If you're like most people, your keyboard looks something like this:

regular keyboard

The keen eye will notice that all but one set of adjacent rows on a regular keyboard are aligned at half-key increments: the top and home rows. That is to say, the number and top rows, as well as the home and bottom rows are nicely aligned, but the home and top rows are not.

I've done a bit of searching and haven't found a single keyboard that looks like this:

modified keyboard 1

Or this:

modified keyboard 2

I suspect that having the two aforementioned rows nicely aligned contributes to a more consistent keyboard (i.e. every key is evenly spaced from its neighbor), which reduces learning curve, fatigue, maybe manufacturing costs, etc. Consistency is very much a motif in our world that makes using a product that much more enjoyable. Also, the strange staggering offset seems rather arbitrary. Half a key seems cleaner and more thought-out than what currently exists.

What's so horrifically wrong with these designs that I can't find a single keyboard—old or new—with nicely-aligned home and top rows?

  • 2
    I suspect it's for ergonomic reasons. e.g. it's easier to reach the tab & shift keys to have them shifted over by rotating your wrist up and down while keeping your index fingers on "F" and "J' and using that as the pivot point. – nightning Oct 13 '15 at 23:39
  • 1
    What's the argument for there being a keyboard like the ones you are looking for? As it is, I'd assume the reason you haven't seen them is because there hasn't been a compelling argument to make them that way. – DA01 Oct 14 '15 at 2:36
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    I think more people have 104 key keyboards than keyboards like what you drew. – whatsisname Oct 14 '15 at 5:02
up vote 10 down vote accepted

You may find this thread relevant. In a nutshell, it's a legacy design trait from typewriter days, and there hasn't been much reason to change it.

Why are keyboard keys staggered?

This is largely a case of path dependency. Originally keyboards had to have a staggered layout to fit the mechanical linkages between the keys and the levers.

After that, it was what industry was tooled up to make, and what people were used to. And there hasn't been a big enough change to typing to get most people to change over to a matrix (non staggered) layout since. Just like most people still use a qwerty layout even though there are other better layouts around.

As for 'why' older typewriters had uneven offset; below picture gives you a great visual representation of why the "ZXCV" row of the keyboard is offset more. It's because it needs to make room for levers for number keys at the top. For example, in between "A" and "Z", there needs to be a room for "2".

enter image description here

Edit:2 I think below pix should make poster's question more clear.

enter image description here

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