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Sunday, January 23, 2011


To him that hath shall be given.

Or as my father’s was fond of saying: “Them that has, gits’. He always used the expression in the context of money - ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer'. When he was just starting his business, he couldn’t get a loan from conservative bankers in our town and had to borrow the capital he needed from his family. The more successful he became, the fewer the problems so it was certainly borne out by his experience .

It has never seemed fair or right to me but t’were always thus - since biblical times - until John Hatch came along and had his epiphany on a flight to Bolivia in 1984. He conceived the idea of creating 'Banks for the Poor' and that led to the creation of FINCA [The Foundation for International Community Assistance] and microfinancing that is now changing the lives of more than a million of the very poorest in third world countries. It has been such a success because of the philanthropy of many smart people who have made it an exception to the rule.

For an interesting example of the rule holding, I happened to read about QWERTY in M.M.Waldrop’s book ‘Complexity’. If you look at any keyboard using our Latin alphabet, QWERTY it just the word spelled out by the first 6 letters on the top row of letters.

I am very right handed as 93% of people are and I found that when I was learning to touch type - that’s typing without having to look at the keyboard as you probably know - I seemed to be using my left hand as much, if not more than, my right. Still I naturally assumed that it was surely because the letters had been arranged for maximum speed and efficiency. Well, the opposite happens to be true.

Back in 1873 when typewriters like the one shown, were first coming into common use, their keys often jammed if you typed too fast. So in order to slow down typists, an engineer designed the keyboard layout so that each letter was in the most inconvenient place possible!

Then those who started to mass-produce typewriters copied the original layout assuming, as I had, that it was the best and most efficient. The more people who learned to touch type using these awkward keyboards, the more locked in it became –'Him that has gits.’

An even better illustration of the rule is what happened with the two video systems that were developed at the same time - VHS and BETA. They had different technologies and BETA was better in many ways but more people happened to have bought into VHS and it won out and BETA disappeared. HTHG'



  1. My family used the Dvorak keyboard for many years, which is the "QWERTY" alternative! Since I had never taken typing, I took a course in Seattle for a week on how to use the new keyboard.It's a pain to use it because others can't use your computer easily and you need to change the keyboard on other computers you might need to use.

    Just to show how marketing affected the QWERTY keyboard development...type out the word "typewriter" on your keyboard. What do you notice? That fact made typewriter salesmen able to show "how fast" you could type on the new machine! Just type "typewriter" over and over again, all on one row!

  2. Interesting story. I am a big fan of FINCA and when I have left over funds after giving to a small selective group of charities I give to FINCA. It's a literal lifeline to people who are able to advance themselves out of poverty with their entrepreneurial skills

  3. Free lessons on