We apply the simulated annealing algorithm to the combinatorial optimization problem of typewriter keyboard design, yielding nearly optimal key-placements using a figure of merit based on English letter pair frequencies and finger travel-times. Our keyboards are demonstrably superior to both the ubiquitous QWERTY keyboard and the less common Dvorak keyboard. The paper is constructed as follows: first we discuss the historical background of keyboard design; this includes August Dvorak's work, and a figure-of-merit (scalar) metric for keyboards. We discuss a theory of keyboard designs: why keyboard design is a combinatorial problem, how combinatorial problems are typically solved, what is simulated annealing, and why it is especially suitable for the problem at hand. Next we discussed the results, and compare the keyboards produced by simulated annealing to QWERTY and Dvorak's keyboard. Finally, we suggest some future lines of inquiry.
Department, Program, or Center
Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)
RIT – Main Campus