Friday, December 31, 2010

(empo-tuulwey) Why touch typists like me should just chill

A tool is not a way of life, but sometimes even I forget that.

Not too long ago, Jake Kuramoto wrote a post asking if touch typing is an obsolete skill. Kuramoto is a touch-typist, and he wonders about those who are not.

It would seem odd that touch-typing classes have not become a prerequisite of computer science courses, if only to help the students become more productive. I don’t know if they are, but somehow I doubt it.

In a comment, I provided my own experience with touch-typing, and the tangible benefits that it provided to me.

I took a typing class in 10th grade, in the mid 1970s when the only computers that I encountered were either small computers dedicated to BASIC programming, or large mainframes that used punch cards. (I wouldn't encounter any type of personal computer until several years later.)

Basically, I'm lucky that I took that typing class instead of a more academic class. At the time, I had no idea that the keyboard (a word I never used at the time) would become one of the primary communication devices for the next 35+ years. Back then, my highest ambition was to use an IBM Selectric because it simplified the correction process (no erasers!). On a more practical level, I had no idea that almost every job that I would have in the future would involve using some sort of keyboard (either a typewriter or a computer keyboard).

Even when I'm thinking while typing, touch typing benefits me because I can look at the screen rather than worrying about where my fingers fall. And occasionally, when the words just flow, I can hit my stride and type away at my claimed speed of 60 wpm, or perhaps much faster than that (I've never bothered to test myself recently). 60 wpm, that means that I can tweet in 28 seconds or less. (And I figured that out using long division - another lost skill.)

So in essence, we have the tool called the typewriter, whose benefits were directly transferable to the tool called the computer keyboard.

However, a subsequent comment from Jake reminded me that keyboards (whether computer-based or typewriter-based) may not survive for much longer.

Voice can keep up, and it's improving. Typing at all will be obsolete in the next ten years.

When voice input achieves maturity, what will I do with my fingers? Play the piano? Oh, I forgot - I already use MIDI programming for that.

But not by voice - yet.
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