Friday, March 27, 2009

How Fast Can Your Fingers Dance?

If you could send SMSes without having to look at the keypad of your handphone, kudos! That's a skill that many are still trying to learn, and not all could master. I am one of that many. However, it's only using one thumb. So, not an all-fingers-dancing there.

Touch Typing (TT) is an essential skill modern people should have. It uses all your fingers. Well, I'm using only nine - my right hand thumb is spared from the keyboard dance. Most of us who work in the office would have a computer on our desks. The means of communicating with the computer is via the mouse and the keyboard.

There are many associated health risks related to the usage of these two. Essentials for our work, we can't do without them. The risks can be minimised, by taking steps to make better the ergonomics. The physical design aspect is one of them. Another step that we could take is to minimise the nodding movement while typing. That is, to minimise the eye (and head) movement when we have to glance at the keyboard every now and then to make sure that we're hitting on the correct keys. With TT, this is minimised, or eliminated altogether (if you're an expert).

Reduced health risks aside, it is much more convenient to TT. Lunchtime is a lights-off period in my office. So, the ability to TT is essential if one is to send emails (not work related, of course...) or chat online during that period.

Old school Autocad users are familiar with TT, but not to the full extent. Give them a mouse to work with, they'd prefer a QWERTY keyboard instead. After all, the numbers are still on the keyboard, right?

That being said, TT also includes the ability to key in numbers without looking at the keypad. By the way, that set of numbers to the right of a full-sized keyboard is called a keypad.

I could only TT at about 45 words per minute (WPM) at accuracy above 90%. However, throw in symbols in the sentences or words to be typed, my accuracy (or speed) would drop a lot.
I learnt how to TT when I was 15, using my cousin Azizi's PC. Those days, the OS was MS-DOS (no, I'm not old), so the graphics was not as awesome as nowadays. Still the essence is the same. After finishing school, while my friends were attending driving classes, I sat at home learning TT on my brother Amri's PC (Windows based already by this). Four hours a day, for three weeks, I finished the basic lessons - not that hard, eh? Well, the PC was not with captivating computer games(solitaire, pacman) that I could play with, so I took the challenge of TT.

The intention was for me to be able to type efficiently, knowing that I would have to hand out reports and assignments for college and university. So, I started 'early' learning how to TT to prepare for that, and I guess I set the goal right back then.

The only bad thing about being able to TT is that my eyes would stay fixed on the computer monitor for a long period of time. Oh, and me learning to TT and forgoing the driving lessons, that's another story.

Google for 'touch typing' (or here), and you'll get enough help to get started. There are many sites offering free online tutoring. Have fun, and may your fingers dance gracefully, and faster.

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