Your fingers know more than your eyes. The goal of touch typing is to be able to quickly hit the right keys with your fingers, without using your eyes to find those keys first. What researchers have now found is that even if you’re a skilled touch typist, you probably won’t be able to quickly find those keys with your eyes at all. In other words, once you’ve trained your fingers to find the letters on the keyboard, your brain seems to move all knowledge of key locations into the area that controls unconscious muscle movements. In a collaborative study done in Japan and the United States, people were asked to first type words in a quick typing test; most people passed the test, typing between 60-80wpm with fairly high accuracy. Next, the study participants were given a blank diagram of a keyboard, and asked to fill in all of the letters and symbols on the keys in a standard QWERTY layout – and almost all of them failed. Think you can do better? Try it yourself!
The world’s fastest typists reach speeds of more than 200wpm. Barbara Blackburn (United States) has the official title of the fastest typist in the English language at 212wpm, although other online computer-keyboard typists have clocked slightly faster times in the last few years. Michael Shestov has the current record for number-only typing, but the jury is out on who has the fastest and most error-free typing totals for full-keyboard typing around the world. What’s your current typing speed – and what’s your goal for improvement this year?
There is an International Typewriter Day. To celebrate all things typewritten, get your old Underwood, Olivetti, or Brother out of the storage room, dust it off, and get ready to join typing and typewriter aficionados around the world on June 23rd. That’s the date that the first typewriter patent was granted in 1868. If you don’t have a typewriter, you can still join in with a free app called Noisy Typer that will make your laptop sound just like a 19th-century machine!