Why do standard keyboards still have the same basic layout as typewriters?
Regardless of what the keys specifically are (QWERTY or DVORAK or other), I’m talking about the positioning of each of them compared to the others, mainly the letters.
Typewriters back in the day used the certain offset so that the mechanical arms used to apply ink to paper would have less chance to run into each other. Nowadays, that mechanical limitation doesn’t exist anymore, yet the layout of the letters hasn’t improved. (Technical note: Well, there are some electrical lines connecting each of the keys, but it would likely require less material having the 90 degree lines rather than the slanted ones.)
As I type from the home row of the keyboard, occasionally the fingers need to travel to the different rows available. It just so happens that as my fingers are resting on the board, they travel the easiest straight up and down. Unfortunately, the letters of the keyboard aren’t straight up and down from each other, which means that some of my key presses require me to twist my hand to reach the keys easier.
On the other hand, and other side of the standard keyboard, there is the number pad and directional arrows. They both have a nice grid shape to them, which provides a nice layout so that I don’t have to twist my hand when going for any of the numbers or symbols.
Some advantages of a grid layout for keyboards would be:
- Easier to reach letters.
- Easier to teach/learn touch typing.
- Helpful for gamers using WASD and IJKL as directional arrow keys.
And, to be fair, some disadvantages of a grid layout for keyboards:
- More thought/time/money may have to be put in to design the keyboard to accommodate changes. If left the same layout, then two top-row keys may feel further away by an 1/8 of an inch.
- Some may think it looks ‘weird’ at first.
More design thoughts:
There are greater number of keys and symbols on the right side. Presumably, this is because most people are right-handed and may presumably have better control on that side. But, typing is a two-hand sport for many people and would require less reach (read: more ergonomic) if keys were more balanced on both sides.
I see the grid layout as the next type of ‘standard’ keyboard because of the advantages. Though, realistically, it’s understood that it would take a while to get adopted because keyboards last a long time. Then, after that grid-layout ‘standard’, manufacturing should be cheap enough so that everybody can have access to the more ergonomic, shaped/curved keyboards.
Sidenote: Some ‘pro’ gamer ‘keyboards’ that are overall circular for a single hand and already have the WASD letters grid-like. And, other ‘single-hand’ layouts have the starting base in the grid shape.