The Fable of the Keys
Stan J. Liebowitz
University of Texas at Dallas - School of Management - Department of Finance & Managerial Economics
Stephen E. Margolis
North Carolina State University - Department of Economics
Famous Fables of Economics, Dan Spulber, (ed.), Blackwell Publishers, 2002
Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 1-26, April 1990
This paper examines the history of the QWERTY typewriter keyboard, often put forward as the archetypical case of markets choosing the wrong standard. Contrary to the claims made by Paul David and Brian Arthur, we find virtually no evidence to support a view that QWERTY is inferior to DVORAK. Instead, using records of typing experiments, studies by ergonomicists, and examining the historical record of competition among different keyboard designs back when QWERTY first became dominant, we conclude that QWERTY is about as good a design as any alternative.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 29
Keywords: standards, compatibility, lock-in, qwerty, dvorak
JEL Classification: K00, L00, N00
Date posted: December 12, 2007
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