View previous topic | View next topic

OK, how does this work?

Page 5 of 5
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Flash
21290.  Tue Jun 07, 2005 5:01 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
The story begins back in pre-calculator days, when there were cash registers. We're not talking cash registers that scan, but mechanical things where you actually had to push the keys hard to punch numbers. The cash registers were designed with 0 at the bottom, and the numbers going up. Why did cash registers choose this organization? I was unable to find any clear answer. These were the days before customer surveys and mass marketing opinion polls. The people who designed cash registers evidently just thought it was the obvious approach--lowest numbers at the bottom, highest numbers at the top.

In fact, the earliest cash registers had multiple keys. You didn't enter 7 and 9 and 5 for $7.95; there was a separate column of keys for each decimal place. Think of a matrix, with the bottom row of 0's, next a row of 1's, then a row of 2's, going up. The right hand column would represent single units (cents), the next column for tens, then hundreds, etc. So, to enter $7.95, you'd actually enter 700, then 90, then 5.

When calculators made their appearance, they copied the cash register format. In fact, some of the earliest mechanical calculators (ah, how my wife loved her Friden!) had multiple columns, like the cash register. The earliest calculators had keypads that were ten rows high and generally 8 or 9 columns across.

When hand-held and electronic calculators made their appearance, they copied the keypad arrangement of the existing calculators--0 at the bottom, 1-2-3 in the next row, 4-5-6 in the next row, and 7-8-9 in the top row, from left to right. So, basically, they evolved from the cash register.

The Touch-Tone phone emerged in the early 1960s. Before that, there were rotary dials, with the numbers starting at 1 at the top right and then running counterclockwise around the dial to 8-9-0 across the bottom. Why would "0" be on the bottom? Probably because the dialing mechanism was pulse, not tone. Since they couldn't do zero pulses for 0, they did ten pulses, and hence put the 0 at the end. (Thanks to Radu Serban for this suggestion.)

There seem to be three reasons that the Touch-Tone phone keypad was designed as it was:

(1) Tradition. People were used to dialing with 1-2-3 on top, and it seemed reasonable to keep it that way.

(2) AT&T (the only phone company at the time) did some research that concluded there were fewer dialing errors with the 1-2-3 on top (possibly related to the traditional rotary dial layout).

(3) Phone numbers years ago used alphabetic prefixes for the exchange (BUtterfield 8, etc.). In the days of rotary dials, no doubt it seemed logical to put the letters in alphabetical order, and to associate them with numbers in numerical order. The number 1 was set aside for "flag" functions, so ABC went with 2, DEF with 3, and so on. When Touch-Tone phones came in, keeping the alphabet in alphabetical order meant putting 1-2-3 at the top.

So there we have it. Basically, calculator keypad design evolved from cash registers, while telephone keypad design evolved from the rotary dial. Tradition has kept them that way ever since.


http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mphonedial.html

Morkris, your suggestion doesn't sound right to me - the change just wouldn't have the effect claimed. Also it recalls another well-established myth, that QWERTY keyboards are designed to slow typists down.

 
Jenny
21296.  Tue Jun 07, 2005 9:51 pm Reply with quote

Flash, you sweet thing, I'm terribly complimented by your assumption that 50 is something I have to look forward to rather than back on!

To keep the average up, I do believe that our own Frances from this site didn't write her first novel until she was about 50, and she's still going strong many many novels later.

 
laidbacklazyman
21300.  Wed Jun 08, 2005 12:36 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:


http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mphonedial.html

Morkris, your suggestion doesn't sound right to me - the change just wouldn't have the effect claimed. Also it recalls another well-established myth, that QWERTY keyboards are designed to slow typists down.

I was always led to beleive the QWERTY keyboard was to speed typing up

 
Flash
21304.  Wed Jun 08, 2005 3:02 am Reply with quote

You were led aright, then. But it is often asserted that the letters were jumbled up to slow down typists who were typing so fast that the keys were jamming.

 
Morkris
21347.  Wed Jun 08, 2005 2:32 pm Reply with quote

First the phone keypad then my sure and certain knowledge of the QWERTY keyboard ! Where will it end

I would have to say that the slowing down theory sounds at least as plausible as the strange american quote above

AT&T Pah anyone remember the GPO!

 
Caradoc
21353.  Wed Jun 08, 2005 8:25 pm Reply with quote

If you read the book "cheaper by the dozen" or watch the original film & not the abomination with Steve Martin in, the father of the family was one of the pioneers of time & motion in that it was claimed that he designed the qwerty keyboard to rationalise the spacing of the keys (those that hit the ribbon) to reduce jamming. The dvorak keyboard is supposed to be much quicker once you get used to it, I can manage about 35 words per minute on a qwerty which is about how fast I can compose a letter anyway.

I remember the good old GPO, home of the first man to make a computer, two deliveries a day. I recall being told during a lesson on law that pre WWII the post was so reliable & fast that a first class letter posted in London before 9am would be in Cardiff by 4pm the same day. Of course that was when you had post trains with on board sorting offices, the trains were steam but got from London to Cardiff 12 minutes quicker than the current timetable, the joys of privatisation.

 
Jenny
21358.  Wed Jun 08, 2005 9:10 pm Reply with quote

I had a typing tutor program for my kids once, and surprised myself by discovering, when I did its test, that I can actually type straightforward prose without numbers or symbols at over 80wpm. Pity I can't think of anything very significant to write really, because if I could I could do it very quickly.

 
Flash
21364.  Thu Jun 09, 2005 3:45 am Reply with quote

Quote:
the trains were steam but got from London to Cardiff 12 minutes quicker than the current timetable, the joys of privatisation

What's that got to do with privatisation?

On QWERTY keyboards, the layout was the work of CL Scholes of Milwaukee:

Quote:
When Sholes built his first model in 1868, the keys were arranged alphabetically in two rows. At the time, Milwaukee was a backwoods town. The crude machine shop tools available there could hardly produce a finely-honed instrument that worked with precision. Yes, the first typewriter was sluggish. Yes, it did clash and jam when someone tried to type with it. But Sholes was able to figure out a way around the problem simply by rearranging the letters. Looking inside his early machine, we can see how he did it.
.
The first typewriter had its letters on the end of rods called "typebars." The typebars hung in a circle. The roller which held the paper sat over this circle, and when a key was pressed, a typebar would swing up to hit the paper from underneath. If two typebars were near each other in the circle, they would tend to clash into each other when typed in succession. So, Sholes figured he had to take the most common letter pairs such as "TH" and make sure their typebars hung at safe distances.
.
He did this using a study of letter-pair frequency prepared by educator Amos Densmore, brother of James Densmore, who was Sholes' chief financial backer. The QWERTY keyboard itself was determined by the existing mechanical linkages of the typebars inside the machine to the keys on the outside. Sholes' solution did not eliminate the problem completely, but it was greatly reduced.
.
The keyboard arrangement was considered important enough to be included on Sholes' patent granted in 1878 (see drawing), some years after the machine was into production. QWERTY's effect, by reducing those annoying clashes, was to speed up typing rather than slow it down.


http://home.earthlink.net/~dcrehr/whyqwert.html

 
Caradoc
21422.  Thu Jun 09, 2005 4:32 pm Reply with quote

Flash wrote:

What's that got to do with privatisation?


Privatised companies are penalised for failing to meet timetables, therefore by allowing more time they have more leaway to be on time. Under BR there was a service Cardiff to London which took 85 minutes, the fastest now is about 110 minutes, the steam train took 105 minutes. The franchises have put profits ahead of passengers & reliability & in railtrack's case safety, the rail system now costs us more than double BR's subsidy & there are less services which take longer & are less reliable.

 
Flash
21433.  Thu Jun 09, 2005 6:31 pm Reply with quote

That's good enough for me. I'd only say that the service on SW Trains hasn't changed much since privatisation but is if anything marginally better. Do we need to make allowance for an increase in passenger numbers?

 
laidbacklazyman
21436.  Thu Jun 09, 2005 6:46 pm Reply with quote

Carl wrote:
Flash wrote:

What's that got to do with privatisation?


Privatised companies are penalised for failing to meet timetables, therefore by allowing more time they have more leaway to be on time. Under BR there was a service Cardiff to London which took 85 minutes, the fastest now is about 110 minutes, the steam train took 105 minutes. The franchises have put profits ahead of passengers & reliability & in railtrack's case safety, the rail system now costs us more than double BR's subsidy & there are less services which take longer & are less reliable.


Has too much time passed to still allow us to blame Dr Beeching?

 
Caradoc
21438.  Thu Jun 09, 2005 7:04 pm Reply with quote

laidbacklazyman wrote:
Has too much time passed to still allow us to blame Dr Beeching?


It's never too late to blame Beeching, our local council wanted to reopen one of the lines he closed as surveys said it would be profitable & would reduce road congestion, alas a couple of bits of track had been sold off & built on so it was shelved.

Try telling the owner/workers of Tower Colliery that deep mining cannot be run at a profit.

 

Page 5 of 5
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5

All times are GMT - 5 Hours


Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group