The QWERTY keyboard was designed by a man (C. Latham Sholes to be specific). I could stop there and say that so was God and that would do. But that actually wasn't my point. But it IS a good one!!

The arms of the old typewriters had an annoying tendency to jam. If you typed too fast or used letters that were too close to each other they would clash with each other. This was a major stumbling block for the typewriter. In 1874, C. Latham Sholes designed the QWERTY layout (named after the first six letters of the top row) for the Sholes and Glidden typewriter and this design was sold to Remington in the same year. It became popular with the success of the Remington No. 2 of 1878. Had these issues not been overcome the typewriter may never have been as much of a success as it was.

So QWERTY saved the day. The ingenious design of this keyboard layout slowed down the typing speed by putting commonly used letters apart from each other as much as possible. In doing this the clashes and jams were reduced.

With the advent of golfball typewriters and electronic typewriters that no longer had an arm that clashed, the QWERTY configuration was no longer needed. With computer keyboards there is not even anything physical striking any page. But we still have QWERTY.

Why? Well here is why. It's called the Network Effect. We needed it once. There once was a very valuable reason for having it and it served a very important function. It became more and more popular and was in use so many places. But as with all things, we progressed beyond the original need for it. But like an appendix we still have it. It would be too difficult to change now. Too costly. And why bother anyway? We all grew up with it and we are all very used to it.



There was once a time when people needed a God. They needed him to give them comfort and to calm them when they were faced with things they did not understand, things that scared them, things that they could not control. A time when there were many more unanswered questions about life and the world than there are today. God was the answer. To have an answer even though it was always the same answer, even though the answer did not always make sense, was a solace.

With the advent if scientific discoveries, a lot of what used to be mysteries are now explained. We no longer need to use a deity to explain them. The gaps are getting smaller and smaller. Our knowledge is getting greater and greater. We can now find comfort in our understanding of how we know the world works. We don't need to live in fear of the unknown because we can be confident of our abilities to shed light on these areas, and that which we can't control we can often predict. God is superfluous in the modern world.

But God is a QWERTY keyboard. We grow up with it. We just accept it. And very often, don't even question it.

But unlike QWERTY we have very good alternatives to God, that need to be explored and shared.

When we do, we can finally rid ourselves from something that slows us down and holds us back.

Views: 7

Comment by Apple on January 25, 2010 at 12:52pm
I wonder how hard it would be to learn to type again using a keyboard that was built for maximum speed. Does anyone have a link to a design for such a keyboard? Or could only God design something so perfect? lol
Comment by Kirk Holden on January 25, 2010 at 12:58pm
Great metaphor, thanks.


But to pick a nit. I cannot argue that the purpose of the Ford Model-T was to produce a Ford Focus.

You are still using the arguement from teleology - QWERTY had a purpose or essential quality - e.g. QWERTY is for keeping the too-rapid hammer stroke from jamming at the surface of the roller. That's a perfectly valid use of the intentional stance to understand by induction how the design got to be that way. But in a better sense, by deduction, the adaptation of previous design elements (wheels, cogs, springs, hammers) Sholes machine had a flaw which got fixed by one of many inelegant hacks available. If the metalurgy of the hammers had been different or if he had made some other design choice, this particular hack would not have been the right solution.

To your larger point about the god delusion, a god has no purpose at all. In god 1.0, humans have brain states that detect agency in natural events and assign these feelings to agents that do not exist so that they can relieve anxiety that comes from persistent and confusing events. The natural selection that lead to religion from shared beliefs did not have a purpose either.

We didn't have tribal Shamans so that we could have Mormons.
Comment by Kirk Holden on January 25, 2010 at 1:24pm
a-l-t-e-r-n-a-t-e k-e-y-b-o-a-r-d l-a-y-o-u-t in the browser yeilds:
Dvorak Simplified Keyboard

d'oh
Comment by Galen on January 25, 2010 at 6:01pm
I like the QWERTY keyboard, damnit! Meh, I've thought about learning DVORAK, but what a pain in the ass, y'know? Having to re-learn how to type. Not to mention a hindrance due to the fact that I have to use a QWERTY keyboard every single day AND that I teach typing (on QWERTY) to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.

But despite being a fan of QWERTY, I have to admit that your analogy was a good read and very appropriate, imho.
Comment by Sincloud on January 26, 2010 at 8:20am
Very nice read. Thanks for bringing up an interesting topic to mind. I'll have to roll this around in my head a bit.
Comment by Galen on January 28, 2010 at 6:41pm
@Matthew - [citation needed]

lol, really, I wanna read about that.

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