Learning to Type
I got my first computer in 2003. It was a Pentium IV processor, and the system had 128MB of RAM and a 40GB IDE hard drive. I didn’t have access to the Internet, but I remember constantly being on the computer. While I had a few games, Midtown Madness, Motocross Madness and the old Spider-Man game, I really spent a lot of time typing.
I remember learning C in the pre-university years. I picked it up rather well, but I never really got around to doing anything with it. I never encountered K&R growing up.
My first Operating System was Windows 98, but I soon moved on to Windows ME. I think I was one of the few people who liked it. I eventually moved onto Windows 2000, and I was in love with it.
I think I started using XP only out of curiosity, but by then, my poor Pentium IV could not handle it. I’d upgraded to 1GB of RAM and got my first Graphics Card (NVIDIA, but I don’t know what model it was.) I was fairly happy, and I remember trying to play more games on it.
I eventually got a broadband connection in 2005, and I was online.
But more than the games, I remember typing, a lot. I never learned to type, but I was typing constantly. I had friends I chatted with on MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and eventually, GTalk. I remember switching to the MirandaIM Messenger because my computer couldn’t handle Yahoo Messenger any longer. I never used voice calls, but I was always on the internet, chatting.
In retrospect, I wonder why I never learnt to type. It seemed to me that it was pointless. I could manage with 4 fingers. It was a weird mess. I’d use one of either thumb for the space bar, and I’d use my index fingers for all the rest of the letters.
I don’t know how I managed to get to a point where I typed entire books using this method.
I was aspiring to be a published writer, and my typing methods really didn’t hinder me. I would type into the night, and I never thought about learning how to type.
In 2006, I took the leap and switched to Linux, since my poor computer could no longer handle Windows XP. A friend of mine recommended Linux Mint, and I installed Mint 7, Gloria. It was a lovely OS, and I am still using the most recent version of Linux Mint today. It is my favourite Operating System to say the least, and I install it on all my computers.
I didn’t get back to programming for a long time. My time at the computer didn’t change, but I was mostly chatting, or reading random things on the Internet. That was a whole lot of wasted time.
In 2018, well into the start of a programming career, I realized I had a problem. I couldn’t type for longer periods without my wrists hurting. It was a result of my bad typing habits, and I needed to change.
I wasn’t ready to, because while I still didn’t know how to touch-type, I could type without looking at the keyboard. It was muscle-memory, and I wasn’t sure how to change it.
In 2019, just after giving my 2 months’ notice (it was a longer notice period at my previous company), I decided to invest time in teaching myself how to type.
It was going to be hard. It was not easy.
I began with a few touch-typing websites. I’m not sure which was the first one I went to, I think it was typingclub.com. It helped me learn the basic hand positions, and it also gave fun exercises and games that drove the key positions in. My fingers hurt like never before. Each muscle was straining. They didn’t want to go through this.
I then went to keybr to train myself further. I was surprised at how quickly you learn to type when you put your mind to it.
The exercises at Keybr helped me the most. The repetition, and the word-like tokens really drove in the habit.
I never measured what my typing speed was before I learned to touch type. I remember that during the first few weeks of using Keybr, my speed was around 45 to 60 word per minute, but my accuracy was very poor.
It’s been 2 years since I’ve learnt to touch type, and now my accuracy is nearly 100% and my speed averages at 97 wpm.
I recommend learning touch typing if you can spare the time for it. Here are some tips that helped me.
- When you’re learning, make sure you stop typing the old way immediately. You shouldn’t be alternating.
- If you can afford it, a blank keys keyboard is the best to learn, but you can also try putting round stickers on the keys of your existing keyboard.
- It helps if you have to do a lot of (low-priority) typing in the weeks that follow. Perhaps if you’re on a deadline, it might not be the best time to do this.
- It also helps if you can practice on keybr until you successfully learn all the keys.
Learning special characters took the longest time. You can’t train for this, but for regular punctuation, I greatly recommend monkeytype.com and typelit.io. Both provide actual sentences to type, and these usually have punctuation. Typelit also gives you entire books to practice on, so it is a way of “reading” while you type. I’ve lately started typing a few pages out of George Orwell’s 1984 every day before I start work.
Finally, keep practicing. Some people prefer nitrotype.com, which seems more competitive as opposed to something at your own pace. I’ve tried it, but it isn’t for me. I prefer practising solo. If you continue to practice, you will only keep your skills honed, and while it might feel like a waste of time, you can think of it as a way to warm your fingers up before a day of work.