- 1 Keyboard Layouts, Switches, history and more!
- 1.1 Keyboard History or “why do we use QWERTY”
- 1.2 Keyboard Layouts – QWERTY, QWERTZ and beyond
- 1.3 Keyboard Sizes and Variations (110%, 80%, 60%, 40%, Split and others)
- 1.4 Normal vs. Mechanical Keyboards
Keyboard Layouts, Switches, history and more!
Keyboards, we all use them, but we usually don’t know much about them, this article will change that! Every topic that is somewhat related to keyboards will be teasered here with a link to a more in-depth article. Lets start with a bit of keyboard history.
Keyboard History or “why do we use QWERTY”
Most keyboards we use come in the familiar “qwerty” layout . The arrangements of the letters seem very random, but there is a reason behind it. The ancestor of the keyboard we know today, is the typewriter. To prevent the typewriter from jamming when a fast typist hammered on frequently used keys, the inventor Christopher Sholes placed the keys in an order that would reduce the possibility of jamming, this got us qwerty.
Once the computer keyboard came along, the qwerty layout of the typewriter was used for keyboards as well to speed up adaption rates (secretaries would have an easier time to switch to a computer if the keyboard already looks familiar).
Keyboard Layouts – QWERTY, QWERTZ and beyond
We heard about qwerty, but not everyone in the world uses this layout. A very similiar one is called QWERTZ, which is used in Germany and variations of it are used all over europe. France uses a layout called AZERTY.
These layouts are still based on the typewriter but are these “good” layouts? Wasn’t the intention of the qwerty layout to reduce jamming and therefore place often used keys further away from each other? Would it make sense to use layouts that place keys, that are frequently used, closer together to reduce travel distance and therefore finger fatigue?
DVORAK and COLEMAK, different but better?
There are indeed keyboard layouts that were created to improve the typing experience and hopefully the typing speed as well. The two most prominent ones are DVORAK and COLEMAK. If those really improve your typing speed is hard to tell, especially as you will be a lot slower at first, as you retrain your muscle memory to the new layout.
Its funny, if you think about it. Almost every person over the age of 14 is using a keyboard and yet there are still now conclusive studies/results that tell if dvorak and colemak lets you actually type faster than with qwerty.
Keyboard Sizes and Variations (110%, 80%, 60%, 40%, Split and others)
If you look down from the monitor and onto your keyboard, what do you see? A numpad attached on the right? F-Keys at the top? Arrow and print keys somewhere inbetween? If so you have a “boring” 110% keyboard. Those are the most common ones and also the ones with the most keys (110 for ISO-formats), everything is there even if you don’t need it.
A popular alternative are 80% layouts, basically removing the numpad and the navigation keys (arrow, page up/down, print). This gives you more space on your desk and you can move the mouse closer to the keyboard.
60% Keyboards are even smaller. They basically remove the top row where the F-keys and the ESC-key is placed. Does this mean you won’t be able to use these keys anymore? No, as the 60% keyboards gain a function key. If you hold the function key and press for example the “1”-Key, you basically press F1. It functions similiar as the SHIFT-key. There are of course variations. For example: You like the 60% keyboards but don’t want to get rid of your arrow/navigation-keys? Just look for 68% one.
If your desk is really small or your fingers are especially lazy you can take a look at a 40% Keyboard. Yes, you heard right, 40 fricking percent! So, what do we lose this time? Well, the numbers are gone, because, who really need those? Also gone are all these special keys you don’t really use anyway. But you gain even more function keys, pressing those will again give you access to the ones you thought lost.
40% keyboards are a bit too small for my taste, but they surely do look special:
[40% Keyboard Pictures]
Normal vs. Mechanical Keyboards