Going back to go forward.

Almost on a whim I have started to learn to touch type. This is something that i never thought that i would be able to do.

I grew up as a dyslexic child. When i was about the age of 12 for some reason my mum and dad took me to go see a psychiatrist. This was a special occasion they weren’t the garden variety psychologist that i was used to seeing for my dyslexia.

Thank fully this guy was able to confirm what I and my parents knew: I was very bright for a boy of my age. but it was also true, that i had some pretty profound learning difficulties. Towards the end of the conversation this very powerful man said something that i will never forget and as i sit here now slowly but surely touch typing this blog, I am emotionally processing it on the fly. My dad ask ‘would it help if we got him to learn to touch type? I have heard that that can be very good for their spelling?’  To which the doctor responded: ‘No, I doubt this boy will ever be able to learn to touch type (with 10 fingers).’

So that was it, i got on with other things. I stopped even trying to learn this skill and never really thought much off it again. that was untill a year or so ago when i was sat down of an evening as I often do learning computer programming. this involves a lot of transcribing example code into text documents. So I had to learn to tab between windows. One day it suddenly occurred to me that i was not looking at the keys at all. I was still typing in my usual ‘hunt-and-peck’ three fingered style, but my hands were flying around the key board.

I turned to my wife and said ‘hey look at this: I am touch typing’. In my head I thought: well it turns out that F*ing guy was wrong.

Now was he? I know that I had tried very hard to learn to touch type in qwerty, and that i had never got on with it. So although I was now touch typing, it was not in a typical 10 finger style. it was with the furious style of a mad wizard using their hands to conjure a spell over a cauldron, but typing by touch, I was.

A little while ago I read a book called the first 20 hours. The author Josh Kaufman switches from qwerty to the colemak keyboard layout. He did it to increase his typing speed. Colemak offered me a much bigger advantage, as I saw it: ‘no peekin’. As the keys are not where they are indicated on the keyboard, I had to learn this layout by ‘touch’.

Looking into it online all the alternative layouts have their detractors, but the main point they seem to be making is that it is not worth the hassle and the time investment to switch from qwerty. ** But I am learning 10 finger typing for the first time. There is universal agreement that it is worth investing the time to learn to touch type, if you don’t have this skill. So for me it made perfect sense to go with the most:Ergonomic and comfortable system – Your fingers on QWERTY move 2.2x more than on Colemak. QWERTY has 16x more same hand row jumping than Colemak and there are 35x more words you can type using only the home row on Colemak. Fastest – Most of the typing is done on the strongest and fastest fingers. Low same-finger ratio.

The big difference for me of this layout is that your fingers almost never,  if ever have to jump from the bottom to the top row or visa-versa. I don’t know for sure but, i think this has made it much easier to pick this layout up. I am on day 7 of learning colemak.

So perhaps the good doctor was right: I never would learn to touch type ‘normally’ but maybe in the end that didn’t matter.

**  = is the point were i had been typing for an hour. 509 words or 8 words per min in real typing speed.

It you are embarking on a touch typing journey. Best of luck.

Right I now need to put my hands in some ice!