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13 June 2011

Weights on my Fingers

I'm converting over to a Dvorak keyboard layout from the standard QWERTY layout that most of the English speaking world uses.  It is an extremely gradual and frustrating process.  I've been touch-typing on QWERTY since high school in 1985, and I have clocked myself at over 110 wpm on that layout.  I am, at this moment, after a week of immersion and many typing tutor games, belting this blog post out at a blazing 30 wpm.  I feel like an Olympic sprinter with two broken ankles.

I tried this once before about a year ago, but gave up after a few days out of frustration.  So of course I had to start over and try again!

I locked myself out of my workstation twice in one day this week. On the second lock-out, the IT guy insisted I explain my sudden inability to enter my own password.  When I told him I was trying to convert to Dvorak, he suggested, "if you want to make life difficult on yourself for no reason, just put weights on your fingers."  Then he asked the obvious and common question: Why?

There are four reasons, which I will give in increasing order by how much they influenced my decision. Coincidentally, these are also in increasing order by how much scorn they are given by my wife when I answered the same question from her.

First, and least persuasive (and drawing no scorn all from the wife), Dvorak is a more natural layout, resulting in lower risk of repetitive stress injury.  For past RSI victims, it is also less likely to cause a flare-up because it's easier on the tendons.

Slightly more persuasive, and inducing only the momentary hesitation in my wife that means she considers it frivolous but realizes that it might be a factor for her under similar circumstances: Dvorak is considered by many to be significantly faster than QWERTY, owing to the careful research done to map the keys to fingers based on usage frequency.  If I can scream along on QWERTY at 110 wpm, how fast can I go on Dvorak???  Today's answer: 30 wpm. Ugh.

Third, causing a smirk and an aren't-you-silly headshake, I'm doing it because it's difficult.

But the real reason, causing my wife's eyes to roll like marbles, is that it's a very nerdy thing to do, and I think it would be cool.  In this context, "cool" is defined as making the nerdiest person you know envious.  Normal people would not consider that the appropriate definition of "cool", but that's not my problem.

I do seem to be making some progress: yesterday after limping along for nearly a week on nothing but Dvorak, I went back to typing on QWERTY for a couple of typing tests, just so I could feel fast again.  Kind of like that last pack of cigarettes stashed under the bed for a "rainy day" (or so I've heard).  Much to my horror, my first QWERTY test result was also only 30 wpm! I actually had to look at the keyboard to find the "N" key a couple of times.  I repeated the test a few times, and finally plateaued at 70 wpm - still a far cry from my customary speed.

So, that means I can no longer type in any layout.  That's progress, right?

By the way, that scornful IT guy admitted later in the conversation that he had always kind of wanted to try to convert himself.  See?  Geek cred.


  1. "In this context, "cool" is defined as making the nerdiest person you know envious."

    You are the coolest person I know. ;)