More and more eleven plus work is now being offered on line and through the internet. Children, and their parents, have to communicate with their computers via the key board. The layout of the letters on the keyboard, however, remains a mystery to many.
Back in 1714 Queen Anne granted a patent for an Englishman called Henry Mill for the manufacture of a machine for writing to be `engrossed’ on paper. Sadly his invention does not exist and we have no records of it. It looks as if Henry Mill was unable to make an effective back up of his work!
Credit for the first modern typewriter belongs to Christopher Scholes, a newspaper editor who lived in Milwaukee in the 1860s. On the Scholes machine, as on present day manual type writers, each character was set on the end of metal bar which struck the paper when the key was pressed. The keys were arranged alphabetically.
There was a snag – which would not apply the nimble fingers of today’s eleven plus children - when the operator began to type at speed the bars attached to the letters became entangled with one another.
One way out of the difficulty was to find the letters that were used most often in English – and then re-site them on the keyboard as far as possible from each other. This lessened the chance of clashing key bars. In this was born QWERTY, named after the first six letters of the key board.
Eleven Plus Question one:
In the letters QWERTY which is the first vowel after the third letter?
Eleven Plus Question two
If the letters of QWERTY were reversed, which letter would be second from the end of the alphabet?
Our eleven plus children will attend IT lessons at school. Some will even play on their own computers at home. Some will have some form of typing tutor. Others will be good honest two finger typists for the rest of their lives. When Scholes said of his keyboard: “A blessing to mankind and womankind” we must wonder what he would have thought of the various keyboards on our telephones?
My first phone was a Motorola – with a large battery and a large keyboard. Today’s phone, a Nokia N97, has a touch screen and a QWERTY keyboard.
It is difficult to be able to look ahead to the technology that will exist for today’s eleven plus children when they attend their first lectures at university. Perhaps one day one of our current candidates will enjoy a degree in design and go on to design a telephone keyboard that takes into account fingers that do not have to bash a QWERTY keyboard – but do need to be able to caress a screen. If it is your child, please let me know.