Keyboard skills – important for succeeding in the twenty-first century

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 | Computer Usage | 4 Comments

Using your thumbs you can possibly type away on the keypad of your cell phone at the speed of lightning.  If you can do this you are part of the thumb generation.

Are you as skilled in the use of the keyboard of a computer?  Many people peck away with two – and sometimes four – fingers and feel that this is good enough.  But you can do better than that when you learn touch typing.

What is touch typing?  The name indicates that you use your sense of touch to find your way when you type.  You don’t have to look at the keyboard to locate the letters; your fingers will feel their way to find the right ones.

You don’t need a special course to learn touch typing.  Free programs – called keyboard tutors – are available on the internet to help you develop this skill.  But you need to practise, practise and practise some more and not give up if you find it difficult at first.

Think about how good it will be if you don’t have to look at your hands when you type: you can either look at your notes or another book from which you copy information, or you can look at the screen to see whether you are typing correctly.  Touch typing allows you to type much faster and more accurately than you would be able to do otherwise; you will even type faster than you can write by hand.

Keyboard skills, and particularly touch typing, are of the most important skills required to succeed in the twenty-first century.  Make time to learn touch typing now and save a lot of time later.

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What is a QWERTY keyboard?

Sunday, March 1st, 2009 | Computer Usage | 2 Comments

Look at the keyboard of your computer.  The top row contains function keys, marked F1, F2, F3, etc.  The next row has the numbers.  Now look at the next row – the third row – of keys.  You will see that they start off with the following six letters:  Q, W, E, R, T and Y.  From these letters the name QWERTY is derived to indicate a standard computer keyboard.

The way the letters are arranged on a QWERTY keyboard is the most common layout for computers and typewriters using the Roman alphabet – languages such as English, Afrikaans and Xhosa.

Why are the letters not arranged in alphabetical order – ABCDEF instead of QWERTY?  Surely that would make it easier to locate letters for a non-typist.  Some cell (mobile) phones use an alphabetical arrangement, but you’ve probably noticed that instruments with larger keyboards, or those with on-screen keyboards, also follow the QWERTY convention.  Why?

There is some irony in the design of this layout.  Originally designed for typewriters, the QWERTY keyboard was patented in 1874 to reduce the number of typewriter hammer clashes.  If letters frequently used together – such as e and i, and t and h in the English language – are next to each other, and they are hit in rapid succession, the hammers get tangled.  So the keyboard was designed to minimize these clashes.  A consequence of this was a reduction of typing speed.

Over the years everyone got used to the QWERTY keyboard and techniques were developed to allow typing to proceed at a reasonable speed, in spite of the awkward positioning of the keys.  Since this layout became widely accepted as a standard, it was retained on computer keyboards – for this reason the QWERTY keyboard is also known as the Universal Keyboard.

Other keyboards were proposed over the years, but none ever managed to replace QWERTY.

You may protest against this strange arrangement of keys, but this is what you will get if you buy a standard computer.  Would it not be more productive to become familiar with the layout?

The good news is that, with practice, you can increase your typing speed – if you are good you can go up to hundred words per minute.  This is much faster than you can write.

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