We could type 48% faster, but why don’t we do it?

The most-used keyboard layout globally is the QWERTY layout.QWERTY_1878 The layout stems from the time of the typewriter and the key distribution on this layout is not actually designed for fast typing, as one may expect, it is designed to make sure that the hammers of the machine wouldn’t jam or interlock when a person was typing rapidly. In the modern-day application of this layout this design requirement is obviously no longer necessary, but then why haven’t we moved from this sub-optimal layout to a layout that would let us type faster?


Optimal keyboard layout for the Dutch language

Well it sure isn’t for a lack of trying. Over the years there have been several attampts, like for instance Neo, Colemak and the most famous: Dvorak. Since the year 2000 physicist Martin Krzywinski (Warschau, 1971) has been looking for the optimal keyboard layout, where the optimum is fastest typing. He has developed an algorithm that processes a large amount of text and subsequently gives a keyboard layout that would be optimal for typing it. For the Dutch language the optimal keyboard layout would be a QFKLM layout, as shown in the picture.

Why then is it unlikely that we as a society will start using the QFKLM layout? According to economist Paul David (1985) it has to do with path dependence. He argues that because everybody is using the QWERTY keyboard, and everybody has gotten used to using a QWERTY keyboard (muscle memory), the switching costs for changing keyboard layout are high. Aside from this, human beings are creatures of habit and that is why we will probably never see a QFKLM keyboard in stores.





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