17:28 Thu 21 Dec 2006
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Typing is a skill that didn’t seem that important to me in the past, but seems critical in a bedrock way to me now. As someone who is impatient for computers to do what I want, and who uses keyboard shortcuts as much as possible, this makes sense. But for most of my time as a serious computer user, I couldn’t touch type.

I only learned how to touch type four or five years ago. Prior to that, I used just my index and middle fingers, and had to look at the keyboard. This struck me as fine, although I knew it was a little slow. Now, I can touch type. Not incredibly fast, but it’s my natural mode of keyboarding, and it’s curious to think that I found the absence of that skill acceptable for so many years.

I learned using the computer game The Typing of the Dead. It’s a modification of the shooting game The House of the Dead, and instead of aiming lightguns to kill zombies, each zombie has a word (or phrase, or sentence) above its head, and typing the word kills the zombie. It sounds, and is, ridiculous, but it’s also a lot more fun than any other method for learning how to type that I’ve ever seen. I remain extremely impressed by the concept, and keep thinking that I need to return to it to improve my typing, and also to see if I’m better at it now (I assume I am, but you never know).

Typing, as a valuable skill, seemed to grow in importance during the twentieth century, but then fade as computers became more important. Yet serious computer use relies on typing skills, and I wonder if it’s regaining some importance, or whether the forgiving nature of software lets people get away with too much for it to be critical again. It seems critical to me now, but then I did get away without it for years.

However, while touch typing might not be essential, some typing skill is necessary. I’ve watched people who type really slowly use computers, and it’s just not pretty. I mean, if you have to look for every key, entering your username is pretty tough, never mind your password.

While writing this post, I noted that being able to type with your eyes closed while thinking something through is really useful.

I was going to make a comment about needing to teach typing in schools, but really I’m not sure. The best things schools could do would be to encourage typing skill, by making computers with various typing games on them available. Seriously, The Typing of the Dead (or more modern equivalent), a bunch of alternative games from different genres to cater to different tastes, and then that’s it. Instruction of the usual kind should be available if needed, but not otherwise.

But if that’s all it takes to learn it, then maybe people can simply ignore it until they need it… in a sense, if you really needed to know how to do it, either you’re about to learn how, or you’ve already learned how.

Having learned how, I find it extremely useful, and recommend it highly to anyone reading who doesn’t touch type.

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2 Responses to “Typing”

  1. Helen Says:

    Yes, but people learn differently. We had typing tutor software on our computers at college, and though a friend of mine patiently taught herself to type using it, I found my eyes glazing over after the first minute. Whereas when I was presented with the option of conventional typing lessons in a firm I worked in, I jumped at them and learned in three weeks flat. I’m not sure I would have ever learned if I had never been offered typing classes.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    Typing classes (or ‘conventional instruction’) should certainly be available as well—I’m all for giving people who want to learn a variety of ways to do that learning!

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