap tip of
the cap to our super producer, mister Max Williams. I
am the quirity of your heart.

Speaker 2 (00:40):
Yes you are, theory, oh man. I love the word
quirity as a word. I know it's not actually a word,
but everything words. It's American English. Everything can be a word.
I'm Ben Bullen, your no old brown.

Speaker 1 (00:55):
We are we are indeed talking about the quirty keyboard.
If you are listening on your phone, folks, and if
you are in a safe place you're not driving, why
not pull up your text message app and look at
the little clickity clack keyboard on there. There is a
very high likelihood that at the top left of that

(01:18):
keyboard you will see the following letters Q W, E
R T. Why in that order? Why that's today? Because
we like you? Yeah right, because we like you. Yeah,
it's Queerity. Is the keyboard layout on your laptop, it's
on your phone, It's freaking everywhere, And we kid you not, folks.

(01:42):
The design makes no sense, nol. This is actually something
that I was talking about with Dylan's new dad, Mister
McKenzie suggested this episode. So, mister m if you're tuning in,
great idea.

Speaker 2 (01:56):
Sir, love that all in the family here on ridiculous.

Speaker 1 (02:00):
Yeah.

Speaker 2 (02:01):
It's one of those things though, where I think we
all had a moment when we were young where we
thought we were real clever for noticing that the keyboard
was not in alphabetical order.

Speaker 1 (02:10):
Look at us being observant and stuff. Right, yeah, Oh,
and we you mentioned that's Dylan Fagot. It's good to do. Yeah, Dylan, Dylan.
It Dylan. Yeah, it's Dylan. Oh yeah, you guys, So
who's here?

Speaker 2 (02:29):
Oh he's my friend.

Speaker 1 (02:32):
God, that's a fun w Yeah, Dylan, good friend of
the show, recently entered into a marriage. It's true, it's true.

Speaker 2 (02:46):
But did you guys ever have did you guys have
that aha moment or you patted yourself on the back
for Wait a minute, I'm so clever for noticing this.

Speaker 1 (02:54):
What's what gives? I was twenty three?

Speaker 2 (02:56):
There you go, Hey, guys, I still have to look
up how to tie it tie on YouTube. There's no
shame in any of this stuff.

Speaker 1 (03:02):
I thought there was a secret message encoded in the
keyboard layout. The young Ben Bullen concluded that was the
only reason you would put these letters in this order.
That Ben Bullen was incorrect, but it is. It is
something that seems rife with questions, does it not? And

(03:23):
people have that moment of epiphany you were describing NOL.
If you were to look at a standard keyboard layout
for a computer phone today, you will clock that the
letters are not arranged in alphabetical order. The querity keyboard
is called the quarity keyboard because it's named for those
six letters in the top left, just under the numbers,

(03:46):
reading left to right. Here's the thing, Though everybody knows
there are theoretically more efficient keyboard layouts available, why don't
you just put all the commonly used letters to get well?

Speaker 2 (04:00):
And you know, with the advents of the iPhone, for example,
and the evolution of the communication on those devices or whatever.
If Android does also applies to you, you can sub
in different keyboard layouts pretty easily. You can get custom
keyboard layouts. You know, the world is your typographical oyster.

(04:21):
And we will talk about some alternatives to quirty, But
why don't we first talk about typewriters. Yeah, because you
couldn't boiler, couldn't subend different keyboard sets on those bad boys.

Speaker 1 (04:33):
Right, Even the default keyboard layout you get on any
phone in the Anglo sphere is going to be querity. Yes.
And here's why go back in time with us, folks.
It's eighteen seventy four when Remington and Suns manufactures the

(04:57):
first commercial typewriter they call the Shoals and Glitten typewriter
or the Remington Number one.

Speaker 2 (05:05):
Didn't Remington also make guns, poppy cocks, baldered kettle, But
I guess there's a certain amount of machining that that
both devices share. But you know, the pen is mightier
than the gun, that's right, Ben. The Shoals and Glidden
typewriter or Remington Number one used a mechanism designed by

(05:25):
Christopher Latham Shoals and Carlos Glidden. These were two men
along with Samuel Sole, who patented this design, and in
order to continue in their work with you know, these
types of machines, they sought funding and Shoals reached out
to a former business associate by the name of James

(05:48):
Denzmol who encouraged Sholes to work on the layout a
little bit the very thing that we're talking about to
kind of improve the let's call it ergonomics of the
keyboard layout.

Speaker 1 (06:01):
Right, yeah, yeah, And we're getting a lot of this
from our alma matter how stuff works. There's a fantastic
article by our old pal Chris Pollette. Remember Chris from
tech Stuff, of course, were the founding fathers of tech Stuff.

Speaker 2 (06:15):
I never knew him personally. I sort of knew him
as the Text Stuff co host of the past. I
always knew Jonathan post Pullette.

Speaker 1 (06:22):
They made a They made a heck of a team.
Chris was a Chris is a librarian. Now he was
like that famously Taciturn president. Who was it, Woodrow Wilson.
You love that guy, right, I got my alliterations. Just

(06:43):
remember when it comes to Woodrow Wilson. Kim okay, guys,
really quickly off, that's a top from it.

Speaker 2 (06:52):
It's a good beat for max topic really quickly, just
talking about presidents and and I maybe have mentioned uh
In in discussing the much maligned Woodrow Wilson that his
boyhood home is in my hometown of Augusta, Georgia. And
Ben and I just took a little quick trip to
New York to hang out with our buddy A. J.

Speaker 1 (07:12):
Jacobs.

Speaker 2 (07:13):
Congratulations to AJ by the way, Bahamas the Puzzler on
his new book, The Year of Living Constitutionally. We got
to go to a really cool event that his publishing
company put on at the oldest tavern I believe in
New York City, Frances where George Washington hung out and
got tanked back in the day.

Speaker 1 (07:31):
But while I was.

Speaker 2 (07:32):
Wandering around with the good friend of the Show and
of You and I Ben Matt Riddle, we just randomly
were in the neighborhood where Theodore Roosevelt's boyhood home was,
and we took a tour and it's considered it's actually
overseen by the National Park Service, so we got a
tour from an actual facts park ranger in like a
New York brownstone which just seemed so weird, but they

(07:54):
rebuilt it, renovated it a lot of it from memory actually,
and you can actually go into all the rooms. Really
was like traveling back in time. Super cool like gas
lights type fixtures and all of the old furniture and wallpaper,
and it was really cool. So if anyone's ever in
that area, I highly recommend checking out the Teddy Roosevelt
boyhood home.

Speaker 1 (08:14):
Nice. Was there a typewriter in there?

Speaker 2 (08:16):
Don't think I saw a typewriter, But they did have
these washing basins because they didn't have running water. They
had like an outhouse. And one thing the tour guide
pointed out was the difference between being rich and poor
in New York was how many people you had to
share your outhouse with. So if you were rich, it
would just be the family. If you live in like
a tenement type space, you know, at like an old
school apartment complex, you might be sharing your outhouse with

(08:39):
hundreds of people, which would not be very pleasant.

Speaker 1 (08:43):
And this is the world in which Christopher Latham Shoals
and Carlos Glinton and Samuelsoul were attempting to create this
stunning new, very weird invention. This guy, James Densmore, encourages
the improvements on the prototype typewriter design. He also buys

(09:05):
out Carlos Glinden and Christopher Latham Shoals shares in this
great enterprise. Then Densmore runs to another guy, a guy
named George Washington Yost. Yosts I'm not.

Speaker 2 (09:18):
Familiar with familiar with Yoss, and the two of them
then connected with E. Remington and sons, who were looking
to kind of diversify their portfolio find new revenue streams
after the Civil War when they because again Remington, they

(09:38):
did in fact manufacture firearms. And after the war wrapped up,
this is not quite as hot a market as it
had been. I'm sure people were still buying straps, but
they wanted to sell some other stuff that was maybe
a little bit more for the peaceful citizens, thereby being
interested in something that could be a communication tool.

Speaker 1 (09:59):
Yes, towards the plowshares. Quite literally, they had the they
had the manufacturing capabilities that you mentioned earlier machine stuff, right, Yeah,
they already had the infrastructure and the factories and the
ability to machine small parts. They had at this time
begun making sewing machines as well. Take that singer. They said, yeah,

(10:22):
well we'll make whatever.

Speaker 3 (10:24):
You know.

Speaker 1 (10:24):
We gotta we've got to keep our factories running, so
we'll make your weird typing device. And in an unsurprising move,
the ancestor of the modern typewriter, the very first typewriter
looked a heck of a lot like a sewing machine.

Speaker 2 (10:40):
It is wild looking, dude, It's like a it looks
like something out of Hell Raiser.

Speaker 1 (10:45):
It doesn't look like an invention. It looks like a
contraption like Doctor SEUs.

Speaker 2 (10:50):
It's like a sphere or a half sphere with these
kind of protruding buttons on these long kind of stalks
with letters on them, but they weren't in a row
per se. It was almost this like weird like the
spherical array.

Speaker 1 (11:05):
Right. Yeah, yeah, astute description. And I see on the
Hell Raisers stuff it looks pinheady. Yeah, it looks cinamitic,
so sinnabetic, yeah, like a cinemat So the the inventors
didn't want to use a querity layout. They originally, as
they were refining this idea and making it look less hellish,

(11:29):
they originally wanted to have a two row keyboard with
the letters in straight up alphabetical order ABCD all the
way to Z. The actual Querity keyboard was not patented
until a few years later eighteen seventy eight. Remington's first
typewriters were already on the market, and they kind of sucked. Guys.

(11:52):
Quick backtrack my mistake.

Speaker 2 (11:54):
The thing I was just mean Ben and I were
describing was not the Remington typewriter. It was actually a
preda cessor to the Revings ten that came out in
eighteen seventy called the Ramus Mailing Hansen writing Ball that
came out in eighteen seventy, and the writing ball is
an appropriate description of this thing we describe. The Remington
model totally looked like a like a sewing machine. It

(12:17):
was even mounted on that same stand that had the
little foot control, which they must have just had, I
guess lying around. I don't know if the foot controller
was the reset like you know, you'd pull the thing back,
or what it actually functioned as, but it sure looked
like they were just using the parts they already had
to design the shoals in glidden typewriter.

Speaker 1 (12:39):
One hundred percent. And thank you for that clarification on
the writing ball, which is neat and maybe coming back
so invest now, but I think you're absolutely on the money.

Speaker 3 (12:51):
There, man.

Speaker 1 (12:52):
I believe that they had extra parts, extra components from
their sewing machines, and we're looking around and saying, well,
we got to do something with these pedals exactly.

Speaker 2 (13:05):
It's really a very what's the word kind of elegant design,
if probably not as efficient as typewriters.

Speaker 1 (13:12):
Went on to become Yeah, here's the problem. Speaking of efficiency,
the Remington typewriters are already on the market. The Querity
keyboard comes later. The issue is this. The machines that
Remington is selling use a mechanism wherein each key on
the keyboard connects to a metal bar with the corresponding letter.

(13:36):
You can see this in any typewriter layout today. And
when you hit the key, then a linkage swings that
bar into a ribbon that is just drenched in ink,
stamps it on that paper. Right, that's it, It's exactly
what it does. It hits a stamp. This is an
automated stamping machine. It creates an impression of the character

(13:58):
into the paper, which is of course behind the tape.
And then the bar like you hit B and then
kitching B hits the paper or hits the ribbon, which
puts the ink on the paper, and then B swings
back and it settles into place in theory until you
press that key again. Max, can we get a typewriter sound?

(14:20):
I don't love that.

Speaker 2 (14:21):
It's such a satisfying sound. I mean it truly is.

Speaker 1 (14:24):
Now hit us with a ding onto the next line.

Speaker 2 (14:26):
Wait did we jam? Oh no, we're jamming jammed. This
is a history jam.

Speaker 1 (14:36):
I said, did we jammed? That's just a typo for
the show, and that leads us to the problem. Though
the problem is pretty apparent pretty quickly.

Speaker 2 (14:52):
The faster someone typed, the less time there was for
those little metal bars to swing back into his position.
So there would essentially be a lag that, when typed
sufficiently fast on, these machines would jam like not in
the cool, you know, fish kind of way, like literally

(15:14):
catch like run into each other, or they would just
become it would be like too much input and not
enough time for it to catch up essentially, right.

Speaker 1 (15:23):
Yeah, Because now you have one of the bars for
one letter swinging forward while another bar is already still
on the page right or on its way back to
its resting position. This is when the typewriter jams. And
this still happens with typewriters today, especially if you're typing

(15:47):
at a furious, you know, all work and no play
type cadence. But the popular story goes that Shoals created
the querity keyboard layout by purposely making it inefficient, putting
the most commonly used letters in hard to reach spots

(16:07):
to slow typers down and reduce the likelihood of jamming
the typewriter, And isn't that funny?

Speaker 2 (16:13):
Ben, you picked a very appropriate subtitle for this episode.
That's just the way it is, you know, I remember
that will never be the same always. It's a perfect
example of a thing that was created to solve a
problem back in the day and has just stuck around
because of just that critical mass of history and people

(16:36):
being you know, sort of averse to change. But it's
it was designed to solve a problem that no longer exists. Yes,
and it was a system that was purposefullly inefficient, and
yet so many people have learned to type on this
purposefully inefficient system that nobody wants to change it. Again,
there are alternatives, but nobody wants to relearn to type.

Speaker 1 (16:58):
And we'll talk about the whole idea.

Speaker 2 (16:59):
Of how I'm learned to type, whether by just feel
or by taking what is it mayb Us Beacon type
courses or what have you.

Speaker 1 (17:06):
Yeah, yeah, you're right, and we are a gentleman of
a certain age, so we problem roll. Yeah, we probably
did have homebro and typing classes. It's a weird one
and it could be intimidating to some people because again,

(17:27):
the querity keyboard makes zero sense. It's a little quirdy,
you know, I do like the idea of American English
and querity and making it a verb or descriptor.

Speaker 2 (17:40):
You really courtied that now it makes me think of quirky,
because that's what it is.

Speaker 1 (17:44):
I mean, it's a little.

Speaker 2 (17:46):
Purposefully odd in order to solve a problem of mechanical parts.
That is so not even a thing anymore. There is, however,
more to the story. The actual fact, to quote a
Lauren Vogel bombasm of quirty was probably not Shoals at all,
but densmore, and the layout was most likely created so

(18:09):
that common two letter combinations were on opposite sides of
the keyboards or between the typists two hands, and this
version of the story would lean more towards the efficiency
side of things. So, whatever you believe to be the case,
this is this one of those history mysteries. We're not

(18:31):
one hundred percent locked in on which one is the truth,
and both have you know, credence.

Speaker 1 (18:36):
Yeah, the truth is somewhere in the middle, most likely
between the type of hands. Yeah, there we are. And
it wasn't too too long before other folks looked at
this querity keyboard and thought, come on, come on, surely
we can do better. This led to the most well
known keyboard layout alternative, the divorce keyboard DVO R a K.

(19:03):
And this is not named necessarily because of the layout
of the letters. This is named for its inventor, August
de Vorjac, formerly the director of research at the University
of Washington, and in the nineteen forties he was a
lieutenant commander with the US Navy Reserve and they got

(19:26):
super into the weeds on keyboards. Man, there's not an
unnerdy way to say this. He got together, he put
together like an ocean's eleven team of engineers, and they
basically played anagrams and they rearranged all the different letters
and the symbols you would use on a keyboard. And

(19:46):
they went through like two hundred and fifty different variations
trying to find something better than querity.

Speaker 2 (19:54):
And in case any of you classical music buffs out
there wondering, August Divorcee was distantly related to the check
composer ANTHONYE. Divorce Ack Nice.

Speaker 1 (20:06):
Just in case.

Speaker 2 (20:07):
Anyone was In case that was a burning question in
anyone's mind.

Speaker 1 (20:10):
Yes, sleep well, folks, now the question has been answered.
This crack team of nerds figured out that Querity was
one of the worst possible keyboard layout designs. If you
were trying to make an inefficient keyboard, then you hit
a real winner with Querity. That a better worst job,

(20:33):
right exactly. Yeah, just like a Plan nine from outer
space or the room. They are perfect storms of awfulness. Yes,
and this makes us think of the Querity keyboard the
ed wood of keyboards. More than fifty percent of typing
on your average Quarity keyboard goes to your left hand.

(20:56):
Many many common words are typed entirely with the left
and it's something that a lot of us don't notice
until you have an injury to your left hand, you know,
being left handed.

Speaker 2 (21:08):
I do tend to wonder if this makes it easier
for me this layout, because I've never really thought about that.

Speaker 1 (21:15):
But now that I'm thinking about it.

Speaker 2 (21:17):
My left hand is a whole lot more dexterous than
my right in general. And I never did take any
of those typing classes, but I've always been a pretty
zippy typer, and I'm realizing now that I'm thinking on it. Yeah,
it's that left hand that's that's scuttling around way more
than the right. The right is almost a little filler
hand that just kind of almost supplements the left.

Speaker 1 (21:38):
Hand to jump in. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (21:40):
I agree with Thla as a fellow lefty that yeah,
I never thought about their way. Side note Editing a
podcast is a very right handed game.

Speaker 1 (21:49):
Yes, yeah, and also use hockeys unless you programm in
those jk els, I got that, are you? Jkl? That's
all right hand? Guys still give away the magic.

Speaker 2 (21:59):
Oh what am I thinking? It's totally right hand? I've
actually changed it to my left hand. So I use ASD.

Speaker 3 (22:06):
I know this because I, as you guys know, I
broke my writ right right over Christmas.

Speaker 1 (22:11):
Right. I was alluding to this in a way. Yes. Also,
here's the way to think about typing on a Querity
keyboard for any hip hop fans, if you're familiar with migos,
your left hand is the person who's actually wrapping, and
your right hand is the person who's doing the ad libs,
who's just going in and saying skirt. Yeah. So this

(22:36):
this is weird to divorce act because in his view,
most people are right handed. That's statistically true, and the
keyboard as it's laid out under Querity gives too much
work to the non dominant hand. In his opinion. His
team of engineers also said, look at how often typer's

(22:58):
fingers have to leave that home row of keys to
reach other keys. More than three thousand words are typed
entirely by the left hand, and the Vorzac took that personally.
So he proved the quality of the Querity keyboard. He
created his own alternative design. He said, I've looked at

(23:22):
the evidence about how often certain letters are used and
how frequently some common words are typed. Do you here's
a fun riddle for everyone playing along at home, folks.
Can you guess what is the most common word in
the English language.

Speaker 2 (23:43):
It's probably some sort of article, maybe, right.

Speaker 1 (23:46):
What is the most common word in the English language? Yeah?

Speaker 2 (23:51):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's to me entirely typable with the
left and no only that's that's the only way you
do it. I'm looking at it and I'm thinking, you
got you got me thinking about this in a whole
different way. Have you guys ever seen split keyboards?

Speaker 1 (24:04):
Yes? Yeah, kind of.

Speaker 2 (24:05):
Wild, But I'm looking at them and you think of
the idea of a split keyboard as someone that sort
of wanted to think outside the box.

Speaker 1 (24:11):
Make things more ergonomic.

Speaker 2 (24:12):
And yet I'm looking at all these examples of split
keyboards still totally quirty A totally except they split right
down the middle. So you've got quirt on the left
split and then starting with the Y on the right split.

Speaker 1 (24:26):
And you get you wail exactly. Also quirity af I
like that. So this guy to Worzak, he he and
his team patent his design, then call it the divorce
Ac Simplified Keyboard. This is nineteen thirty six. It tries
to minimize the amount of distance your fingers travel when

(24:50):
you're typing right. So the letters that you use very often,
like the valve, like E or A, they're closer to
what you would call the home row to your fingers,
and the letters that you would use less often, like
J or something or in a different spot. He I

(25:11):
know it sounded like a throwaway internet meme joke when
I said. He took that personally, but he did write
an entire article called there is a Better Typewriter. A
keyboard like this became his thing. De Vorzac had a
beef with queritys so as weird as it is, and

(25:32):
he's kind of snarky. In his article he refers to
querity as this so cold standard keyboard. It's just weird.
I don't know why I was so mad. Yeah, that's fine.

Speaker 2 (25:43):
Yeah, anytime someone throws in so called, the implication is
that it is so called undeservedly.

Speaker 1 (25:49):
Yeah, nobody ever says so called in a good way.

Speaker 2 (25:53):
But alas for old Devorzac, as we've been alluding to
this entire time, the quirty keyboard layout out was standardized
officially by the American National Standards Institute, which I don't
think I was fully aware was the thing, least by name.
It sounds a little made up, but I guess it's
the thing, and it seems like they got a lot
of power. The cordy layout was made the standard for

(26:16):
computer keyboards by this institution. Adding insult to injury, ben
the International Organization for Standardization.

Speaker 1 (26:24):
Another real thing.

Speaker 2 (26:26):
Another real thing, they I get. Yeah, it's like this
is more of a suggestion. I guess you can't really
make this stuff law. It's also not the same as
engineering standardizations, right, or standardizations of weights and measures. If
things are standardized, you know, in the field of engineering
or parts or whatever, that stuff matters. The sizes and

(26:49):
functions of certain components, and whether electrical engineering or mechanical
or what have you. They need to work for different
makes and models of things, and that stuff really matters.
But this idea of standardizing a keyboard layout, it really
is more of a suggestion.

Speaker 1 (27:04):
And apparently there's.

Speaker 2 (27:05):
A rival standardization organization called the International Organization for Standardization,
who lots of Asians.

Speaker 1 (27:14):
Yeah, I one hundred percent. I am one hundred percent
certain that these folks go absolutely nuts when they get
together for a conference.

Speaker 2 (27:24):
Like a rumble man, you know, like like Michael Jackson
beat it when they got their wrist tied together and
they're like going at each other with cutlery.

Speaker 1 (27:32):
Imagine liking rules so much that you make it your
job to be one of the people in a rival
organization about rules, gonna argue.

Speaker 2 (27:43):
We joke about being fun at parties, little self Deprecatedly,
these folks not fun at parties unless they're standardization parties.

Speaker 1 (27:51):
I bet, I bet they have a lot of fun
at your standard party. But dantek is maybe the word
that I'm searching for. It is so the International Organization
for Standardization. They have a slightly different querity layout. They
have maybe additional keys for what we would call diacritics

(28:12):
like frequently used accident marks, your oomed outs to today
and so on. Uh So, the question then, why are
we uh as a civilization still using querity one word
tradition another couple of words path dependence. Path dependence is

(28:36):
a little bit of a wonky social science concept. It's
the idea that past events or decisions can constrain later
events or decisions. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (28:49):
I always refer to it as critical mass, you know,
like you know, a past decision has over time develops
this critical mass where you almost can't stop it or
slow it down because it's just entrenched and it's usually
just by a virtue of laziness, or alternatively, it just
has branched out into connecting with so many different things

(29:11):
over that time that changing it, even if that would
be a smart choice overall, would kind of screw up
a lot of other things and connections that have been
made to that one kind of bad thing over time.

Speaker 1 (29:24):
So we see it in history all the time.

Speaker 2 (29:26):
It's also the reason that maybe crappy companies that started
off the fact that they were the first to market,
that's all it really takes to be the best, or
to be like the end all, be all kind of
household name of an industry is just getting there first.

Speaker 1 (29:40):
Yeah. Yeah, And this excellent point, folks. We see this
history writ large in our local keyboards. Querity is around
because it is familiar. As we mentioned earlier, multiple generations
of people have grown up with this layout so much
so that it is sort of baked in to English

(30:03):
speaking culture. Most people would be baffled trying to type
on an alternate keyboard layout, even if that layout was
objectively more efficient. I mean, think of the countless hours
of typing instruction, all the people companies and institutions that
have querity baked into their everyday processes. Keyboards on computers

(30:24):
don't need querity. They don't have the little bars hitting
the little ribbons getting on the paper. Your phone doesn't
need querity. It's just used because it always has been.

Speaker 2 (30:35):
But again, you know, there are way more alternative keyboard
layouts than just divorge Act And if you so choose
and want to change it out, you can do custom
keyboard layouts all day long.

Speaker 1 (30:48):
You know, you can make your own. You can make
you could make your own.

Speaker 2 (30:51):
My question is, especially since we have these sort of
competing versions of the quirty origin story. Is it as
inefficient as legend has it? You know, like because I
guess to me, it's like, I don't care. I've never
like been like, gosh, I'm not typing. I wish there
was a better way, you know, I'm fine with it,
Like I don't really think about Again, maybe it is

(31:13):
because of my left handedness. I don't really think about
it as being fatiguing or in any But also I
don't type for extended periods, you know, like a like
a professional typist might. So I may be in the
wrong audience for this question. But what do you guys think?

Speaker 1 (31:27):
I like, I love, love love the made for TV
advertisement idea. We're cooking here. You know, someone's trying to
butterfinger a quarity keyboard and they see like a timer
counting down the seconds they're losing, and they throw up
their hands. You know, typewriter keys go everywhere, and they're like,
there's gotta be a better way. This this is You're

(31:51):
you're right. There is a lot of sound and fury
signifying very little progress.

Speaker 2 (31:57):
It makes me think of you know, the layout of
a traditional musical keyboard is what it is because of
history as well, because of the original, you know, forte piano,
and it just became kind of the law of the
land in terms of like, this is what we know,
this is what a musical keyboard is. But if you're
a music nerd, you know you can find all kinds

(32:19):
of other weird keyboard layouts. Like I have a MIDI
controller over here that it's just a giant grid of
little rubberized pads and you can play musical chords and
notes on it because you can set it up to
play intervals on different rows. And there are these crazy
music keyboards that look even more complex than what I have,

(32:40):
that are like these almost like spherical grids with all
of these kind of ergonomically laid out keys where if
people that are familiar with them and comfortable with them
can play fricking Mozart on them. So really, the world
is your oyster in terms of choosing which layout is
best for you at this point. But when you buy
a synthesizer, it's gonna come standardized with that, you know,

(33:03):
musical black and white key's keyboard layout.

Speaker 1 (33:06):
I'm still on this made for TV commercial times gonna
be a better way act. Now there's a limited time
because this is all about humans using their hands to
interact with machines, and quite soon that will no longer
be a necessity.

Speaker 2 (33:24):
Do you remember that scene and Back to the future
too with little baby Elijah Wood where Marty McFly tries
to show off in the retro bar that has a
retro little restaurant that's like all nineties, nineties and eighties
of five rather and he's got that shoot him up
Cowboy game and he's really good at it from the
first movie, and he tries to impress these little kids,
but his blasting with these guns and the little kid

(33:45):
look up to him and they go, you have to
use your hands. And for the longest time I didn't
quite get it. But man, what a prescient little Easter
egg of a joke in there. Right, it's you're absolutely
right then. I mean, we are seeing things with implants
like this now that are starting to get actual testing.
People play in like Fortnite and stuff using their mind.
Maybe not Fortnite. It was League of Legends.

Speaker 1 (34:07):
I want to say that one guy absolutely crushed Mario Kart. Yeah,
big fans. This also, this shows us something worth thinking about.
This is the question that mister McKenzie suggested this episode
based upon he said, you know, how and why do

(34:29):
these large technological innovations or shifts, How do they get adopted?
Why do some shifts occur and others don't, even when
there's a better option out there? And another example, by
the way, spoiler for a future episode. Ask yourself this, folks,
would skyscrapers have been built in Chicago where they originated

(34:51):
if the Great Chicago Fire had not utterly wrecked the
entirety of downtown.

Speaker 2 (34:56):
Oh, same question with Japan and all of the like
rebuilding after the atomic bomb drops. You know, they were
able to rebuild it in a modernist kind of image.
You know, they had like a square one apocalyptic event
that allowed them to rebuild in this sort of futuristic
sort of I guess aesthetic.

Speaker 1 (35:14):
It's something that we haven't mentioned.

Speaker 2 (35:16):
Ben, isn't quirty pretty America centric? Surely the letters and
layouts and quote unquote commonality of words in Spanish or
French or German, despite using the same letter set, aren't
in the same locations for those languages as they are
for English.

Speaker 1 (35:32):
Right right. There may be additional letters added, like an
inn key with a tilda over it in Spanish. They're
also yeah we mentioned this is an Anglo sphere or
anglocentric thing because English speakers are going to be most
familiar with the Quarity keyboard. But also since English has

(35:55):
become kind of the lingua franca of international business, the uh,
most people who will mess around with English are going
to be messed around with the Querity layout when they type.
But to your I want to go back to your
earlier point because speaking to prescients, you mentioned, hey, is

(36:17):
divorzac better though? Is it really? How bad is querity?
A lot of people did not agree with our pal
Divorzac nineteen fifty six report by a doctor Earl P.
Strong said, Hey, if you retrain people on the Divorzac
standard keyboard, they're basically typing about as fast and about

(36:42):
as accurately as Quarity typists. They only get better if
it's a very long exercise. So the US government Powers
that Be concluded in what I'm sure was a very
spirited and fun meeting that they would not switched to
the Divorjak keyboard layout because it would require investing in

(37:06):
so much more new equipment and retraining literally everyone. So
they said, we're just gonna stick with the thing that
it kind of works.

Speaker 2 (37:16):
Yeah, No, that's the critical mass argument once again, right,
bringing back the word ball. You know it's funny though
too Ben the word ball. I just meant to mention this.
I think the modern typewriter uses this weird little lettered
sphere that looks kind of like the big weird or
cut you know, yeah, which is sort of laid out

(37:37):
like the physical word ball, only it's micro and you're
typing on a flat thing, flat keyboard layout. But it
is still maximizing the surface area and the real estate
that the ribbon thing or whatever it called where the
letters or stamp takes up by putting in on this
weird little ball that goes inside the keyboard. I think
it was an IBM product.

Speaker 1 (37:58):
Nice nice, And that's our show for today, folks. That
is why the Querity keyboard exists. Big, big thanks to
everyone involved. Special shout out first off to mister McKenzie
for the suggestion big second, second special shout out Tom Hanks.
Tom Hanks is basically only an actor to support his

(38:19):
typewriter habit is he a big collector?

Speaker 2 (38:22):
I bet he's got some he crushes type can we
really quickly? Though? For given thanks, just give thanks to
some of the kind of also fun to say. Other
variants of you know letter keyboard layout, including quartz.

Speaker 1 (38:37):
Mm hmmm yeah, Quartz Classic and a zerty These sounds
like these sound like either whimsical cartoon creatures or top
secret government programs.

Speaker 2 (38:47):
Yeah, or Colemack, which sounds a heck of a lot
like a secret hidden character on Mortal Kombat.

Speaker 1 (38:52):
There it is. Yeah, Yeah, the list goes on. Is
there another one you like? I like Maltron, Maltrod. Yeah,
I know Maltrod. Excuse me, I know a guy who
calls himself Maltrod maybe not to say parties. Yeah, I
bet he is. Well he was what I meant anyway.

(39:13):
Tom Hanks, I gotta say this. Tom Hanks is obsessed
with typewriters. This is not a joke. He wrote a
book about them. His first fiction book was a I
think a collection of short stories called Uncommon Type.

Speaker 2 (39:28):
That's very clever. I bet he has some museum caliber
pieces in his collection.

Speaker 1 (39:34):
And honestly it is.

Speaker 2 (39:36):
You know, you know, we're fans of weird museums here
on Ridiculous History. Would not be surprised if there were
a history of you know, the written word type museum
that has some pretty wild typewriter exhibits.

Speaker 1 (39:50):
Yes, yeah. Also we know that Mark Twain, We know
that Mark Twayne. Samuel Clemens famously lost a bunch of
money backing the wrong typewriter design. He was not good
at money.

Speaker 2 (40:05):
It's fair, isn't that? The funny thing though about that stuff?
Like there was a time where even the singer model
that we were talking about it was a wild gambit.

Speaker 1 (40:14):
Oh no, like the early days. Who's gonna use this stuff?

Speaker 2 (40:18):
It does appear that there is a place called the
Virtual Typewriter Museum, and you know what, there's more than one.
I found an article on a website called Typing Lounge
with a list of ten museums where you can see
crazy examples of historical typewriters, including the Liverpool Typewriter Museum,
the Chestnut Ridge Typewriter Museum, and Chuck and Rich's Antique

(40:41):
Typewriter Website.

Speaker 1 (40:43):
Sold Yeah, sold, Big Big takes as well to super
producer mister Max Williams. Thanks to aj Bahamas Jacob, thanks
to doctor Rachel big Spinach, lance Ower World expert on
underwater explosions. When do we interback on this shy we've
been talking about it? Hopefully soon. She has a man
book out and it's an absolute banger.

Speaker 2 (41:04):
Are the king of esoteric nicknames that even the people
themselves don't know where they come from?

Speaker 1 (41:09):
And I love that was her suggestion.

Speaker 2 (41:11):
No way, Yes, wait to spake spinach okay, fair enough,
qushing up a little bit, Eves Jeff cos here in
spirit soon to be here corporeally believe, if not the
next episode the one after that for a really cool
deep dive into her podcast on theme.

Speaker 1 (41:30):
Yes, uh, black stories are more than a fad or
fodder for opportunistic outsiders. Eves knows them. Eves loves these stories.
Eves is moved by them. They change lives, and on
this podcast on Theme, they cover these stories in depth.
With that, with that amazing critical interrogation, that is so

(41:53):
Eves Jeff coo. To be quite honest, we're not blowing smokes.
You know, ways harder than us. That's fair, that's fair.

Speaker 2 (42:01):
Well, I guess we'll see you next time, folks. For
more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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