Separating Myth from Probability: The Origins and Evolution of QWERTY

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We use basic probability theory and simple replicable electronic search experiments to evaluate some reported “myths” surrounding the origins and evolution of the QWERTY standard. The resulting evidence is strongly supportive of arguments put forward by Paul A. David (1985) and W. Brian Arthur (1989) that QWERTY was path dependent with its course of development strongly influenced by specific historical circumstances. The results also include the unexpected finding that QWERTY was as close to an optimal solution to a serious but transient problem as could be expected with the resources at the disposal of its designers in 1873.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGlasgow
PublisherUniversity of Strathclyde
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2011


  • path dependency
  • technology
  • technological standards
  • innovation

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