Thursday, December 20

on keys

Last week Andrew emailed from Israel to ask how I type with one hand. He is working on a magazine article about one-handed typing and had come across my humble blog through another site (there's a handful of us out there...ha ha

So I took a short trip down memory lane to ponder my own journey in keyboard communication. I don't think I've actually talked about it at all on this blog, which I find rather ironic. So here goes...

I first learned to key in Ms. Blea's high school typing class. Or rather, I taught myself to type in her class full of two-handed students. I had my own book and my own exercises, which I think my mom had actually provided.

I learned on the QWERTY keyboard layout like everyone else, I just had to cover twice the keys with only five fingers. And somehow, even though it was completely self study, I got a B in the class, leaving a permanent smudge on my otherwise straight A transcript.

But I knew how to type. Maybe not fast or without frequently looking at the keys, but I knew how to type. I still consider this one of the most helpful skills I have learned in my life up to now.

But then, because I am blessed with parents who rarely just accept the status quo, I was introduced to the Dvorak keyboard layout. This layout was specifically designed to be more ergonomically effective. In layman's terms, the keys are organized on the keyboard in a way that compliments the way your hand and fingers move most easily--vertically, for a keyboard. The Dvorak keyboard is actually more efficient for two-handed typists as well, but most of the world is accustomed to QWERTY.

I re-taught myself to type on the Dvorak keyboard the summer before I went to college. The increased speed and ease of typing was remarkable. I never looked back.

But typing faster isn't the only perk of using a different layout than most of the world. When I got a job at the local newspaper, I shared a computer, and frequently forgot to change the layout settings for the next user. This kind of oversight often led to unintentional Twilight Zone episodes of confusion and panic. I felt bad at first, but with a lifetime of think-outside-the-box training, I decided to use it to my advantage...

"What do you mean something's wrong with your keyboard? I was just using it a second ago."

...It's like knowing a secret language. Do I feel superior? Of course. That's what happens when you give a straight A student a B in keyboarding. Let it be a lesson to stubborn typing teachers everywhere.

[This post was made possible by the support of the Dvorak keyboard.]