Why is Your Keyboard Weird?

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Key arrangement isn’t the only thing modern keyboards borrow from a bygone age. We get the term “shift key” from the way a Remington Model 2 Type-Writer physically shifted the printing bar between uppercase and lowercase. Uppercase and lowercase are themselves much older terms, referring to a 15th century method for keeping track of the little metal letters used in printing presses: Small keys were kept in individual boxes at the bottom of a large case; the capitalized letter were kept in corresponding boxes in the upper part of the case.

The Airship writes about the mysteries of QWERTY, the Shift key, and why a keyboard is what it is.


Lyz's writing has been published in the New York Times Motherlode, Jezebel, Aeon, Pacific Standard, and others. Her book on midwestern churches is forthcoming from Indiana University Press. She has her MFA from Lesley and skulks about on Twitter @lyzl. Lyz is a member of The Rumpus Advisory Board and a full-time staff writer for the Columbia Journalism Review. More from this author →