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14-Feb-2018 20:35 by 7 Comments

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Not more than 100 English words can be typed without leaving the home row.The reason for this disaster is simple: QWERTY perversely puts the most common English letters on other rows.

Whatever the original reasons for our adopting QWERTY, however, we now seem firmly committed to it.

When you prepare to type, you rest your fingers on QWERTY’s second-from-the-bottom row, called the home row.

Obviously, the more typing you can do without having to move your fingers from the home row, the faster you’ll be able to type, the fewer errors you’ll make, and the less you’ll strain your fingers.

For instance, the Dvorak keyboard devotes the home row to nine of the 12 most common English letters--including all five vowels and the three most common consonants (T, H, N)--while the six rarest letters (V, K, J, X, Q, and Z) are relegated to the bottom row.

As a result, 70 percent of typing strokes remain on the home row, only 22 percent are on the upper row, and a mere 8 percent are on the hated bottom row; thousands of words can be typed with the home row alone; reaches are five times less frequent than in QWERTY typing, and hurdles hardly ever happen.

Were some of these alternatives better than others? Are our alphabets, decimal counting, Arabic numerals, and Gregorian calendar really superior to Chinese logograms, Babylonian base-60 counting, Roman numerals, and the Mayan calendar?

Those questions are hard to answer for some of these choices-- counting systems, for instance--to which we became committed in the remote past.

Confirming that straightforward prediction, motion-picture studies prove that typing is fastest on the home row and slowest on the bottom row.

You might then naively expect that the QWERTY keyboard was designed so that most typing is done on the home row. Only 32 percent of strokes are on the home row; most strokes (52 percent) are on the upper row; and a full 16 percent are on the bottom row, which you should be avoiding like the plague.

The Gilbreths sought to decrease worker fatigue and increase the efficiency of many industrial processes (as well as of surgical operations and buttoning a shirt) by time-and-motion studies and slowed-down motion pictures.

Applied to keyboard design, such studies showed that typing fatigue, errors, and slow speed depend especially on bad design in allocating letters among keyboard rows, among fingers, and between the left and right hands.

Another easily understood vice of the QWERTY keyboard has to do with alternation of hands.

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