Rick Keating 
Member since May 27, 2014


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Re: “Slow Type

I'm aware that Dvorak has both its supporters and detractors, which is one reason I was surprised it didn't get a mention. My understanding is that no other proposed alternative to QWERTY has gotten as much attention as Dvorak over the years.

I always take Wikipedia articles with a grain of salt. For example, the article you cite mentions "Cassingham" in the references, but doesn't give a full name or say what Cassingham wrote. For the record, R. C. Cassingham wrote "The Dvorak Keyboard: The Ergonomically Designed Typewriter Keyboard Now an American Standard" in 1986.

I read the book last year. Cassingham, a Dvorak supporter, mentions the Navy study. He also disputes the "Fable of the Keys" article here:


Frankly, I don't remember what Cassingham had to say about the Navy study (such as how much of it, if any, was flawed), since I read the book more out of curiosity than for any research purposes. I just mention his book and the link to his "rebuttal" as an FYI. Like I said, my personal preference is Dvorak over QWERTY (and I found it very easy to learn when I made the switch several years ago). But as they say, "your mileage may vary." No doubt some people prefer still other alternatives.

Speaking of QWERTY, there's an interesting book about the history of that keyboard: "Quirky QWERTY : The Story of the Keyboard @ Your Fingertips" by Torbjörn Lundmark.

And about typewriters in general, there's "The Wonderful Writing Machine" by Bruce Blivens, Jr. However, it was published in 1954, so the "present" in the subtitle is just a wee bit removed from today.

The question of keyboard layouts aside, typewriters are (generally-speaking) more aesthetically-pleasing than computers. And maybe that's one reason for their resurgence in popularity. Many of my 12 manual typewriters have "character." My computers? Not so much. People (including myself) will probably always use computers for the majority of their work, but I don't think the typewriter is quite near "extinction."

Rick Keating

Posted by Rick Keating on 05/30/2014 at 12:35 AM

Re: “Slow Type

Good article, but I was surprised that in the discussion of QWERTY alternatives you didn't even mention the Dvorak keyboard layout. Among other things, it puts all the vowels on the home row and arranges the letters so that they're more evenly distributed. Dvorak is my preferred keyboard layout on my computer. Unfortunately, none of my typewriters have it. Even so, I find it easy to switch back and forth from QWERTY on a typewriter to Dvorak on a computer.

I do most of my writing on a computer, but I do sometimes use a typewriter. Especially when writing letters. I also prefer manual typewriters to electrics.

In some ways, using a typewriter forces you to be more creative. If you're starting to type a new word and hit the wrong key on a computer, you can delete the incorrect letter and start over again. Do it on a typewriter and you either cross the letter out, erase it (which always leaves a tell-tale mark), take out the paper and start that page all over again or replace whatever word you intended to use with one beginning with the letter you typed. That's what happened to me when I typed a letter to a friend last year in the form of a "dialogue" between Jack Benny and his cast (she's a huge Jack Benny fan). I'd meant to type a particular word, but hit the key for a letter that wasn't in that word. I figured out what new word starting with that letter I could use instead and slightly "course corrected" the intended "conversation." I ended up adding "character bits" I might not have even thought of had I written it on a computer.

Here's something a typewriter can do that would probably require a special program for a computer to do: produce backward type. Not by itself, of course, but if you put carbon paper in backwards you'll end up printing a copy of whatever you're typing on the reverse side of the top sheet, rather than the sheet below the carbon paper (I made that discovery by accident one day). If you photocopy that reverse side, you then have a letter (or whatever) that's written backwards and needs to be held up to a mirror to be read. Both my nephew and a young cousin have gotten kicks out of such letters.

--Rick Keating

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Rick Keating on 05/27/2014 at 7:18 AM

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