think that it is
on a standard keyboard.
Touch-keyboarding (or touch-typing as the skill used to be
known) was reasonably difficult to learn at the time of the
manual typewriter. People learned touch-typing because typing
constituted a core competence required in their occupation.
They were for instance, secretaries or writers. The great
majority of typists, when the typewriter was first introduced,
used their typing skills to transfer onto paper the words
of others, as secretaries and copyists do. Typewriters were
also used by writers: it is reported that Mark Twain wrote
Tom Sawyer on the just invented Remington typewriter.
The advent of the electric typewriter did not change things
much. Typing remained, in the main, a skill of secretaries
and writers. Therefore, from its commercialisation in the
late 1880s until the advent of the personal computer, typing
was a core competence of people whose working time was mostly
Things changed substantially with the advent of the personal
computer, in the mid-1980s. Suddenly, not only did the keyboard
have twice as many keys as the old typewriter, but also the
people who were using it were not trained typists.
Today's Touch-typists Did Not Learn
the Skill on the Computer
Our research shows that most post-1980 computer users, who
can touch-keyboard, learned the skill on a typewriter. We
have found very few users who have become accomplished touch-typists
using a computer.
The motivation to learn to touch-keyboard exists. People are
aware of not using the keyboard properly and try to learn.
The number of touch-typing programs available on the market
is sufficient testimony.
Educators are aware of the importance of touch-keyboarding
and touch-keyboarding has been taught in schools from the
day the computers entered the classroom.
In spite of this, most computer users are not touch-keyboarders.
Why is this? We believe that the reasons are the following.
Why People Find it so Difficult to
computer application programs require the right hand to
move away from the keyboard very frequently (to operate
the mouse, for instance or the directional arrow keys or
other function keys). This means that the hand has to be
repositioned on the HOME keys many times during a session
and this task is not easy given the subtlety of the markers
on the reference keys F and J. (More about why "form"
should follow "function").
QWERTY layout makes it difficult to memorise the location
of the keys on the keyboard.
keyboard has twice as many keys as the electric typewriter
and is difficult to use.
computer users today use the computer in the mode of a "writer".
That is, they compose the material that they encode as for
instance in the case of a person writing and sending an
e-mail message. This mode allows the user the option of
either looking at the keyboard (hunt and peck typing) or
looking at the screen (touch-typing). Interestingly, the
hunt and peck option is not available to visually impaired
users who must be able to touch-type or cannot type at all.
majority of users use the computer to transfer information
from an outside source (e.g. paper, telephone) to the computer.
This is the case, for instance, of order entry operators.
Most of these users cannot touch-type and the impact on
productivity of this is enormous. However, because employers
are generally not aware of the issue, there is no pressure
on staff to learn to use the keyboard properly and thus
more efficiently. (Employers are starting to realise the
potential productivity gains that could be achieved if computer
users could keyboard properly and tests to verify typing
speed and accuracy of job applicants are slowly being introduced.
Australia, for instance, has introduced a keyboarding standard
keying is a complex psychomotor process and mastering it
requires practice. Most computer users however, do not spend
enough time typing to practice and build the skill. Whereas
before, secretaries, who were generally excellent touch-typists,
spent most of their working day typing, today, typing represents
a small proportion of the computer user's time. This does
not allow the skill to build and consolidate with practice.
of elementary schools have not yet caught up with the fact
that learning to touch-type requires frequent practice just
as learning to play a musical instrument. Thus, most schools
dedicate one hour per week to computer classes and, of this
time, a good part is spent in activities other than keyboarding.
Moreover, IT teachers rarely can touch-type themselves and
so are not aware of the difficulty to become one. As a result,
most children leave school knowing "how to" touch-type
but without "being able" to touch-type.
Touch-keyboarding is Easy on a TACTUS Keyboard
TACTUS Keyboard has been designed with touch-keyboarding in
mind. The ridges on the TACTUS keyboard form two boxes within
which the fingers are obliged to move. Each box is four keys
wide, in order to accommodate the four fingers which are used
to tap the keys. Each box has three rows so that each finger
always moves one row up and one row down from its position
on the home key. The picture below illustrates this point.
The ridges have two main functions:
allow the hand to be re-positioned on the keyboard very
quickly after operating the mouse or the directional keys.
greatly facilitate touch-keyboarding due to the feedback
they provide. Instead of the just having the two markers
on the keys F and J, the fingers operate within a clearly
defined geometric frame which is easy to feel, understand