Is the Start button like the QWERTY keyboard?

Does UI inertia like the type that keeps the QWERTY keyboard format around mean that the Start button may return?

The QWERTY keyboard layout was designed to achieve a maximum speed on an old mechanical typewriter. Not by ensuring that a typist could enter text as quickly as possible, but by having a layout that minimized the chances that the hammers on the mechanical typewriter wouldn’t get jammed together. There were layouts that allowed faster text entry, but they always ended up causing jammed mechanical typewriter hammers.

Even though electric typewriters and word processors don’t suffer from hammer jam, in the English speaking world, the QWERTY format has persisted. This is in spite of the development of alternative keyboard layouts, such as Dvorak, that put more commonly used letters on the home row, leading to increased text entry speeds.

Sometimes a technical choice persists not because it’s the most efficient, but because of simple inertia.

The removal of the Start button on Windows 8 has become a nexus for criticism of the operating system. Although it’s possible to access the Start screen by pressing the Start key on any computer that doesn’t have a touch screen, the reaction to the removal of this UI element has been vocal.

While I’m pretty sure that the reason people aren’t buying new PCs has more to do with the fact that the old ones are still working fine and that a PC from 4 years ago is more than capable of running almost all of today’s software, there are others that attribute the decline in PC sales almost directly to the decision to remove the Start button from Windows 8.

While that theory sounds crazier than a wombat on amphetamines, unlike the introduction of the Ribbon in Microsoft Office, which most people, once they used it, said “oh yeah, this is an improvement”, the “Start button” issue is one that looks like it’s got legs.

And it’s one that is easily defused.

There are reports today that Windows 8 Blue will either return, or provide a setting to allow the return of the Start button to the Taskbar on the Classic Desktop. This seems to be a reasonable strategy. The Start button, while like the QWERTY layout, may not be the most efficient way of accomplishing the task, but it’s also what a large number people are used to.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Apr 23, 2013

Way back, in the 50's, GM put a joystick in an experimental Buick. It was a newer, more modern, more efficient, more responsive way to steer an automobile. And everyone hated it.

Now Microsoft puts Metro in Windows. It's a newer, more modern UI; yet it's sickly, and a rather effete and an obvious attempt to corral people into a walled prison, er, garden, where Microsoft takes a 30% cut from developers. And everybody hates it. Go figure.

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Orin Thomas is a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and a Windows Security MVP. He has authored or coauthored more than thirty books for Microsoft Press, founded the Melbourne System Center,...
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