in reference to a type of non-alphabetic keyboard or key arrangement, by 1925, from the first six keys on a standard typewriter keyboard read as though text from upper left.
Mechanical typewriters were patented from 1867; the QWERTY layout itself is said to date to 1887 and became dominant in U.S. from early 20c. It is meant not to slow typists, as sometimes is said, but to separate the letters in common digraphs (-sh-, -ck-, etc.) to reduce jamming of swing-arms in old-style machines. It actually speeds typing by requiring alternate-hand strokes, which is one reason the alternative DVORAK keyboard is not appreciably faster.
Remnants of the original alphabetic typewriter keyboard remain in the second row of letter keys: FGH-JKL. The French standard was AZERTY; in Germany, QWERTZ; in Italy, QZERTY. Compare etaoin shrdlu.