How QWERTY Became The Standard Of Keyboard Layout
Had history gone differently, we might be gaming with anything other than WASD.
It all started back during the time of manual typewriters. When it was first invented, they had keys arranged in an alphabetical order, until configuration was desired over convention.
Most people thought that the inventor of typewriter introduce the QWERTY design to slow typists down because the faster someone typed, the more often the typewriter jammed.
Okay, that was partially true.
However, contrary to popular belief,
the QWERTY layout was not designed to slow the typist down, but rather to speed up typing by preventing jams.
At first, it was difficult to master. Eventually, people who mastered this new key arrangement would actually be able to type faster because the keys wouldn’t jam.
DID YOU KNOW?
There’s also DVORAK layout, which was designed to replace the QWERTY (and failed to do so), specifically for maximizing typing efficiency and is intended for the English language.
“So keyboards are no typewriters. They won’t jam. Why not going back to ABCDE?”
Since the standardization of PC-compatible keyboards after the 1980s, most computer keyboards have followed this standard.
Hence, which is why keyboards are arranged the way it is. People are used to it.
Ctrl + Alt + Del
The mastermind who came up with the most famous key combination was IBM PC chief engineer, David Bradley. It’s originally for rebooting the system, IBM PC’s fail-safe .
Initially, he went with Ctrl+Alt+Esc but found that it was too easy to bump the left side of the keyboard and reboot the computer accidentally so he made it difficult which is Ctrl+Alt+Del.
The reboot key combination is also sometimes referred to as a “three-fingered salute” to Microsoft’s Bill Gates.
The original IBM PC 5150 keyboard; It is impossible to press Ctrl+Alt+Del with one hand only.
Image via PCGamer via defunct gaming site Freakygaming.
I remember back in my Half Life & Counter Strike 1.5/1.6 days. I first played with arrow keys instead of WASD. It was tiring. I thought “how the f*** do I crouch/walk?!”
I was young. Really young.
Until I saw the primary keys at the control options. OH SNAP! I’ve been using the secondary keys all this while. I got used to it in couple of game and that’s it. It’s inevitable.
Believe it or not, 20 years ago, there are far fewer players who are actually accustomed to it before it became the default preset of pretty much every games out there especially FPS games. We have absolutely no idea whose fingers found their way to WASD first, but we do have a good idea of who popularized the style:
The greatest Quake player in the universe, Dennis “Thresh” Fong.
He made history when he took home John Carmack‘s Ferrari 328 after winning one of the first nationwide video game competition held in the United States in 1997. People looked at him weird as using mouse was really bizarre back in the days.
Back in 90s, keymappings for FPS games were often all over the place. (I’m looking at you Deus 1996 & Doom)
Although Quake wasn’t the first game to introduce mouselook, it certainly was the most influential. Half-Life was one of the first games to bind WASD to movement by default, inspired by Quake.
WASD in Half-Life’s default keyboard and mouse config helped solidify it as the first-person shooter standard, thanks to Fong and Quake’s direct or indirect influence. WASD’s popularity grew ever since, becoming the standard as video games defaulting to WASD even in RPGs, RTSs and surprisingly racing games as well.
Imagine what would PC gaming be like, had other keys like FCVB or ESDF been Half-Life’s and every other games’ default? As for me, it’s WASD all the way. It would sound really weird had it been BKLM, if the keyboard went with ABCDE instead of QWERTY that we’re used to.