QWERTY is the modern-day layout of letters on most English language computer keyboards and typewriter keyboards. It takes its name from the first six letters shown on the keyboard's top row of letters. The QWERTY design was patented by Christopher Sholes in 1868 and sold to Remington in 1873, when it first appeared in typewriters.
The Qwerty Layout
Frequently-used pairs of letters were separated in an attempt to stop the typebars from intertwining and becoming stuck, thus forcing the typist to manually unstick the typebars and also frequently blotting the document. (The home row (ASDFGHJKL) of the QWERTY layout is thought to be a remnant of the old alphabetical layout that QWERTY replaced.) It also alternated keys between hands, allowing one hand to move into position while the other hand strikes a key. This sped up both the original double-handed hunt-and-peck technique and the later touch typing technique; however, single-handed words such as "stewardess" and "monopoly" show flaws in the alternation.
It has often been noted that the word "typewriter" can be typed entirely using the top row of the QWERTY keyboard: it has been speculated that this may have been a factor in the choice of keys for ease of demonstration.
Minor changes to the arrangement are made for other languages; for example, German keyboards interchange the "Z" and "Y" keys because Z and A often appear next to each other in the German language; consecutively, they are known as QWERTZU keyboards. French keyboards interchange both "Q" and "W" with "A" and "Z" and are known as AZERTY keyboards.
Tests have shown that other arrangements of keys leads to more efficient typing of typical English text. The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard arrangement (1936) has had some success in this regard, but the QWERTY arrangement remains the most popular, largely due both to market inertia and to tests showing little significant performance difference between those who first learned to type on QWERTY and those who first learned to type on Dvorak. The single greatest benefit reported by Dvorak users is the comfort Dvorak provides.
Sholes himself patented a key arrangement similar to Dvorak's, but it never became popular.
For a QWERTY typist to switch to Dvorak requires more effort than learning to touch-type was initially, because of having to retrain the fingers' muscle memory. Computer users also need to unlearn the habit of pressing key-shortcuts (for example: ctrl-c for copy, ctrl-x for cut). It is not unusual to find Dvorak typists who also touch type the QWERTY layout, for convenience owing to QWERTY's ubiquity.