If you have a computer, a smartphone or any device of that sort that you can type in, the top row of the keyboard probably looks like this: QWERTYUIOP. This typing layout is called Qwerty, named from the first six letters. But how did it gain worldwide popularity? There are two reasons: The first is technical, the second is economic.
After the first commercially successful typewriter was patented in 1868, Christopher Latham Sholes, one of the patentors, started to experiment with different layouts. He first started with alphabetical order, i.e. A B C D E. Typists could use this layout very fast, even faster than Qwerty. But its speed was its demise.
You see, early typewriters had a major design flaw. The letters were attached to metal arms called type bars, which would clash and jam if pushed simultaneously or in rapid progression. Also, the typist couldn't detect the jam without removing the keyboard. This happened if typists typed at high speed.
To solve this problem, Sholes decided to separate the letter pairs that were used the most. Take 'T-H' for example, which is the most common letter-pair in English language. Sholes put them in two different rows and moved their positions, so that the typist would need two hands for it. He did the same for the pairs O-N and A-N. This would simply reduce the typing speed, so that jams would be less frequent.
As it turns out, Qwerty is designed to slow us down. About Qwerty, BBC Radio 4 comedian Stephen Fry said, "Imagine you're on the maiden flight of that new ultra-modern aircraft, the Dreamliner. And you notice it's being towed to the runway by donkeys. Better still, camels."
But as typewriters developed, why didn't we switch to a faster layout such as DVORAK or Colemak? Which is much more efficient. Well, Remington is responsible for that.
Remington is a company that sold guns and sewing equipment back then. They thought that it was a good idea to get into the typewriter business for some reason. Maybe they decided that a pen is mightier than the sword, replacing them with typewriters and guns, in this case. Anyway, they bought the manufacturing rights from Sholes. They used the Qwerty layout in their typewriter. It was a big hit, with over 40,000 sales.
After Remington and several other big companies merged together into Union Typewriter Company in 1890, they, too, started using Qwerty as it was the most popular layout.
In 1930, several new layouts were proposed, but none of them could topple Qwerty. It had become standard, so it would be very hard to replace them. When typewriters were replaced by computers, they, too, used the same layout as people were familiar with it.
The Qwerty layout had become too popular, as generations after generations learned it. And computer manufacturing companies were not willing to make the effort needed to replace Qwerty, even though many layouts are more than qualified for it.
So, Qwerty is sticking around, whether you like it or not.