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Why do we type this way?

By Tink! ·
I saw the following article and thought it was interesting. I remember when I learned to type on my brother's Apple IIe I tried learning the Dvorak method too - just for fun. I don't know if I could switch now after typing Qwerty method for so long.

Do you think Dvorak will ever be the standard?
What are the pros and cons?

Qwerty Query: Why Do We Still Type This Way?
By Dory Devlin
Mon May 22, 2006 12:40PM EDT

I went to our town's middle school last night to hear Willard Daggett, an education consultant, talk about the dismal job we are doing educating our kids for a global economy they will be hard-pressed to compete in. Big issues, but one small one caught my ear.

The Qwerty keyboard. We've been using it since the 1870s, when typewriter inventor C.L. Sholes moved letters around the keyboard so typewriter keys would stop jamming.

Well, we don't use typewriters anymore. Technology has caught up with human dexterity. Jamming keys are no longer a problem. And the gymnastics our fingers do on the Qwerty keyboard can exacerbate repetitive stress problems.

In the 1930s, Washington State University Professor August Dvorak came up with a more common-sense design that placed some of the most commonly typed letters, including vowels, on the home row. (Pictured above) A typist can type about 400 of the most common words in the English language on the Dvorak keyboard home row, compared with about 100 on the Qwerty keyboard home row.

"Why," Daggett asked, "aren't my grandchildren learning to type on a keyboard that is 28 percent faster and won't lead to carpal tunnel syndrome?"

He asks a good question. One, I have to admit, I have never given much thought since the Qwerty keyboard is all I've known. Anyone can change the keyboard layout to Dvorak settings in Windows. And many who are battling RSI (repetitive stress injuries) have done so. But, as this Forbes article suggests, isn't it time for a new universal keyboard design that can help speed typing without mangling a new generation of hands?

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don't teach just one

by apotheon In reply to That's fine. For people ...

Teach the kids qwerty and Dvorak equally. People will still need qwerty for a long time to come.

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by RobinHood70 In reply to The reason in a word....

You DO realize that the US is the only major remaining country (perhaps even the ONLY) who still uses strictly Imperial, don't you?

Admittedly, I'm still 5'8", and I still add 1/4 cup of whatever to whatever recipe I'm baking, but for the most part, I'm metricised, and the younger generation in Canada is even more so. Canada switched to metric about 25 years ago, I think, and many of the younger generation only know their height, weight, etc. in metric.

And by the same token, if EVERYBODY switched to Dvorak today, 25 years from now, nobody would even remember QWERTY except museums and us "old-timers".

In truth, I tried it when I was younger and just couldn't get the hang of it, but I think the biggest problem was that I was ONLY using the Windows keyboard mapper to actual keyboard was still QWERTY, so if I was hunting for a letter, it was next to impossible to find. If I'd had a "real" Dvorak keyboard back then, I probably coulda made the switch.


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Been typing Dvorak since 1999 and I love it! Here's how... It's easy...

by shamusoneil06 In reply to Why do we type this way?

I've been on Dvorak since 1999 when Qwerty starting making my right hand ache. I made the switch and the pain is much better now.

I found a page by a guy named Jeff Bigler. He compiled a large list of links and resources for people to learn about and switch to Dvorak. Jeff's page hasn't been updated for easily switching the WinXP keymap, so here's the best page right now:

The page has links on how to switch the keymap in popular operating systems and a link to a free on-line typing tutor(ABC A Basic Course in Dvorak) that makes it fun and easy. The thing you notice INSTANTLY about the Dvorak keymap is how many words and actual sentences can be spelled on the home row; and you can feel good about your progress very quickly. Give it two weeks of daily practice through the typing tutor and you'll have your old speed back.

I wouldn't take a job that required me to type on Qwerty all day long. As a travelling computer consultant, it's not an all-day thing and I deal with it. But when at home, I'm on Dvorak and I love it. :)

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Dvorak Devotee

by Keith Gillette In reply to Been typing Dvorak since ...

I've been a QWERTY touch-typist since 8th grade typing class. I switched to Dvorak "cold turkey" about 3 years ago. It was a very painful transition, since I was already a proficient QWERTY touch-typist, but I think it's worth in the long run. I use keyboards 8-12 hours daily, so I'll save a lot of wear & tear on my already stressed tendons & nerves over the course of my life.

The availability of keyboard mappings for Windows, MacOS & Linux make it very easy to make the change. For the first couple of weeks, I put stickers on the keys to train myself, but within a month I had lost need of them & was as fast a typist on Dvorak as I was on QWERTY. It's all been gains since then.

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I agree with equalizing

by Tink! In reply to Why do we type this way?

the amount of time and energy spent on teaching both styles. If you give the kids the ability to do either one, then later in the professinal world they can either choose based on their personal preferences or by their choice of profession.

I could see employers in the future changing companies over to Dvorak for efficiency and lowered injury risks. As well, professions that work best with one or the other style, could cause that particular style to be standard for that profession.

For me, I'd best not switch to a Dvorak keyboard although I may try to learn it again in my spare time-(ha...what's that?). It'd just end up causing chaos in the office!

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How many people actually touch-type?

by AlanGeek In reply to I agree with equalizing

I (like an awful lot of us) am in IT, and I'm just astounded at how many people in IT cannot touch-type. My rough guesstimate is that less than 25% of our IT department (a few hundred people) touch-type. And these people do it for a living! It boggles the mind.

We had a power failure a couple of years back (remember the big one that took out most of the northeast?) and our generators failed to come online, so my group had to sprint to the data center to shut down all the servers before the UPSes ran out of juice, and for some strange reason, none of the emergency lights came on either, so everybody was scrambling to find flashlights so they could see to type. Since I was able to touch type, I ended up shutting down most of the machines because I didn't need to look at the keyboard to type.

I still consider teaching myself to type one of the smartest moves I ever made. At the time, it was because it was too much of a pain to write song lyrics out by hand when I was trying to learn them, and I figured that it would be much faster and much more legible if I typed them. Of course, I probably single-handedly gave the White-Out company one of their biggest sales years in the process, but it was worth it.

At one time my accuracy was phenomenal, but since moving to computers, though I still manage to do approximately 45-70 wpm, I have to replace my backspace key every couple of years as it starts to resemble a saddle from all the use.

I've often entertained the thought of trying to learn the Dvorak keyboard, but just haven't quite gotten around to actually doing it. I really ought to give it a try, an honest try, for like a month or so, just to see what it's like.

Then again, what I'd really like to do is get a one-handed keyboard so I can type while I'm... eating, yeah, eating, so I don't get my keyboard all greasy from the potato chips or get cracker or cookie crumbs in it. But those things are so doggoned expensive!

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Should we take a touch-type poll?

by Tink! In reply to How many people actually ...

I think you're right that touch-typists are few and far between despite the fact that computers are so widely used and depended upon.

When I learned to type (at age 5) I learned to touch-type by my mother's insistence. I was typing 40-50 wpm by the time I was in grade school. My teachers were so impressed that they had me demonstrating all the time to the computer classes.

In high school I have to admit I enjoyed showing off a bit. After school I'd go into the computer room and type homework assignments even though I had a computer at home, because I liked how everyone in there was always awestruck at my typing speed.

Besides how many people touch-type and at what speed, another question is how many people use the number pad vs the numbers row?

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touch-typist here

by apotheon In reply to Should we take a touch-ty ...

Something I find even more stunning than the rarity of touch-typists is how often people will look at me funny when I say "touch-type" because they don't know what it means. For most people, it's "Do you know how to type?" and not "Do you know how to touch-type?" Well, duh, anyone that can hunt-and-peck technically knows how to "type", but they don't know how to "touch-type". I wonder if Mavis Beacon is to blame for the conflation of terms.

By the way, I'm a number-row typist because I'm used to laptops and don't like moving my hands far enough away from home row to screw with the number pad. I don't think my average typing speed (errors and all) has dropped below about 85wpm for the last decade, give or take, and I've been known to type at more than 100wpm. I probably would have been helpful in Alan's shop when the power went out.

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Touch-typist here...

by btljooz In reply to Should we take a touch-ty ...

There were NO computers in schools/homes back then (I'm 'aging' myself, here )

I learned in the 10th grade on MANUAL typewriters withOUT letters on the keys!!!!!

Now it's been long enough since I've used a typewriter that I don't even know my WPM by the old typewriter standards. But I DO know that I can 'keyboard' at 35 WPM by the NEW system of speed measurement. I attribute that speed to IMing and (here I go again: telling on myself) going into the fast moving Message Boards in Yahoo News.

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Another touch typist here

by Old Guy In reply to Should we take a touch-ty ...

I learned in the 11th grade on the old Selectric typewriter. At home we had a manual. I was typing 75-80 wpm on the Selectric. I've never timed myself on a computer but I'm quite confident I can still hold my own.

Number pad: I go between a laptop and desktop so I use both. I definitely use the number pad on a desktop. It's much faster for me.

I too can't believe how few of us seem to be left.

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