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One of the toughest challenges of managing an open source project is deciding which enhancements will be included in the core. And sometimes it is not the enhancement concept which is the issue but rather the technical implementation as there are always mutiple ways to solve every problem. As an example of this dilemma, I currently have two skinning contributions on my machine which are both good contenders for inclusion into the core. And it is now my job to perform the analysis to determine which is a stronger more flexible option for the community. As once a standard has been set, it is very difficult to change later. On that note I would like to relay an interesting IT history lesson.

How many of you understand how the standard QWERTY keyboard came to be? Do you think that scientists and engineers constructed the layout based on complex research and mathematical probabilities? Definitely not. Studies have shown it is not the most efficient layout in terms of character frequency or organization. It turns out that the layout for the standard keyboard is a result of mechanical limitation. The first typewriters were mechanical devices which allowed you to forcefully press a lever corresponding to a specific character in the alphabet. This in turn would trigger a hammer to strike the drum and ribbon in combination to produce an ink representation of the letter on the paper. This system worked fairly well as long as the typist was not too proficient. Because once the typing speed reached a certain maximum threshold, the hammers would tend to bind together when they struck the drum which would force the typist to stop and manually unbind them before continuing. In researching this issue, engineers determined that certain combinations of keys were often used in rapid succession ( ie. "ch", "th", "st" ) which would result in the binding problem. Therefore they decided to modify the keyboard layout in such a way as to minimize the chance of the mechanical hammers binding. And that is how the standard keyboard layout came to be. Now that we are far removed from mechanical typewriters, attempts have been made to construct a more efficient keyboard layout. However these attempts have proven to be futile as the QWERTY keyboard is an international standard. The moral of the story is, whenever possible, do not base your standard on current technical implementations but rather force the technology to adapt to your ultimate design goals.


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