In the 1860s, despite relatively widespread use of keyboards for writing and professional communication, businessmen investing in typewritten communications were still tinkering with key arrangements.
The father of our current key layout is a guy named Christopher Latham Sholes, a newspaper editor from Milwaukee.
His first layout had two rows. Like a piano. In a pretty straightforward alphabetized sequence.
The mechanical functionality of this layout led to many neighboring typebar jams.
For example: Letters “H” and “I” were next to one another on the keyboard as they are in our alphabet.
So if you typed the sentence “This typewriter is a piece of shit” too quickly, the rapid succession of the H and the I hitting the paper while typing “shit” would often cause the H and I typebars to jam, and forcing otherwise well-mannered writers to say bad words.
Sholes kept tweaking.
In 1868, he introduced this layout:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 –
A E I . ? Y U O ,
B C D F G H J K L M
Z X W V T S R Q P N
Then in 1873, we got this:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 – ,
Q W E . T Y I U O P
Z S D F G H J K L M
A X & C V B N ? ; R
Then in 1878 we finally got the iteration we all know now. The modern QWERTY standard, named after the six-letter sequence in the top-left corner.
These keystrokes are now completely done with muscle memory. I’ve put in well over 10,000 hours at the keyboard. It’s as simple and natural for me to communicate this way as it is speaking.
So, it’s painful for me to think about writing in an era where the keyboard was sometimes changing. Getting a new typewriter, or writing from a different location might have meant a total rearrangement of the keys.
Writing may be second nature to me.
But typing 1,000 words on a keyboard where all the letters are rearranged?
It would be a frustrating and painful experience.
The Single Dad Fumbling Through Bachelorhood
That’s what I am now.
After so many years of doing things a certain way, life has forced me to find a new way.
And I’m really bad at it.
A co-worker and I were talking about a woman who works in my building while we were walking in this morning. She’s a single mom. Super pretty. Was nice and funny the one time I ever spoke with her at length.
“She would be an ideal person to ask out,” I said. “I almost did a couple months ago.”
“Oh yeah, single guy! Why don’t you?” my co-worker said.
“You’ve been married a long time. I almost never see her. I’d have to approach her out of nowhere in the parking lot. When’s the last time you had to initiate conversations with women outside a social environment that brought you together naturally?”
I got my first crush in third grade.
And from that point on, I was always where girls my age were. Single girls, too.
We had cutesy relationships in grade school.
Borderline serious in high school.
Then we went to college where it was even easier to meet women. We were always surrounded by tons. And everyone was always armed with liquid courage AND social support from nearby friends.
I had a high school girlfriend my senior year. She was my first “serious” relationship. Ages 17-18.
I dated a girl for nearly two years in college my third and fourth years. (Yes, I took five years to graduate. I make bad decisions.) Ages 20-21.
I had met my ex-wife at a party my freshman year. We stayed in contact off and on. And we got together for good in the summer of 2001 through this past April when it crashed and burned.
What’s my point?
I have, literally, never been in a situation where I wasn’t surrounded by copious amounts of like-minded single women OR in a committed relationship.
That woman who works here? The cute one on the third floor? I don’t know how to talk to her. I don’t. If I found myself in the same place as her through chance, I’m sure I would say something. I’m not a complete wimp. But to go seek her out? For the sole purpose of expressing interest in seeing her socially outside of work?
I’m just not wired for that. And I’m a little unsure how I’m supposed to be after reflecting on my life up to this point.
All of the keys are rearranged now. Everything’s foreign. I’m being asked to do something I know how to do. But I’m being asked to do it in a way I’ve never faced before. In an environment not particularly conducive to success.
Most women aren’t single anymore. I have a child. I’m older. And I’m almost never in a place where like-minded single people are. Sometimes I’m in bars. But I’ve never been hook-up-with-girl-at-bar guy. And I don’t intend to start now.
I’ve learned to be okay. When it’s quiet. When it’s just me in my head.
I’ve learned to cook for myself. Do housework. And find ways to entertain myself when my son’s not there.
I’m much closer to stable. Much closer to healed. Much closer to ready than I’ve been at any point in this divorce-recovery process.
I’m looking at the keyboard.
But I don’t have to.
I know where every button is. Every keystroke, second-nature.
I can play this game.
But then I look at the world.
That couple over there.
How’d they meet?
That woman over there.
I’m afraid to interrupt her life to talk to her. What if she’s already with someone? What if she thinks I’m stupid? What if she thinks I’m short? What if she thinks I’m ugly?
I’ve always been a fan of asking questions when I’m pretty confident I’ll get a positive response.
I always knew when girls liked me. I still do. You can just tell.
But it’s a brand new keyboard now.
In a lot of ways, I do know what I’m doing.
But when all the rules have changed?
Even knowing what you’re doing can still result in: dmh*cvy4hfjdf%jcbsyeuk;dkdoicud$jaekjazrx,dfofh5.
And you can say that again.