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The Fable of the Keys

Famous Fables of Economics, Dan Spulber, (ed.), Blackwell Publishers, 2002

Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 1-26, April 1990

29 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2007  

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords: standards, compatibility, lock-in, qwerty, dvorak

JEL Classification: K00, L00, N00

Suggested Citation

Liebowitz, Stan J. and Margolis, Stephen E., The Fable of the Keys. Famous Fables of Economics, Dan Spulber, (ed.), Blackwell Publishers, 2002; Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 1-26, April 1990. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1069950

Stan J. Liebowitz (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Dallas - School of Management - Department of Finance & Managerial Economics ( email )

800 W Campbell Road
Mail Station SM 31
Richardson, TX 75080
United States
972-883-2807 (Phone)
972-883-2818 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.utdallas.edu/~liebowit/

Stephen Margolis

North Carolina State University - Department of Economics ( email )

Raleigh, NC 27695-8110
United States
919-513-2565 (Phone)

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