Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dvorakula stalks the NY Times...again

Consider, from the post-WWII New York Times :
WASHINGTON, November 21 [1955]—The Government is going to test a new typewriter keyboard that could revolutionize that office companion of millions.
….Its developer said it can increase a typist’s output by as much as 35 per cent.
If so, the Government wants to know about it.  Edwin S. Mansure, General Service Administrator, who announced the tests today, said “a 35 per cent increase in productivity would bring about important savings….”
In a follow up piece in January 1956, Mansure is again quoted in the Times;
…G.S.A. efficiency experts have saved the government $320,000,000 in the past two years, and I don’t see why we can’t save more by rearranging keyboards so that our typists get more work done. If Dvorak’s system doesn’t work out, we’ll test others. I’m optimistic.
Which would seem to evince some enthusiasm for the Dvorak keyboard on the part of the U.S. government. But, on July 1, 1956 the Times reported on the results of the G.S.A. four-month long test, and that test; 
  ...showed that typists using the new keyboard were not as accurate as those using standard keyboards.  The simplified keyboard typists also showed less improvement in speed than standard keyboard punchers, testers reported.
So, it can be read about in back issues of the New York Times. Yet--thanks to N.C. State economist Craig Newmark's vigilance--we take note of a new generation at the Times, who apparently don't bother to read and learn from their elders;
The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, invented in 1932, is objectively superior, so much so that, in the 1940s, the United States Navy determined that it was worth retraining its typists. As the evolutionary biologist and science historian Stephen Jay Gould (whose mother was a typist and father a court stenographer) wrote, ‘‘If every typist in the world stopped using Qwerty tomorrow and began to learn Dvorak, we would all be a winner.’’
Which appeared just last week in the New York Times Magazine, in a piece written by Ryan Bradley titled, A Brief History of Failure. So, let's end with this from another newspaper;

Dvorak 's widow still types an occasional letter _ on a Dvorak , naturally. She also confirms a secret about her husband, inventor of the world's fastest and most efficient typewriter keyboard.

"He never learned to type."

--Don Duncan, Seattle Times, May 20, 1985

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