One of the truly discouraging things for every businessman or minister to deal with is the slowness of all progress within his organization. A man who is pioneering a particular idea or technology believes that his product is so unique, so beneficial, and so marketable that buyers or contributors will line up to buy it. Design a better mousetrap, the saying goes, and people will beat a path to your door.
Baloney. The only person who will beat a path to your door is the man from OSHA. Or someone from the SPCA.
For example, consider the redesigned typewriter keyboard invented in 1932 by Dr. August Dvorak. Dvorak knew the story of the original typewriter, which had appeared on the market 60 years earlier. It had been mechanically inefficient. The keys kept jamming, even with “hunt and peck” typing. (“Touch” typing appeared only at the turn of the century.) So the designer redesigned the keyboard to slow down the typist. From this point of view, the “QWERTY” keyboard is a work of genius. It is very slow. Randomly allocated keys would be far more efficient.
Dvorak redesigned the keyboard to reduce by 95% the distance which the typist’s fingers move. The professional typist’s fingers cover an astounding 20 miles a day on “QWERTY.” On a Dvorak, they move less than a mile. Fatigue is reduced; so are errors. Speeds of up to 200 words per minute are possible on an electronic word processor (e.g., world record holder Barbara Blackburn). On an electric typewriter, speeds of over 150 wpm have been achieved under test conditions. On a manual, speeds of up to 125 wpm have been sustained.
Yet hardly anyone has ever seen a Dvorak keyboard. The patent lapsed years ago, and still the public hasn’t heard about it. Only with the advent of the computer have even a few people switched to the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard (DSK) or the variant called the American Simplified (ASK), even though it has been officially adopted by an international standards committee.
Why the failure? First, information costs. Who had any incentive to tell the story? Second, costs of relearning a new keyboard. People resist change. Third, doubt about the benefits of relearning. Would the investment of time pay off? Fourth, difficulties in reselling used typewriters with the strange keyboard with all the vowels under the left hand, home row. The DSK has been a cult item for half a century. But those who adopted it (such as my wife) doubled their speed.
(to read the rest of my article, click the link.)