What Is a QWERTY Keyboard?

Keyboard design has remained almost unchanged for more than a century

QWERTY keyboard

Michael Maggs

QWERTY is the acronym that commonly describes today’s standard keyboard layout on English-language computers. The QWERTY layout was patented in 1874 by Christopher Sholes, a newspaper editor and the inventor of the typewriter. He sold his patent in the same year to Remington, which made a few tweaks before introducing the QWERTY design in the company's typewriters.​

About the Name QWERTY

QWERTY is derived from the first six keys from left to right sequentially on the far left portion of a standard keyboard just below the number keys: Q-W-E-R-T-Y. The QWERTY layout was designed to prevent people from typing common letter combinations too quickly and thus jamming the various metal keys on early typewriters as they moved to strike the paper.

In 1932, August Dvorak tried to improve the standard QWERTY keyboard configuration with what he believed was a more efficient layout. His new layout placed the vowels and the five most common consonants in the middle row, but the layout didn't catch on, and QWERTY remains the standard.

Changes to the Keyboard Design

Although you rarely see a typewriter anymore, the QWERTY keyboard layout remains in widespread use. The digital age has made a few additions to the layout such as an escape key (ESC), function keys, and arrow keys, but the main portion of the keyboard remains unchanged. You can see the QWERTY keyboard configuration on almost every computer keyboard in the U.S. and on mobile devices including smartphones and tablets that include a virtual keyboard.