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My dirty secret (well, not secret much longer) is that I don't touch-type in a traditional sense. I do type reasonably fast and I do type with more than two fingers but it's not touch-typing. I don't follow the standard home row method that is taught in typing classes everywhere.

I've had plenty of chances to learn how to touch type and, to be honest, I squandered them. I'm certain that some of my teachers throughout middle and high school would love to hear that, fifteen to twenty years too late.

The issues I have with my typing, compared with normal touch-typing, is that I have a comparatively lower (but not significantly so) accuracy rate and sometimes I find myself looking at the keyboard.

Jeff Atwood states "We are typists first, programmers second." This is true for system administrators as well, although perhaps less so for those who work solely in a Windows environment.

I used to say "Well, I type well enough, right?" However, Steve Yegge says "If you have two hands, then 70 wpm, error-free, is easily within your reach." And while I might have 70+ wpm, I'm certainly not error-free.

What most people don't realize is that typing errors cost. As if to underline my point, I made an error when typing that sentence. I originally typed "that typiung er" and then I noticed, backspaced back, fixed it to say "that typing" and went on with the rest of the sentence. Fixing errors breaks flow and costs keystrokes. It cost six keystrokes to backspace and remove the error and then five keystrokes to retype what I had erased. (I could have kept the cost to eight keystrokes if I'd been paying attention: Left arrow 6, delete 1, end 1.) Eleven keystrokes is more than a word and possibly might be counted as two by most wpm counters.

If I can improve, it behooves me to do so.

Since I was waiting for something to finish running in the background, I decided to practice for a bit. I loaded the TI-99/4A emulator and started the Touch Typing Tutor cartridge. Touch-typing has not changed significantly over the past thirty years so I figured this should work as well as anything else.

What surprised me most going through even the basic exercises is that I had to think about which key to press. Being asked to type 's' made me have to remember which finger was over the 's' key. As it went on, I was hard-pressed to keep myself from reverting back to my existing habits just so I could finish it. By the end of the second sublesson, my hands hurt although that could have been a posture issue.

Tonight, I'll do the same thing again. Until I'm no longer thinking about which finger to use, I'll keep doing it these sublessons. Then I'll do the next one. And maybe, in the end, I'll have this figured out.


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