In 1997, during middle school, we were all tasked with taking a class called Keyboarding. We worked on big beige IBM computers in a cramped lab elbow to elbow at wooden tables. At some point in the class the teacher wrapped our model M keyboards in those transparent rubber protective covers, having stuck little stickers on top to hide the letters beneath. We learned to type using a DOS based typing software called Touch Type Tutor, all while our teacher walked behind us to make sure we weren’t “hunting and pecking”. The tables the keyboards were on weren’t deep enough to allow you to place your wrists down on them, ensuring we were taught with hands in the air. Twenty five years later it’s still the way I type. Years of AIM messenger chats, LiveJournal blogging, MySpace, MS Word, WordPress, social media, and novel writing later… I still have no stress or straining issues in my hands or wrists.
But I got lucky. My high school had kept that keyboarding class as some remnant of a typewriting course intended to teach the girls how to be secretaries before things switched to BCIS classes that everyone took to learn Word and Excel. Our teacher was the girls volleyball coach, and she took no prisoners. We were all taught the proper way with fingers on the home keys, wrists in the air, and eyes on the screen. Through high school I got better, faster and was able to quickly type at the speed of whatever I was thinking. I assumed everyone else did the same.
Apparently there are lots of people my age (mid 30’s) that either still hunt and peck (and not due to physical disability) or they type with their wrists on the table which causes strain as well. They end up having to adjust with ergonomic keyboards, foam wrist wrests, ibuprofen, and possible eventual carpal tunnel surgery. We are only going to have to keep using computers and keyboards in the future and we’re not getting younger. Now, I understand high school or college students who have never been formally taught how, they weren’t taught cursive either but it’s never too late to learn:
Resources for learning and practice:
- Typing Techniques – Crash course in where to start.
- Typing with 10 Fingers – This one has good illustrations.
- Keybr – A typing practice site that tracks your speed and errors.
- Typing Works – Another typing practice site to test your speed.
- Typings – A very minimal typing practice site.
- MonkeyType – A very good typing interface for learning.
My advice is to take things slow. You have to develop that muscle memory in your fingers to get to where you don’t have to look at the keys anymore and that won’t happen overnight. Don’t worry about hitting 90wpm or anything when you first start, focus on hand and finger positions while you slowly retrain your brain to type without looking up and down constantly. If you can play a video game without looking down at the keys you can type full sentences too.