20 Million backspaces later…

backspaceI’ve been using computers since 1989. More than two thirds of my life has required interacting with a keyboard, writing papers, browsing newsgroups, writing software, building excel spreadsheets, generating power point presentations… I’ve done a little back of the envelope about how many keys I’ve pressed and it’s in the hundreds of millions. And I realize, I am hardly unique in this.

But I never learned how to type. I just learned to get by.

These 24 years I’ve been interacting with the keyboard with just 5 fingers and two thumbs. My hands crossed over each other, I’ve made millons of typos, and I probably hit the back space key one out of 5 clicks in order to fix some error. Out of the hundreds of million of key presses over the past 24 years, maybe 20 million where the backspace key? WTF?

And I know I’m not alone here either.

I recently decided to start 30 day challenges, as described by Matt Cutts. My first 30 day challenge was to practice typing, and the impact on my life has been both subtle and profound.

I dug into the resources mentioned in ruby-parley, and tried to find tools that would fit my learning style. My criteria were: free, easy to use, and effective.

Here’s the resources I found and used:

Each of these serves a different purpose, and out of all of them, I’ve found typing study to be the most comprehensive teaching tool, while typing.io has really helped with my coding (and also understanding of the Rails Active Record module in relations.rb).

Since starting the 30 day challenge, my typing speed has improved from 34 wpm, to more then 60 wpm, and error rate has dropped from 25% to under 12%. I know some people who type in the 90+WPM range, so there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but even with these early gains, I’ve noticed a lot of benefits.

The best outcome has been a number periods where I’m to type as fast as I think… It’s not all the time, but when it happens, it’s an incredibly freeing experience. It allows me to use the computer in a way I never have before. Typing better has enabled me to focus more on the content, either code or text, and spend less energy fighting with the input mechanism. There are moments where I forget there’s a keyboard, and things I’m thinking just show up, almost magically, on the screen.

So if you are like me, and a self taught typist, take 10-20 minutes a day and work on your typing. It’s frustrating at first, but the payoffs after the first couple of weeks will last the rest of you life. Make a little effort now, and save your energy, your wrists, and that poor backspace key from the millions of errant keystrokes in your future.

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