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Tuesday, 09 March 2021


Re: "It would be like typing with blank keys."

You can actually buy keyboards with blank keys, e.g., https://www.daskeyboard.com/blog/type-like-a-badass-go-blank/.

I can touch type most of the time, but have to hunt-and-peck when one of our cats is in my lap, so blank keyboards would be a disaster for me.

TOP is becoming a "Trueman Show". I can't wait till the next episode.

So you are leaning to touch type on a Dvorak & non standard keyboard and alternating with a ‘normal’ & QWERTY one, what could possibly go wrong?

What speed can you do dictating to the Mac, iPad or iPhone?

Mike: “My objective is to reach the point that I can go cold turkey, and set the old keyboard aside for good, and do all my work on the new keyboard while TOUGH typing.” (sic)


The best advice my father ever gave me was to take typing class in high school. I may have been the only boy in the class which was not a bad thing.

Buy a copy of Dragon speech recognition software and only use the keyboard for corrections. Works great for me.

Maybe you can view it as a meditation? The practice firmly places you in the present moment, the here and now, fully self aware. Who knows, maybe enlightenment comes next?


I got a chuckle out of this quote: "My objective is . . . set the old keyboard aside for good, and do all my work on the new keyboard while tough typing."

Tough typing is what you're going through!

Please keep at it. It's going to take some time to remember the locations of the "new" keys on the Dvorak keyboard. I would take 10 times longer if I had to switch from the standard keyboard to Dvorak.

In radio, those trying to learn Morse code are advised to choose a speed faster than about 10 wpm, in order to avoid constructing a lookup table in their minds. They are advised to just listen to the sounds of the dots and dashes.

It seems that you are trying to translate from the standard keyboard to Dvorak. Just go straight to Dvorak without the intermediary step. It takes a while, but it'll click someday. You've only been doing this for a couple of weeks or so. It takes time, but then it'll just fall in place.

Relax, channel your inner Star Wars and just feel the force when typing. ;)

Man, just get it over with and drive a nail into your head. Put the keyboard back to QUERTY and get a simple touch typing application like Mavis Beacon (or something like that). The only thing the Military did for me was teach me to touch type. I was trained as a cryptographer, and all the crypto equipment of the day was keyboard driven. Eight hours a day, five days a week, for a month. At the end, if we couldn’t do 100+ wpm error free, we were in trouble. So, if you really want to learn this, do it the simple way. QUERTY and time. Put a tea towel over your hands/keyboard so you can’t see anything if you tried. Also, though you’ve spent the money already, dump the oddball keyboard and get a Logitech K350. You’ll thank me. I’m now in my 70’s and have slowed down to about 85 wpm.

I took typewriting in high school, Mike. And I did well, earning an A. The problem was, I was already working in a professional radio newsroom on the weekend. I didn't have time to allow my typing speed to rise organically. I needed to pound out copy pronto.

So on weekends, I defaulted to a kind of half qwerty, half hunt-and-peck style - usually using six or eight fingers - that worked for me. And that's what I stuck with throughout my career. My typing speed ran in the 60 words-per-minute range and my error rate was acceptable. If I had to type a formal letter or document, I would simply slow down.

But now, in the twilight if my career (we are the same age), I'm finding my error rate is rising quite a bit as my speed falls. I invert characters a whole lot these days. At least I spot the mistakes and correct them. I'm not sure if the problem is mental or physical. No doubt there is some arthritis in my fingers. But computer keyboards - even full-sized examples - haven't helped, either.

I'll probably be able to limp into retirement this way. I have no interest in re-learning how to type.

And once you've mastered Dvorak you can start learning Swype to speed your phone typing.


I took typing in high school. It was a one semester course. An hour a day, five days a week for four months or so. I really think that's about how much time it takes to learn touch typing. You just have to keep at it.

Muscle memory is vastly unrated, and comes at great cost. This is why changing cameras less often, and being monogamous to one kind, helps “get the camera out of the way.” If you succeed in your quest to learn a less common keyboard, will you be able to use keyboards on other devices like laptops and iPads? Seems like a big risk to general long-term efficiency.

Just saying...

Semi related side note. A while back a co-worker and I had a discussion on why the letters on a keyboard are sequenced like they are as there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the order. Well a google search gave the answer. The letters were purposely scrambled to keep folks from typing too fast which caused early typewriters to jam. Personally I do better with my on screen keyboard than a real one.

"Along those lines, I've been forced to admit to myself the possibility that the old gray matter has stiffened like an artery and no longer has the flexibility to cope with being thus rewired..." MJ

brain flexibility needed? Exercise is conducive to better cognition at all ages. References?



Walk longer : type faster.

I wish you all the luck in the world, but it seems like you are making this waaaay more difficult than it has to be. The whole point of touch typing is that you don't have to think about it, just like I'm sure you don't think about operating the clutch and manual transmission in your car anymore. The proper techniques help take you to that place of not having to visualize your fingers.

Reading the description of your learning process made me think of a video I watched once of a circus performer who can shoot a bow and arrow with her feet, while standing on her hands, at a balloon placed right above another performer's head. So, a bit riskier than a typing mistake. But, instead of trying to start by learning to shoot the bow and arrow with your hands, while sighting right down the arrow, you've jumped straight to "foot archery." Not only that, but you keep switching which foot you hold the bow with, and you also switch between a couple different types of bows, and then for good measure you revert back to just poking the balloon with a sharp pencil when you get tired of standing on your hands.

Like I said, good luck, but I don't think you're giving yourself very good odds of success.

Good luck and keep at it!
I was lucky to get a course in school, think it was 8th grade maybe, in touch typing.
And that was on type writers!
Enter the computer era and my studies at college some 20 years later.
Finally I can put it to good use. This is maybe the one thing from school that I got most use out of.
Besides the 3 Rs of course!

I tried to learn to touch type, some 40+ years ago. I'd been keyboarding for years: punched card and punched tape machines, ASR33 Teletypes, early VDUs. It was clear that typing was going to be an increasingly important part of my life. Thought I'd better take a touch typing self-teach course, obviously better than my rather speedy hunt and peck.

Within 2 weeks of starting to learn to touch type, I had a serious brush with RSI!

I gave up my self-teach course and have been happily hunting and pecking at speed ever since! I hope your mileage does vary, as they almost used to say...

I learned to type in middle school. We had basically two workshops, electricity and typewriting. All the boys wanted to be in electricity, to play with cables and, well, be a man. But my mother gave me one of the few irrevocable orders that I ever heard from her: I would take typewriting and that was the end of it.

She gave me a beautiful mechanical German machine, an Erika 40, made in the '60s, that belonged to her. I remember that in the workshop we used a cloth over our hands to avoid gazing at the keys.

Back then, at 14 years old, I didn't know that typing would be as essential as walking in my adult life. But, apparently, my mother knew, or maybe she wanted it to be so. Until her last days, she kept every single piece of newspaper or magazine with my texts. I wish I could have published much more while she was alive.

Keep going Mike, touch-typing can also be a joy.

Forget "learning" to touch-type at your age. Some years ago my wife (who did learn touch typing as a teen) told me that I already learned it. She advised that I just stop looking at the keyboard and just type. She speculated that the few mistakes I made would quickly diminish with time.

And she was dead right! Simple daily drudgery has already trained me to "touch type" on a standard qwerty board. Try it yourself.

[You're right. I actually do type mostly not looking at the keyboard. But my index fingers are flying all over the place so I am making more and more mistakes. --Mike]

Have you considered using a dictation app instead of typing? For example Siri on a mac.

Blll Lewis

I've actually learned typing in a formal typing school, as that was the thing when I got my first typewriter. Even did an exam and passed without a problem. But I don't think I ever typed like that again afterward. I've found some way between what I'm supposed to do and what works for me. And I have no clue how fast I type. That exam was the only time I cared (and I used to be a wire service journalist, so speed was important).

"My ultimate goal is to achieve my current 43 WPM, only with ease and comfort, less thought, greater relaxation, and fewer errors. My stretch goal—the Grail, as it were, the chalice—is to do so while returning to my peak speed of 60 WPM. "

Yes, but can you think at 60 WPM? :)

Merriam-Webster's definition of Quixotic: foolishly impractical.

I think that looking at the screen while typing is over rated, I don't quite hunt and peck but use about two fingers on each hand and thumbs. My train of thought remains in tact while I type looking at the keyboard but is ruined by watching words magically appear on the screen, I start reading not writing and that slows me down. I always need a read over anyway and that's where I pick up the mistakes. WPM is not what I am trying to do rather produce coherent paragraphs that communicate my ideas/conclusions.

There’s a Larson cartoon for this:

“ High above the hushed crowd, Rex tried to remain focused. Still, he couldn’t shake one nagging thought: he was an old dog, and this was a new trick”

I’d post the cartoon in question, but I’m sure that would be against all “the rules”

Good luck with the transition

What do you call a person who can touch type on both DVORAK and QWERTY keyboards? (That sounds like a pun, but I was actually curious...)

It's still an Optical Paragon :) - I picked one up for my 5yo to go with her K-3 and the images that trio produce are from a different world, imagination know no bounds.

My mother insisted that I learned to type when I went to University, and bought me an Olivetti portable in 1966. I learned to touch type on it, but then took jobs that did not require typing. Years later, working for a multinational (in Australia), we transmitted product orders by telex to our head office, so my skills came to the fore again, as time equaled money on the telex lines.

I was then given a different role, flying around the country, where I had a Phillips dictaphone, and used to mail the micro-cassettes back to my secretary, (remember them?) who would have all my correspondence typed, ready for signing, on my return.

It was a real shock a couple of years later that I found myself at another company, where I was expected to type my own letters on an online terminal to a mainframe, and then later on one of the first “portable” computers, a Compaq “sewing machine” with, I think, 10 Mb of storage.

I bounced around SE Asia in later years, either with or without secretaries, but then found myself home in Australia again, and no secretaries in sight, they had become extinct in my absence.

My mother’s foresight has proven invaluable since then, as I still type faster than I can write (and a lot more legibly), but am going to investigate dictation on an Apple computer again, as my typing speed has declined in counterpoint to the advancing years.

Actually, if it was a pun:

Q: "What do you call someone who can touch type on both QWERTY and DVORAK keyboards"?

A: "dsfjgknr,mtgioxvc"

Yoda had the right advice, "Use the force!"

If you think about how you are typing, it slows you down and causes mistakes. You have to type with your brainstem handling the typing while you brain is dictating what to type.

Strangely enough, that's how I taught drivers on track days. The operation of the car had to become instinctive - driving with your brainstem - in order to concentrate on how to drive fast on the track.

I have no idea how fast I type but it's fast enough for my brain to compose what I want to record in real time. The goal is not typing, it's to get things recorded.

I've been doing so much writing in the last year that for the first time my fingertips are getting calloused!

Afterthought - I have big hands and cannot type fast on small keyboards like laptops. I use a big Macally keyboard. I also like keys that have some stroke and click. Tactile feedback helps.

My advice - figure what works for you and go with it.

For many years, Stephen Jay Gould wrote a regular article for the Museum of Natural History magazine usually but not always on evolutionary topics. However, he did write one article on the history of the QWERTY keyboard. As I recall, he concluded that the reason for the layout was for sales purposes - namely, the word "typewriter" consists of letters solely on the top line, which enabled sales staff to type it for potential purchasers as extraordinary speed, which in turn caused QWERTY typewriters to be sold at such extraordinary speed that they became the de facto standard. Touch typing was invented quite some time later.

In your touch typing adventures Mike, I would not pay too much attention to the book learning that you should not watch the keyboard. The typing manuals derive from training for copy-typists on typewriters - obviously, it slows down a copy typist significantly if they have to take their eyes off the page they are copying. You do not need to play in that league. I would suggest that you look at your fingers as needed but try to lift your eyes to the screen as often as possible so that your muscle memory takes over. And typing is really all about muscle memory - you just need to repeat typing words over and over so many times that it becomes automated. I was never particularly fast on a typewriter but can type about as fast I can think on a computer keyboard - especially as there is now auto-correct....

I never learned DVORAK but my you few friends who mastered it advise that you should choose QWERTY or DVORAK and not try to do both - it will more than double the development time for muscle memory as you need to consciously choose between systems all the time. DVORAK is supposed to be much easier to learn because it has been developed around efficient letter placement and finger use. I am also told that DVORAK is much better for you if you are prone to RSI type injuries, because the layout is far more ergonomic and efficient than QWERTY.

I love the comments section here. Such bonhomie. Adieu!

I learned touch typing a long time ago, and what I remember is the teacher saying that my fingers should do the typing not my brain. You should train your fingers! There seems to be many touch typing exercise sites, if you don’t already you should pethaps try one of those.

Wait. Henry David Thoreau has email??

[I was rather more impressed that he can comment despite being dead for almost 159 years. But then I guess all authors are deathless: even Homer can tell us what he thinks. :-) --Mike]

What wil happen if you have no time limit due to the return window of the keyboard? Will that somehow help you with this attempt?
Here is a hard promise: I will buy the keyboard from you when you are finished with it. In two weeks, two months.. two years?

[You're on, and thank you! I'm feeling rather determined actually. I have been enjoying practicing, and interested in observing my own progress. My own mental glitches have always interested me...have you ever read "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat?" One of the more interesting books I've read in my reading career. The workings of the brain are strange and fascinating. --Mike]

DVORAK is catnip to autodidact types (pun unintended, but approved). Not long after I got my first PC, I tried and failed to convert.

Like other commenters, I took a typing course in high school (on sweet IBM Selectrics), and like some others practiced on my own, guided by the fictional Mavis Beacon. The one residual nugget of wisdom from those days that seems lodged in my unreliable memory is that the task is to cultivate efficient gestures for common words, roots and letter combinations. However, it's quite possible that I'm transposing more recent efforts to learn the piano on my more distant past.

So, call it a hare-brained theory, but I suspect that some hunt-and-peckers get tripped up thinking touch-typing is done solely by the fingers rather than the whole hand, wrist and forearms working together in gestures. The latter approach is also more ergonomic, i.e. safer, and ultimately faster. I think the greater resistance and key travel on older keyboards and typewriters actually helped us with this.

Thus, an important reason not to look at the keys, whether one is learning typing or piano-playing or saxophone, is that we may otherwise cultivate unsafe or inefficient movements and postures for the sake of seeing, and thus risk cumulative injury down the road, and limit our potential speed as well. Posture matters, and with the keyboard in the healthiest place for our bodies, it's not that easy to see the keys and maintain good sitting posture at the same time. Better to avoid that temptation.

Helpful sites for you, Mike:

Basic touch typing:

Annoying but good practice:

Good practice:

More enjoyable practice when you get tired of typing random words and sentences at the other sites--retype classic novels:

Check this:

It’s free and reminds me of the lessons I took 55 yrs ago.

Good luck.

Greetings from a stormy Utrecht

I started using the Dvorak layout in high school having never learning to touch type with QWERTY(despite many sessions with a flashy, gamified typing tutor).
To do so I made use of this resource, which I found to be adequate, though rather spartan:

Shortly after learning to touch type in Dvorak, I discovered that I could now touch type in QWERTY, though at a somewhat reduced rate - 30-40WPM, compared to 60+ in Dvorak (though this improves with practice).

Interestingly, I have never used Dvorak on a smartphone or tablet computer, and have had great difficulty in finding the letters when I have set the displayed keyboard to Dvorak.

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