Is ten finger typing a mandatory class yet?

August 5, 2008

In 5th grade I took an optional afternoon class: typing. We learned how to type on classic, non-electric Triumph-Adler typewriters using the ten finger technique. Since then I can type text with my eyes closed at relatively high speed. Back then it was 300 char/min on those clunky mechanical type writers with their steep keyboard. I think it’s more on a computer keyboard (depending on the text, of course). We also learned basic typesetting techniques when writing documents with the typewriter, especially how to type a standard business letter. So all in all, this class was immensely useful for basically any office-related work later on, not to mention software development.

I still remember vividly how my dad said to my mom in the late 1990s, “Thankfully I’m too old to get a computer at work. It’s a tool for younger generation, not for me.” That was when he still had a secretary that he would give dictaphone tapes to. Naturally, at home I would be his secretary, having done that typing class. Just a year later he had a computer on his desk. Fast forward a few more years, he’s typing lots of letters, then emails, both on and off work. Of course he does. Everybody does these days! But just think about how much easier it would be for him if he had taken that typing class as well.

So like you, I and even my dad, everybody’s going to have to do a lot of typing in their job, no matter whether they’re a car mechanic or a Fortune 500 executive. It’s probably safe to say that this won’t change in the too distant future because let’s face it, speech recognition hasn’t caught on yet and it’s questionable whether it ever will be.

It’s been a while since I was in 5th grade. I wonder whether typing as a class has become a mandatory part of any school’s curriculum nowadays. If not, why hasn’t it? And who can we talk to to make it happen?

13 Responses to “Is ten finger typing a mandatory class yet?”

  1. I’d also argue for XHTML 101 (the only universal markup language!) and Python 101. 😉

  2. Steve McMahon Says:

    It was mandatory for my daughter in her California elementary school.

    But, here’s another question for thought: Why are we burdening another generation with qwerty keyboards and desktop metaphors. OK, they made adoption easy for the first microcomputer generation, but we can do much better now.

  3. philikon Says:

    Alex, certainly it couldn’t hurt if basic computer skills were part of that that modern typing class I’m proposing. And by that I don’t mean learning how to create spreadsheets in Excel. Rather, I think schools should teach things like like how IP networks work (few people know what an IP address is, for instance) or how a web page works (HTTP, HTML, web server, web browser, etc.). People should know the world they live in and the internet has become part of our world just as much as electricity has (which is covered in 8th grade Physics).

  4. philikon Says:

    Steve, much of today’s computers is cruft. Compared to some of the software cruft, the keyboard is relatively easy to fix even. A regular keyboard can simply be replaced with an alternate input device as long as it’s technically compatible (IOW, register itself as a USB-compatible keyboard). The actual problem is quite simply backwards-compatibility on a non-technical level. Everybody knows the classic keyboard with the QWERTY layout. Everybody can operate it, even my grandma who never used a computer but a typewriter. Plus, in much of the corporate world you wouldn’t even get far by having been trained on a Dvorak keyboard, let alone a chorded keyboard. They’re just not ready for something radical.

    I think the general trend is heading into another direction. The software people are currently quite successful at making their input mechanisms smart enough to auto-complete words and correct mistakes, be that in Microsoft Word or a T9-capable mobile phone. They clearly want us to type less. Next thing you’ll know it’ll suggest the next suitable word to complete your sentence, like those smart IDEs. And soon everybody’s sentences will look the same.

  5. Lennart Regebro Says:

    I took typing class and always, even then, typed faster with less strain on my hands by ignoring everything the typing class taught me. 🙂

  6. Lennart Regebro Says:

    (Although those keyboards that Gotcha drags around are quite interesting, and also chord-type keyboard inputs fascinate me).

  7. In the US state of Virginia, the county of Arlington (literally across the river from Washington, DC), my son has had mandatory typing lessons in public schools since 3rd or 4th grade and now at age 16 he types fast in the ten finger method.

    I learned ten fingers in 7th grade way back when, and continued with it until I was about 22. Then I left academia abruptly and worked low pay, manual labor jobs for years. When I got clear of that my ten finger skills were gone! I taught myself to type with the my two index fingers and thumbs in a couple days to meet the needs of my first job with air conditioning in nearly a decade. After several months of practice I was going really fast (90 words of English a minute) and these days I don’t need to look at the keyboard.

    And that is how I type to this day.

  8. steve j Says:

    Shakespeare (et. al.) never typed anything.

  9. philikon Says:

    Steve J, Shakespeare also never had light from an electric light bulb. He was never able to travel to India in a matter of hours. And when he had an infection, there weren’t any antibiotics around to cure it quickly. So yes, Shakespeare turned out ok without typing, but it’s a different world today.

  10. steve j Says:

    Sure, fast (I/)O is great, still smarts trumps dexterity — and a lucky few have both.

  11. romanofski Says:

    Did this in school as well and I’m still very thankful that I did it.

  12. Verbal Kint Says:

    People expounding on the merits of self-developed typing methods and how they are no less effective than standard 10 finger methods are just fooling themselves. There is absolutely no comparison between self-taught methods of typing and standard typing method. Typing has been the most useful skill I have. Simply because of the employment opportunities it opened up for me. When I got sick huffing boxes for UPS it was nice to become a University administrator instead of goin and huffing boxes for Fed Ex. I held 3 positions over the years at the University – having proper typing skills not only made me more efficient, but it also made me look more professional in the eyes of my prospective employer. You simply do not give off an air of reliable competence when pecking and poking.

  13. frank merrill Says:

    Interestingly, I have NEVER AGAIN replicated the very fast typing speed that I used to produce on the old clunky manual keyboard. I absolutely LOVED the steepness of it. Typos for me were almost unknown – I nowadays type up a catalog, every year, which has at least 800,000 or 900,000 characters in it. On the MANUAL typewriter, I would have to correct perhaps 200 or 250 typos on the entire opus.

    Instead, now, with a computer keyboard, I estimate that I make as many as 40,000 to 50,000 typos on the same composition. I am always hitting adjacent keys. My fingers are huge, and the keys are always close together. (I FIND A KEYBOARD ON A LAPTOP ABSIOLUTELY UNUSABLE.) I’ve already corrected at least 20 typos in this message, but I left “absiolutely” there on purpose as an example.

    My speed on a computer keyboard is BARELY MORE THABN ONE-HALF as it used to be on the manual keyboard, and I’ve been using computer keyboards for nine years.

    I’ve been looking around for a computer keyboard with a “STEEP keyboard” and well-separated keys (with small surface area) which would solve 97-99% of my problems, but I don’t think they exist.

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