The Evolution of Keyboards: An Exquisitely Crafted Chronicle of their Transformation.


Marcin Wichary has released a two-volume, 1,200-plus-page book called “Shift Happens” to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the QWERTY keyboard. The book features over 1,300 photos and took seven years to research and compile. It explores the history and evolution of the keyboard, connecting the realms of ink/type-based machines to modern computer keyboards. Wichary, a designer, engineer, and writer, has been sharing his passion for type, fonts, and text design for some time. The book offers a comprehensive and fascinating exploration of the keyboard’s significance and the stories surrounding it.

Wichary’s “Shift Happens” is available for pre-order, with orders placed before October 4 being shipped before Christmas. The book not only delves into the history of the QWERTY keyboard but also includes stories about typewriter companies’ fierce competition during the “Shift Wars” era. Wichary conducted interviews, created custom fonts, wrote automation code, and uploaded extensive research to the Internet Archive during the making of the book. The publication aims to bridge the gap between typewriters and modern computer keyboards, which have often been studied separately. Wichary believes that there are countless fascinating stories to be discovered within the realm of keyboards.

The process of creating the book was a challenging one due to the intricate typographic elements involved. As a web designer, Wichary found that the web made certain tasks easier, but laying out a book for type enthusiasts presented its own difficulties. He had to create his own font and write Python scripts for typesetting within the font-making software. Footnote placement also required extensive scripting, as Wichary refused to accept the limitations of common software. Despite these challenges, he enjoyed incorporating historical keyboard symbols and adding Easter eggs and intentional typos to make the book more engaging. “Shift Happens” is a unique and visually appealing tribute to the QWERTY keyboard and its fascinating history.

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