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Doctor Curmudgeon® Why Not ABCDE?

By Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D. FAAP Doctor Eisman is in Family Practice in Aventura, Florida with her partner, Dr. Eugene Eisman, an internist/cardiologist

“This is really dumb,” was the annoyed comment coming from the room of my adolescent cousin.

I do not eavesdrop (except on rare and necessary occasions).

This was not one of them and so I politely knocked on the door of Sebastian’s room. Sebastian is on the furry side of our Curmudgeon family, being part Siberian Husky and part Samoyed. His parents are diplomats and travel periodically. At those times, we are delighted to have this bright youngster stay with us.

It turned out that he was complaining to a friend about the keyboard on his laptop. It seems that the standard English QWERTY irritated him and he felt it was unbelievably inefficient.
At the age of twelve, thanks to my mother, I had learned to “touch type,” and so this is natural, fast and superbly functional for me. It enables me to make face contact with my patient and speak while my fingers automatically record.

Christopher Sholes was an influential man a few years ago. In 1866, he was a newspaper publisher, had served as a state senator in Wisconsin, and was known as a printer and inventor.
Back in those days, tickets were numbered by hand and he had invented a machine that would automatically print the numbers.

Sholes displayed his machine to his good friend, Carlos Glidden, who was also an inventor.

Nick Yetto, writing in the Smithsonian Magazine, says that Glidden excitedly asked Sholes, “Why can’t you make a machine that will print letters as well as figures?”

But why QWERTY?

Historians are in dispute about its origin. Some feel that there was a problem with the keys jamming and so the more common letters had to be spaced out.

Two Kyoto University researchers published a paper in 2011. Koichi Yasuoka and Motoko Yasuoka were not convinced that keys jamming due to the mechanics of the design influenced the placement of letters.

They believed that it was the telegraph operators who encouraged QWERTY. Their research indicated that letter arrangement was not due to an avoidance of mechanical errors. Telegraphers had to rapidly transcribe Morse Code. An alphabetical arrangement was completely inefficient for their use.

From their Kyoto paper, “…early customers of Type-Writer were Morse receivers. The speed of Morse receiver should be equal to the Morse sender, of course. If Sholes really arranged the keyboard to slow down the operator, the operator became unable to catch up the Morse sender. We don’t believe that Sholes had such a nonsense intention during his development of Type-Writer.”

And so, I quickly typed a message to Sebastian with a link to an on line touch typing course.

Dr. Curmudgeon suggests “Bitter Medicine”, Dr. Eugene Eisman’s story of his experiences–from the humorous to the intense—as a young army doctor serving in the Vietnam War.

Bitter Medicine by Eugene H. Eisman, M.D. –on Amazon

Doctor Curmudgeon® is Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D., a physician-satirist. This column originally appeared on SERMO, the leading global social network for doctors.
SERMO www.sermo.com

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