Why Are the Articles in TRIZ-Journal Subject to Mockery

G. L. Filkovsky,
Nomura Securities International,
New York, USA
e-mail:Gfilkovsky@us.nomura.com

The authors of this month's (November 2003) issue of TRIZ-Journal continue to contribute evidences supporting the impression of The Ignorant, Greedy, Lazy TRIZniks explained in my article The Current Status of TRIZ (The Anti TRIZ-Journal, Vol. 2, No. 8).

Let's take for example the very first article, Inventions on Computer Keyboard - A TRIZ based analysis, by Umakant Mishra, and look into the very first case, Invention-1: Dvorak Keyboard. The article not only falsifies a use of TRIZ by applying it retrospectively to a history, it falsifies the history itself!

Firstly, the article claims that the QWERTY keyboard is not "scientific" in the way the charachters are "scattered" around the keyboard. The real story is that designers of this keyboard addressed a problems of jamming of the type bars when certain combination of keys were struck in close succession, and solved it by arranging the keys most likely to be struck in close succession in such way that they were approaching the type point from opposite sides of the machine. Of course this reason is only meaningful for that specific mechanical device and is not relevant for modern keyboards, but there is a reason behind the "scattering", and this reason works today in other way, as we're going to see.

The article claims that the QWERTY keyboard is inferior because it requires more finger movements. This claim is refuted by ergonomics, which showed the following are the main requirements to keyboard design:
A. The loads on the right and left hands are equalized.
B. The load on the home (middle) row is maximized.
C. The frequency of alterating hand sequences is maximized and the frequency of same-finger typing is minimized.
The Dvorak keyboard is better than QWERTY on B. They are about the same on A (Dvorak's left-right hand balance is 47%-53%, QWERTY's - 57%-43%). But the QWERTY's policy to put successively typed keys as far as possible, strongly favors factor C, thus leading to rapid typing.

The explanation for factor C is that during a keystroke, the idle hand prepares for its next keystroke. Thus the decision to solve a mechanical problem through keyboard arrangement in QWERTY, have inadvertently satisfied an important requirement for efficient typing. In general, typing involves not only fingers, but in large part, a human brain. Limitations of typing speed appear to have something to do with a mental or, at least, neurological skill and fairly little to do with the limitations on the speed at which the fingers can complete the required motions.

The article claims that Dvorak's idea of changing keyboard layout was an invention and suggests the TRIZ Principle, Another Dimension, to explain it. The real story is that there was no need for an idea of changing layout, rather quite opposite - there were too many layouts and the problem was to choose between them. By end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries there were a few dozens of different keyboard layouts on the market, co-existing and competing. There were official and non-official competitions bewteen typewriter manufacturers and between typists. The fact that QWERTY has won after all, has to say something in its favor.

Finally, the article claims that the Dvorak keyboard was proved to be efficient. The real story is that it was proved only in a study conducted by Dvorak! Other studies showed a no significant difference at best.

An interested reader can easily find more about a real story behind keyboard layouts on Internet. Here is a sample of additional sources:
Beeching, Wilfred. A Century of the Typewriter. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974
Kinkhead R. Typing Speed: Keying Rates and Optimal Keyboard Layouts. Proceedings of the Human Factors Society, 1975
Miller L.A. and Thomas J.C. Behavioral Issues in the Use of Interactive Systems. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 1977
New York Times: Typewriters Contest for a Prize (August 2, 1888), Remington Still Leads the List (January 9, 1889), Wondedul Typing (February 28, 1889), Revolution in the Office (November 11, 1955), Pyfgcrl vs. Qwertyuiop (January 22, 1956), Key Changes Debated (June 18, 1956).

P.S. I usually don't pay much attention to typos, my own and others, but the article under review has a typo that is quite significant. Talking about keyboard layouts the article consistantly misspelles QWERTY as "QUERTY". The QWERTY name represents the upper left corner of the layout under investigation, i.e. the first letters of the upper row in their order. Didn't the author of the article, repeatedly typing "QUERTY", notice that the letters Q-U-E-R-T-Y are not there?

A note by the editor: I would only like to add that there is no transition to another dimension in this example. Both layouts are 2-dimensional.