New keyboard layout easy as ABC
We have been using it since 1878, firstly on the humble typewriter and now most of us carry one around with us every day in the form of a smartphone.
But is it time to end our love affair with the QWERTY keyboard?
Brisbane-based entrepreneur John Lambie first started working on an alternative to what he calls the "dysfunctional" QWERTY keyboard more than 25 years ago, but has seen a real opportunity for people to break their QWERTY as they abandon keyboards for smartphones.
Mr Lambie is in the United States shopping around his keyboard, which has been designed for optimum use with just one finger or to split itself in two to make typing easier with two thumbs.
The Dextr keyboard is in alphabetical order with the letters split over five rows instead of three and it is able to be flipped for easier use by left handed people.
"I've been playing with ideas, doodling things in the margin as it were for over 25 years," Mr Lambie said.
"I was inspired by a lecturer at university who had severe cerebral palsy and therefore very limited use of his hands and fingers and he would always, in every single lecture, find some way to say some derogatory remark about QWERTY.
"He said it really is the worst piece of usability design ever.
"It's become so entrenched unfortunately that the human race is almost stuck with it."
Mr Lambie pointed out the QWERTY keyboard was originally designed to slow people down and space the most used letters far apart so typewriter arms would not stick together.
He is developing a keyboard for Android phones (Apple and Microsoft will not let developers change the keyboard of their smartphones), which should be ready for download as an app between August and September.
Mr Lambie is targeting developing countries, such as India and the Philippines, where people have not grown up with QWERTY keyboards in their homes, but are buying up smartphones that have been made in countries such as China on the cheap.
Mr Lambie said what people in developed countries had was the change in keyboard had already been heralded and proven easy to learn.
"I think the change now has been heralded by the advent of, perhaps the most popular keyboard that has ever been used, and has already paved the way for a new keyboard," he said.
"What people don't realise is there is already a second keyboard out there that is already way more popular than QWERTY that requires no lessons, that people pick up straight away, and it's the same keyboard that kick started the mobile revolution.
"Do you know what keyboard I am talking about? The one you have on your phone, the number pad."
Mr Lambie said while from an efficiency perspective the number pad was a "nightmare" - citing the need to press a button four times just for the letter S - the beauty of it was it was alphabetic.
"This is the missing link, this is the one when you talk to people you say 'oh but there is another keyboard, the one that kick started the mobile revolution' and they look at you funny," he said.
"...because we adopted it so naturally, it was easy to use, but it didn't require lessons to start it, it was essentially a two to three day learning curve.
"It was clunky to start with but essentially it was easy to use because of the alphabetic type writer."
Queensland University of Technology health faculty senior lecturer Charles Worringham, who specialised in human motor control, said it was possible for people to master another keyboard after learning QWERTY, but the challenge is motivating them do it.
"There are some layouts which are better than QWERTY, no question about that, but the problem is the trade-off, well, several trade-offs," Dr Worringham said.
"One is the rate of learning a new configuration compared to the benefits so the benefits have got to be really big to make it worth learning a new layout.
"...most folks get frustrated before they get to the point (of learning a new layout) if they persisted they might have an advantage, a text entry speed advantage, but they're not usually huge advantages and most people just don't have the motivation to stick with learning a new layout."