Typing quirks

From Kill Zone Blog, this entertaining post: (Not) Using the Middle Finger

I thought it might be about cussing in fiction or something. No. It’s literally about fingers:

So here I am typing with seven fingers, and one thumb for spacing.

I’m sure we all type differently. Some with only index fingers, while others might utilize more digits as they watch the keys. There’s the “hunt and peck” crowd, and then those of us who were taught to touch type without looking at the keyboard.

That’s where I fall in. I never look at my fingers or the letters, only the words that appear on the screen, at least until three weeks ago when my orthopedic physician diagnosed a partially torn ligament in my left middle finger. That injured digit is now strapped securely to its index neighbor, requiring me to watch my left hand hunt and peck.

I’m chuckling in recognition and sympathy. I’ve sustained various finger injuries over the years, and therefore type without using the ring finger on my left hand. The scar on the tip of that finger is still fairly sensitive and apparently always will be, but I could use that finger these days. On the other hand, I don’t see any reason to bother re-training myself to use that finger, so I don’t use it.

I have a tendon issue with my right thumb. I don’t use that thumb at all while typing. In fact, I try to minimize use of that thumb in daily life and seldom, for example, grip the steering wheel with it. I never try to open jars with my right hand. As far as typing goes, I hit the space bar with my left thumb or (I just now realized) sometimes with my left index finger. (I just did that while typing this post. I hadn’t realized I ever did that, but apparently sometimes I do.)

The surprising thing to me is that retraining yourself not to use one or another digit is not very difficult at all. At least, that’s been my experience. Plus, the unexpected benefit of training myself not to hit the space bar twice after periods. If you’re going to be switching hands for the space bar, that’s the time to change that habit. I used to just do a global find and replace to switch double spaces for singles. I still do, as a handful of double spaces tend to creep in as plain errors. I wouldn’t have bothered changing that habit if I hadn’t also needed to retrain my hands anyway.

A different issue: the letters wear off the keys. That means I really have no choice but to look at the words on the screen because about half the letters aren’t on the keyboard. Of course occasionally I put my fingers in the wrong spot and type something like yu[r dp,ryjomh ;olr yjod/. You know how there’s a little raised gizmo on the keys where you’re supposed to have your index fingers? That’s worn off too.

Well, I’ve hated my laptop practically since I got it. Eventually the damn thing will break in a way that legitimately compels me to get a different laptop and then, for a while, I will have letters on all the keys. I don’t like the modern laptops I see the students using, however, so I’m dragging my feet. I may hate and despise my laptop, but at least I’m familiar with its exceedingly annoying quirks.

Anyway, how many of you are nodding? Oh, yeah, you quit using one finger or another a decade ago, or yes, you too lose the letters off half the keys? I bet this sort of thing happens a lot.

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9 thoughts on “Typing quirks”

  1. I’ve used touch-typing since third grade, when we were first taught to type using a number of computer games (our class got very competitive about scores!). My keyboards definitely have some worn letters!

    I’ve noticed the evolution of my phone typing, which happens as an adult, a bit more. When I first got a smartphone I was very much a hunt-and-peck typer using only one index finger on the screen. Later I watched friends typing with both thumbs and realized how much faster they were. I retrained myself to type with thumbs and now find the index-finger typing very awkward. (Changing phone sizes might have something to do with this too—computer keyboards haven’t evolved nearly as much.)

  2. With my phone, I started with an index finger, switched to thumbs — and then firmly switched back. My right thumb just cannot be used for that kind of thing, at all, ever, so I consciously use only my index finger, even though I grant that is less efficient.

  3. Years ago when I started getting some carpal tunnel, I trained myself to use a mouse with either hand. I’d use my left hand at work and my right hand at home, or just swap if one wrist was acting up.

  4. Wait, but what’s wrong with modern laptops?

    I can’t get used to auto-correct, auto-fill, or auto-capitalization, on my phone. It seems to me I’ll lose my spelling skills that way.

    Do you remember how flip phones used to have one button for several letters? I used to touch type really quickly that way, and was a tad annoyed when they introduced the full keyboard phones.

  5. Mona, I’m sure some modern laptops must be good? But everybody seems to be using little bitty things that DON’T HAVE A DELETE BUTTON, ONLY BACKSPACE.

    How they can stand to use those things is beyond me.

    I guess auto-fill is useful about as often as it’s annoying, but auto-correct is ALWAYS turning “its” into “it’s” and that drives me berserk.

  6. I thought the no delete button was specific to Chromebooks? And those appear to have no F1-F10 keys either, at least the one my colleague has doesn’t. Google needing to be ‘special’ again, so everything can be patented and proprietary and they can make you reliant on their ‘ecosystem’ and unable to mix and match with competitors’ stuff.
    I can’t work with Chromebooks.

  7. I don’t know, Hanneke. I don’t inspect the damn things, I just try to type a quick comment into a student essay and it’s super annoying when there’s no delete button.

  8. You may have already considered this, but you could purchase a separate keyboard. There are both wired and wireless keyboards.

    I often use an external keyboard with laptops since I find the laptop’s own keys rather crowded. I prefer a full-size keyboard with a numeric keypad.

    You can get a “chiclet” keyboard for as little as $11 from Amazon. There are also mechanical keyboards that provide more tactile feedback. I think I tried and returned around 20 before settling on one that I liked. But my needs were very specific.

  9. Thanks, Robert, but my laptop has a full-sized keyboard. All it doesn’t have is the numbers to the side, which I don’t care about. It doesn’t actually bother me much at all to have the letters wear off the keys.

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