Fast typing takes practice, but many advocates of the Dvorak keyboard claim that it is faster than the traditional Qwerty keyboard

For virtually the entire history of typewriters, typing speed was important. Having a good average of words per minute allowed you to work for important companies in positions that required entering data into the computer or transferring calligraphic handwriting to typewritten paper, at a time when scanners did not exist or were not a viable option.

It is not surprising that fast typing gave rise to competitions, such as those that have remained in the newspaper archives and that allow us to know that the 17-year-old Rose L. Fritz won the World Typewriting Championship, organized in Chicago in 1907. In one minute, she wrote 130 words. No mistakes. And if we take a look at the popular Guinness Book, we will see that there are two records in its collection. One from 1923. Albert Tangora managed to type 147 words per minute with a typewriter. Actually it was 157, but he was deducted 10 words for making a mistake or two. And if we are talking about computer keyboards, the record that appears in the Guinness Book belongs to Stella Pajunas, who in 1946 typed 216 words in one minute with an IBM machine in Chicago, Illinois.

The above examples used Qwerty keyboards, so why is Dvorak reputed to be faster? In large part it is due to the publicity given to him by Barbara Blackburn. Born in Salem, USA, her Wikipedia biography says she didn’t get off to a good start in the world of typing. But in business school she discovered the Dvorak keyboard, a far cry from the Qwerty keyboard she had struggled with in high school typing classes. From then on, he would use Dvorak.

With Dvorak he reached 138 words per minute. A figure well above the 80-100 required of the fastest typists. With her typing skills, she was a legal secretary, office manager and sales manager. And in her spare time, she participated in speed competitions. In particular, the Canadian National Exposition and the Canadian Educational Conference. There, representatives of the Guinness Book of Records witnessed her typing skills. Thus Barbara Blackburn rose to fame as the world’s fastest typist, with the permission of Stella Pajunas.

But let’s talk about the Dvorak keyboard or Dvorak simplified keyboard. Its inventor was the American August Dvorak, who patented it in 1936 together with his brother-in-law William Dealey. According to them, and after years of studies, they claimed that their keyboard was more ergonomic and faster than the standard Qwerty that everyone used. The original Dvorak keyboard has undergone some changes. The current ones, available in English, Spanish and other languages, are based on the Dvorak layout that was agreed upon in 1982.

The main differences between Qwerty and Dvorak have to do with the keys assigned to the letters. The rest of the keys, with functions, numbers and other symbols, usually coincide. The first thing that strikes you about Dvorak is that its second row starts with the vowels. AOEUI. The rest of the keys correspond to the consonants. Dvorak’s goal is to make the most frequent keys easier to press. Hence the placement of the vowels and, next to them, the most used consonants. DHTNS in English and the less frequently used keys appear in the bottom row: QJKXBMWVZ.

In August Dvorak’s own words, this keyboard involves the use of both hands. Whereas with Qwerty, the left hand works more than the right. At the same time, the hands move less as they have to make less effort to reach the most frequently used keys when typing. As a curiosity, there are versions of the Dvorak keyboard for one-handed use. We can find variants of Dvorak for different languages and countries. In addition to the US and Spanish version, there are also adaptations with their own peculiarities for Germany, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Turkey, France, Romania or Poland.

Dvorak has supporters all over the world and the aforementioned Guinness World Record. But Qwerty has been the de facto standard for decades. And it looks set to remain so unless we move away from the keyboard to newer technologies such as voice assistants. As for typing speed with both keyboards, most records are based on Qwerty. But it is also true that it is practically the only keyboard that millions of people know.

It is true that several studies, with heat maps and all, have corroborated the benefits of Dvorak in the use of both hands and less effort when typing, since most words can be typed with the central row of the keyboard. For those who use the keyboard on a daily basis, there is less risk of suffering from problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow.

Another study published in 2003 by Pieter Buzing of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands concludes that Dvorak allows faster typing but the difference between Dvorak and Qwerty is between 4 and 5%. Is it worth switching to another keyboard and practicing with it from scratch to get that 5%?

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