Typing With a Ball Peen Hammer

By The Metric Maven
Bulldog Edition

There is an old, old joke that refuses to exit my mind when I think about metric and international standards. It goes like this:

A man is walking along a street when he encounters another man with a ball peen hammer, who is repeatedly hitting himself in the head with it. The man exclaimed with alarm “What are you doing?”

The man with the hammer looks at him with annoyance and says “I’m hitting myself in the head with a ball peen hammer.”

“Why on earth would you do such a thing?!”

The man with the hammer is again annoyed at what to him is the obvious nature of the question and states “because it feels so good when I stop.”

This brings me to typewriters. I recall a time in the US when every office one entered was permeated with the staccato of one or more typewriters. There is even a musical composition by Leroy Anderson called The Typewriter. When I took a class in typing, only women were encouraged to take it. My earliest memory of a typewriter was not as something women employed, but what my Father used in his work.

Mechanical TypewriterMy Father worked as a radio dispatcher for Iowa Police Radio. In those days it was required that all verbal radio conversations be documented, and this was accomplished with a typewriter. As my father spoke with Albert Lee Minnesota or others, he had to type his conversation verbatim, and that of Albert Lee, in real time. This was done on a purely mechanical typewriter. The typewriter rested on a rubber pad so the impact of the keys would be reduced and to decrease the fatigue of typing. When my father typed, it sounded like a machine gun.

Another radio operator was not so fortunate, he like most of his male counterparts at the time, had never taken typing. He used two fingers. Often, when radio traffic was very busy, he would have to write down his conversations on paper, by hand, as quickly as he could. Sometimes he would have to remain 30 minutes or so after his shift to finish typing up the radio traffic.

We make choices as a society about what information is mandatory for public schools to teach, and what is not. It is mandatory to teach a pupil to read and to do basic mathematics. From the 1940s to the 1980s it was not mandatory to teach students in public schools how to type. Typing was a choice, and was mostly embraced by women. There appeared to be no need for typing—by men. Only women would be asked how many words per minute they could type. This idea was so prevalent that when some computer lists were lost at my fathers business years ago, and he offered to type them back in from paper copies, the women in the office were incredulous. They were certain it must be a joke when my father asked them to read the lists to him so he could type them as quickly as possible. A man?—type from dictation?—hilarious. My father was working in Graphic Arts (printing) by then,  and none of them knew about his work as a radio dispatcher.  I knew better and said “my father can type faster than anyone in this office. Does anyone want to make a bet with me?”

But as fast as my father can type, he is forever handicapped because of a choice randomly made in the 19th century, that still causes inefficiency to this day. The choice of the QWERTY keyboard layout is the inherent problem. This mapping of fingers to keys was done to slow down the speed at which a person would type, in order to prevent jamming of keys. It is anything but optimum. The original QWERTY typewriter did not allow one to see the copy as it was typed. The keys struck the paper from the bottom side. Worse, is that the design is prone to keyjams. It also had the added disadvantage that one could not generally sense that key jamming had occurred. The QWERTY arrangement was developed to minimize the affect of these technical problems inherent in the design—by handicapping the typist..

Jared Diamond in an excellent article entitled The Curse of QWERTY,  discusses the design of the QWERTY and Dvorak keyboards. Time and motion studies by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth revealed that poor placement of letter location on a keyboard is proportional to typing errors, fatigue and slow typing. They also demonstrated that typing on the home row is fastest and  bottom row typing is the slowest. Diamond points out that:

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. 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. The home row of nine letters includes two of the least used (J and K) but none of the three most frequently used (E, T, and O, which are relegated to the upper row) and only one of the five vowels (A), even though 40 percent of all letters in a typical English text are vowels.

The most common of all English letters is e, which is typed by the weaker left hand is also on the upper row. Diamond points out that with T and A also typed by the left hand, the QWERTY keyboard is essentially a left-handed typewriter, in a predominantly right handed world.

In 1936 August Dvorak patented a simplified keyboard which appears optimum. This keyboard had existed for at least two decades before my father took typing, but instead he was taught QWERTY. Here is an old video about Dvorak’s Keyboard. After it was introduced, the keyboard clearly demonstrated its superiority. According to Wikipedia:

In 1933, Dvorak started entering typists trained on his keyboard into the International Commercial Schools Contest, which were typing contests sponsored by typewriter manufacturers consisting of professional and amateur contests. The professional contests had typists sponsored by typewriter companies to advertise their machines. Ten times from 1934–41, Dvorak’s typists won first in their class events. In the 1935 contest alone, nine Dvorak typists won twenty awards. Dvorak typists were so successful that in 1937 the Contest Committee barred Dvorak’s typists for being “unfair competition” until Dvorak protested. In addition, QWERTY typists did not want to be placed near Dvorak typists because QWERTY typists were disconcerted by the noise produced from the fast typing speeds made by Dvorak typists.

and:

Writer Barbara Blackburn was the fastest English language typist in the world, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. Using the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, she was able to maintain 150 words per minute (wpm) for 50 minutes, and 170 wpm for shorter periods. She has been clocked at a peak speed of 212 wpm. Blackburn, who failed her QWERTY typing class in high school, first encountered the Dvorak keyboard in 1938, quickly learned to achieve very high speeds, and occasionally toured giving speed-typing demonstrations during her secretarial career. Blackburn died in April 2008.

Diamond further stressed the differences in users of QWERTY and Dvorak:

QWERTY typists achieve barely half the speed of Dvorak typists, who hold most world records for typing speed. QWERTY typists make about twice the errors that Dvorak typists make. For a beginner to reach a speed of 40 words per minute, the person would need 56 hours of training on a QWERTY keyboard….. ….but only 18 hours on a Dvorak keyboard.

Dvorak Keyboard Layout (click to enlarge)

I had heard of the Dvorak keyboard at some point, but it was just one more half-remembered bit of information. One day while I was talking with Sven, he brought up the Dvorak keyboard. Sven explained numerous details of the keyboard design for a considerable amount of time. I remarked that he seemed to have more than a passing knowledge of the keyboard. With Sven’s typical understated way, he said “oh, I taught Dvorak to myself, and it’s all I use.” I had one of those moments of awe, envy and embarrassment that are quite uncomfortable. I was awed that he had spent the time learning, envious he had done so, and embarrassed that I was too big of a wussie to tackle this change myself. When Sven finally learned the Dvorak keyboard it was apparently like the person who was hitting himself in the head with a ball peen hammer–it felt very good to stop (QWERTY). Most modern computers offer the option of Dvorak–somewhere in the OS, but it requires effort locate it and to do so.

I wondered what might cause me to consider teaching myself Dvorak. First it would have to be mandatory for each new computer to have an icon on its desktop, or menu tray (built into the OS) that when clicked, the keyboard would switch between QWERTY and Dvorak. The icon could be one standard color for Dvorak and become another for QWERTY. This would guarantee that if I went to a public library, DMV, internet cafe, or other establishment where I might need to use an unfamiliar computer, I could switch it with the click of the mouse.. It would also be a good idea to have the key labels on the keyboard relocate automatically. This would be possible on an illuminated keyboard. The current Windows 7 OS requires navigating a considerable number of tabbed menus to change the keyboard to Dvorak. Sven tells me that it is much easier to accomplish with an Apple Computer. It should also be adopted by any Linux type OS.

The Dvorak option would need to be a mandatory requirement, with public education following its introduction.  Even entertaining this possibility, attracts those, who like metric system opponents, cite the predominant use of the QWERTY keyboard as evidence of its superiority. Certain economists are quick to assert that the utility of the Dvorak keyboard is a myth. The clear mathematical, statistical and Engineering analysis which demonstrate the superiority of the Dvorak Keyboard leaves them unmoved. They state: “….the continued use of Qwerty is efficient given the current understanding of keyboard design”  These Economists assert they know how to analyze and solve a technical problem in ways that Engineers naively don’t enlist. They have their own “current understanding of keyboard design.” One does not solve or understand Engineering problems with mathematical analysis, statistics, and data available, but instead the economists assert that one should rely on history.  These economists, are essentially  Mormons Making Coffee when it comes to design. Their arguments against Dvorak are similar to those invoked by anti-metric people, only with a typewriter keyboard in place of the metric system.

Sven posited an interesting and simple way to compare QWERTY and Dvorak keyboards—in millimeters! The way this would work is for one to map the distance taken to type a given paragraph of copy. Each letter would be given a distance which corresponds to how far your finger needs to move to type that letter. If a letter is on a home row, then it takes zero millimeters. On my keyboard, the off-home-row keys require a distance of about 20 mm to type. The total round trip distance would be 40 mm. Considering the most commonly used vowel in the English language is e, the fact that one doesn’t need to move from the home row to type it on a Dvorak keyboard, and must move 40 mm on a QWERTY is an obvious fact which clearly separates the utility of each configuration. This would be a very interesting computer program to write, but I’m not planning on trying it anytime soon. What would the “typing length” of The Gettysburg Address be for QWERTY and Dvorak?–The US Constitution?—The lyrics from The Flintstones theme?. This is a simplified analysis that actually favors QWERTY because the extra difficulty of typing on the bottom and top rows would be ignored. The idea of computing “typing lengths” is not original with Sven, it was understood early on.  Jared Diamond states:

In a normal workday a good typist’s fingers cover up to 20 miles on a QWERTY keyboard, but only one mile on a Dvorak keyboard. Dvorak keyboard. QWERTY typists achieve barely half the speed of Dvorak typists, who hold most world records for typing speed. QWERTY typists make about twice the errors that Dvorak typists make. For a beginner to reach a speed of 40 words per minute, the person would need 56 hours of training on a QWERTY keyboard..  ..but only 18 hours on a Dvorak keyboard.

I would think that even the economists cited might be able to realize that running 1 mile is much less taxing than running 20 miles, or one is not equal to twenty. Apparently with enough selective history and pedantic prose these economists can convince some people that 1=20 and The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard  (DSK) is a fraud.

Of course there can be great utility for the US to remain almost exclusively QWERTY—for Sven. When I asked him about how Dvorak has worked for him he said “it’s great as an extra level of security at work. The few who have sat down to use my computer without telling me, end up confiding to me that there is something wrong with my computer. When I tell them it’s set for Dvorak, people avoid it.”

Over a human lifetime, the efficiency of the Dvorak keyboard would almost certainly decrease repetitive motion ailments, and for those with joint problems, young or old, it would decrease their discomfort and fatigue. As with the metric system, the choice to implement Dvorak should not be left to random events as some economists would assert. It should be adopted because it promotes the general welfare of the citizens of the US.

I believe we owe it to the next generation of public school students to provide them with the best education possible, beginning with the change to Dvorak for the teaching of typing, the metric system for measurement, A4 paper, International dating, and other international standards. The way a country shows it is great is demonstrated by what it does. Implementing these changes would demonstrate we strive to be the best, and not the most traditional, nation in the world.

Update 2012-12-31

Holden commented he has found a website which performs the distance computation  of Dvorak and QWERTY (and a couple of others) for a given text. The default output is in meters. The Dvorak distance of the Gettysburg Address is 20 meters, and the QWERTY is 38.1 meters. The distance is not quite double compared with Dvorak.

15 thoughts on “Typing With a Ball Peen Hammer

  1. I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised by an article advocating for Dvorak on this website, even though I’m a QWERTY user for the usual reason of inertia. For some odd reason, Dvorak advocacy has the reputation (probably undeserved) of crankishness, so to see it compared to SI is refreshing.

    But I wonder: if efficiency is tantamount, and getting rid of old and inefficient legacies is a duty no matter how time-honoured they are, how come the decimal number system isn’t in your sights? We use this number system based on something as primitive as unary finger-counting (counting on the single fingers of one hand; there are more efficient ways to count on one’s fingers) which gives undue importance to the prime number 5, which though important is nowhere nearly so as the prime 3. In the decimal system, two out of three attempts to divide by 3 end up in an annoying train of infinite digits (0.33333…, 0.66666…), which makes people avoid thirding quantities despite the real need for that.

    You advocate the Dvorak keyboard for efficiency; I advocate the duodecimal (base twelve) number system for the same reason. With only two additional numerals (here rendered as ‘X’ and ‘E’ because of display constraints; without such constraints, an inverted ‘2’ and ‘3’ do duty for the two digits after ‘9’), the duodecimal system offers a rich set of divisors (2, 3, 4 and 6) and a first-class treatment of the prime factor 3. A third is 0;4 (four twelfths), two-thirds is 0;8. As with dividing by five in decimal, dividing by three in duodecimal always produces a clean number.

    Yes, since SI is designed around the decimal system, it wouldn’t be useful in duodecimal, but fear not, for there is a duodecimal equivalent of SI called TGM, consistent, thoroughgoing and based on sound scientific principles. One thing in TGM that would delight you is that its everyday temperature units offer two scales, one corresponding to the degree Celsius and the other to the milligrees you’ve wished for in SI. But there are many other goodies in TGM, and it gains the main advantage of duodecimal that any quantity measured in it can be divided into thirds, sixths, ninths or twelfths without recurring fractional digits.

    I know, moving away from decimal to duodecimal requires an effort. I know, it demands leaving a lot of ingrained habits and thought-patterns. But those are the same reasons for clinging to Imperial/USC and QWERTY instead of moving to the far more efficient SI and Dvorak. Inertia is a good excuse, but still just an excuse nonetheless. Duodecimal, also called dozenal, is the number base of practical efficiency.

    • A snowball would have a greater chance of surviving in Gehenna than the world ever adopting dozenal. First of all, decimal is universal and SI is universal among the majority of the world. The few holdouts are no longer significant to make a difference in the technical progress of the world. The costs to change to dozenal or away from SI are beyond comprehension.

      Support from dozenal comes mostly from persons who sole goal is to oppose SI. They know that USC/imperial is virtually dead and the only way to resurrect it is to dress it in a dozenal costume and call it new and improved.

      As long as Germany and China, the world’s largest producers and exporters are loyal SI users, continue to grow and expand, SI and decimal are assured a continued existence.

      • Ametrica: ‘A snowball would have a greater chance of surviving in Gehenna than the world ever adopting dozenal.’

        The chances are whatever they may be, and you don’t know the future any better than I do, but I’m not talking about the chances, I’m talking about the frame of mind. You could be one of the ‘Imperial/USC forever!’ people with your way of thinking. Or ‘QWERTY forever’ or whatever inefficient technology is held back by human inertia.

        Ametrica: ‘The costs to change to dozenal or away from SI are beyond comprehension.’

        The costs, done as phasing-out replacements, and on a voluntary basis, would be no greater than the costs of conversion to SI, replacement of road signs etc. This is a red herring.

        Ametrica: ‘Support from dozenal comes mostly from persons who sole goal is to oppose SI. They know that USC/imperial is virtually dead and the only way to resurrect it is to dress it in a dozenal costume…’

        A big fat lie. TGM as a dozenal system of metrology is the equivalent of SI, and it would be as much a change for users of Imperial/USC as it would be for those of SI. TGM is based on the same kind of precise definitions (for example, for the unit of length: mean gravitation, part of the circle of the earth or laser measurement according to the precision called for – just like the metre) as is SI. And it runs circles round SI in some areas, for example in the way its units of energy and thermodynamic temperature have a 1:1 correspondence (which the joule and the kelvin have not).

        Ametrica: ‘…SI and decimal are assured a continued existence.’

        You’re missing the point again. This here post by the Metric Maven is about efficiency. You might as well point out that QWERTY is assured a continued existence, but that’s beside the point.

        • Treisaran: “The costs, done as phasing-out replacements, and on a voluntary basis, would be no greater than the costs of conversion to SI, replacement of road signs etc. This is a red herring.”

          There are no costs to metricating, primarily because metrication is a past event for the majority of the world. For the Luddites who have not yet metricated, who cares? Let them wallow in their obsoleteness.

          If one or two insignificant countries who are stuck in the past can’t justify the costs to metricate, how would the whole world justify the cost to switch from decimal and metric to something you conjured up?

          Treisaran: “A big fat lie. TGM as a dozenal system of metrology is the equivalent of SI, and it would be as much a change for users of Imperial/USC as it would be for those of SI. TGM is based on the same kind of precise definitions (for example, for the unit of length: mean gravitation, part of the circle of the earth or laser measurement according to the precision called for – just like the metre) as is SI. And it runs circles round SI in some areas, for example in the way its units of energy and thermodynamic temperature have a 1:1 correspondence (which the joule and the kelvin have not).”

          Not a lie, it is truth. It is something made up out of anger because the world chose metric over British Imperial. Anyway, we already have a perfect working system that the whole world enjoys and in which every industrial standard of worth and modern technology is based upon. What logical reason would the whole world change when there is no real advantage to do so? Decimal and SI perfectly relate to each other.

          Your system from your brief description is flawed. Gravity based, earth centered means based on variable standards, just like imperial. SI is based on invariable natural constants. No real scientist would even touch your TGM with a 10 m pole.

          The keyboard example is just one of many where one way became supreme and a supposed alternative that was better never took off (VHS vs Beta is another). Not comparable to the metric issue. Metric did take off world-wide. There can never be a standard keyboard that will be universal as they all vary somewhat with the language in use. Metric however is the same no matter what the country or the language.

          • Ametrica: “There are no costs to metricating, primarily because metrication is a past event for the majority of the world.”

            What a hoot! By the same token, an Imperial-using Brit could say Imperial is here to stay because ‘there are no costs to changing from Queen Anne’s system anymore, it’s a past event’. Please… Saying we should cling to the less efficient because its conversion costs are behind us is exactly the kind of thing an Imperial/USC holdout would say. You don’t see the irony in it, do you?

            Ametrica: ‘For the Luddites who have not yet metricated, who cares?’

            I care quite a bit about the Luddites still using a number base where dividing by 3 produces an unwieldy result most of the time, and a system of measurement where for example the units of energy and heat are disconnected. Holdouts like you don’t impress me much in their resistance to change.

            Ametrica: ‘Not a lie, it is truth. It is something made up out of anger because the world chose metric over British Imperial.’

            Let’s see… I’ve given evidence, demonstrations, as to how TGM has nothing to do with clinging to Imperial/USC, citing among others the fact that converting to TGM would be as much of a change for Imperial/USC users as it would be to SI users. What have you got in counterpoint? I see: nothing but bare assertions.

            I may be eccentric in my advocacy of dozenal and TGM, but at least I’m serious; but you, you’re not even serious. I’ve a feeling you’re wasting my time.

            Ametrica: ‘Anyway, we already have a perfect working system…’

            Imperial/USC forever! Just the mindset, just the same way of thinking. Efficiency? Efficiency be darned.

            Ametrica: ‘What logical reason would the whole world change when there is no real advantage to do so?’

            I’ve already laid out the advantages. Your choice to ignore them reflects on you alone.

            Ametrica: ‘Gravity based, earth centered means based on variable standards,…’

            Wrong. The polar diameter of the Earth is constant for all intents and purposes, and has been measured to great accuracy in modern times. That’s what the TGM unit of length is defined by.

            Ametrica: ‘SI is based on invariable natural constants.’

            If you’re referring to the BIPM’s call to redefine SI units in 2014, first of all it’s some time off; not much time, but still in the future, so your contention that SI is based on invariable natural constants is being economical with the truth.

            Secondly, SI is not and never will be actually based on invariable natural constants or (as in the current definition) laser measurements; these just fix the units more reliably, but they fix, for example, a distance that goes back to being based on the circle of the Earth. The measurements of the Earth were made, the metre was based on them, first fixed as a metal bar, then as a laser-measured definition related to the speed of light, and in a year or so from now as a relationship to the Planck length or some other natural constant, but the particular value, no matter its precision and means of definition, is a value having to do with the original geodetic definition of the metre. A round decimal multiple or fraction of light-distance or the Planck constant could never yield the metre.

            Thirdly, as it is still not possible to gauge the Planck constant (not to mention the universal gravitational constant) to much accuracy, the BIPM’s move is premature, and that’s not just what I think, it’s what quite a few pre-eminent scientists think. So, even with the new definition, the laser-measured one will continue to be in use for some time to come.

            Ametrica: ‘No real scientist would even touch your TGM with a 10 m pole.’

            On the contrary, I think scientists would be quite delighted with a modern system like TGM that doesn’t suffer from the legacy of erroneous measurements and conceptions carried by SI, still basically an eighteenth-century system no matter what redefinitions are plastered upon it.

            I’m disappointed. I was expecting criticism, even scathing, yet I thought it’d be the roster of intelligent posters here who’d be delivering it; instead, I got a handful of misconceptions and easily countered untruths from the one poster here who, of all the others, is as stupid as a bag of hammers. Oh well, life’s like that with its disappointments.

          • Ametrica: “There are no costs to metricating, primarily because metrication is a past event for the majority of the world. For the Luddites who have not yet metricated, who cares? Let them wallow in their obsoleteness. . . . If one or two insignificant countries who are stuck in the past can’t justify the costs to metricate, how would the whole world justify the cost to switch from decimal and metric to something you conjured up?”

            The “Luddites” from “insignificant countries” do include the single largest economy on the planet, so the costs could be considerable. In any case, the cost isn’t really the issue here, but rather the efficiency of dozenal versus decimal.

            Ametrica: “Not a lie, it is truth. It [dozenal] is something made up out of anger because the world chose metric over British Imperial.”

            The only appropriate response here is “[citation needed]”. At the time the modern dozenal movement came into being, two of the three major powers fighting for the Allies were entirely “British imperial” (really two separate systems, customary in the US and imperial in other Anglophone countries). Metrication didn’t happen in most of these countries until well after the war, by which time the dozenal movement was well-established. Not to mention that the cradle of decimalism and SI, France, produced one of the world’s best-known dozenalists, Jean Essig, whose _Douze, notre dix futur_ was a landmark.

            Dozenalism has precisely nothing to do with customary or imperial measurements. It’s true that metrication has most frequently been by legal compulsion rather than by popular choice, and that dozenalists have often been among those angered by it; but that doesn’t mean that dozenalism was produced by such anger.

            If you have some evidence to back up your statement, then provide it. Otherwise, stand up and admit your mistake.

            Ametrica: “Anyway, we already have a perfect working system that the whole world enjoys and in which every industrial standard of worth and modern technology is based upon. What logical reason would the whole world change when there is no real advantage to do so? Decimal and SI perfectly relate to each other.”

            You’re assuming your premises here; namely, you’re assuming that we have a “perfect” system (you don’t really believe that SI is *perfect*, do you?), and you’re assuming that “there is no real advantage to do so”. (You’re also assuming that SI is “perfectly” decimal, which it isn’t; for example, the mole is based on the mass of *twelve* grams of carbon-twelve.) You can’t use your premises to prove themselves; this is a basic principle of logic.

            Ametrica: “Your system from your brief description is flawed. Gravity based, earth centered means based on variable standards, just like imperial. SI is based on invariable natural constants. No real scientist would even touch your TGM with a 10 m pole.”

            Uh…no. SI is also earth-centered; e.g., the definition of the meter is one ten-thousandth of a quadrant of a great circle of the earth. Of course, it’s measured badly, but that was the idea. It was later solidified, with the meter eventually being defined based on the speed of light. But the units themselves are quite earth-based in their derivaion.

            In TGM, the units are defined conceptually based on gravity, the Earth, and various other physical constants that we know and experience every day. Like SI, though, they have formal definitions as well, based on natural constants.

            Customary-imperial measurements are a hodge-podge of different factors (binary, ternary, quaternary, octal, dozenal, and hexadecimal, to name a few), and units with no transparent relationship to one another. SI aimed to solve that by making all the units clearly related to one another, and making them consistently decimal. It does neither of those things particularly well (some brief examples: the basic unit of mass if the kilogram, even though it’s got a prefix meaning “thousand,” and you can’t have (speak about) a millikilogram; the kilogram itself is supposed to be the mass of a cubic decimeter of water, even though the basic unit of volume is the cubic meter; the mole is based on *twelve* (yes, twelve!) grams of carbon-twelve; and that’s *grams*, not kilograms, even though the kilogram is the basic unit of mass; and so forth).

            TGM aims to replace customary-imperial, too; it aims to do so by making sure that the units all bear a transparent relationship to one another, and by making it consistently dozenal. It does a superb job of both of those things. It’s also just as precise and reproducible as SI.

            Dozenalists don’t want to keep customary-imperial units; we want to replace them, too, because they don’t make sense. But we want to replace them with something better than SI, and with something dozenal. TGM, a consistent dozenal metrology, is much more like SI than it is like customary-imperial.

            For those interested, a complete exposition of the TGM system can be found at:

            http://gorpub.freeshell.org/dozenal/blosxom.cgi/tgmbook.html

  2. Once again a very good read, thank you for that. I have myself pondered the question if I should use Dvorak, instead of qwerty. One reason you point out is when one is confronted with a computer in a foreign place, e.g. the library or a friend’s computer. But that’s really only the tip of the iceberg, the real issue is that Dvorak, and qwerty as well for that matter, is constructed for the English language. The most used keys are placed in the home row, but those keys/letters are common in English, not Swedish, which I use. There is a Swedish incarnation of Dvorak, called Svorak. But like the Swedish version of the qwerty keyboard, it isn’t really a redesign of the layout, it’s merely an addition of Swedish letters, rejected to an obscure corner of the keyboard so you constantly press the wrong key when typing. A redesign is needed, maybe one for every language. But I will try Dvorak anyway.

    • I know German has Neo, and French has BÉPO. Also, Korean, the language blessed by 한글 (Hangeul), has an efficient standard layout. But, unfortunately, there are many languages where “localised” version is basically the American keyboard with a few extra letters squashed on and a Euro sign somewhere. It’s generally a DIY job to make something “native”.

      If you want to create an efficient keyboard layout, the tool is Carpalx (http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/). In my experience, running it is a bit difficult on Windows (couldn’t get it to work), but easy on Linux. Of course, you need a fair corpus to make a good layout, but I trust there’s some text available.

      Implementation is relatively easy. Windows makes you jump through the hoops of downloading its incomplete “keyboard layout creator” to create special files, whilst Ubuntu’s XKB lets you edit its human-readable text files (via sudo). Note that Windows keeps shortcuts (e.g. Ctrl+C) on the QWERTY letters, so you’d have to press Ctrl+J to copy on Dvorak.

      Sorry for not saying anything about Mac. Carpalx is available for it, but that’s as much as I know.

  3. I have working knowledge of Dvorak typing. I started learning it with paper print out of ABCD: A Basic Course in Dvorak – Dan Wood gigliwood.com/abcd/, took me two months to become efficient. On Windows: if I remember, in the langue-keyboard preference choose Dvorak and display keyboard icon. This creates a place on the monitor where one can switch between keyboards. For Mac it is in langue in system preference. This leaves a flag with DV along with the U S flag for QWERTY. With Dvorak 70% of words in English can be typed using home row. The official government layout for Turkish keyboard is more similar to Dvorak layout.

  4. I wasn’t looking for it, but right after reading your article, I found this website which does the distance thing you were talking about: http://patorjk.com/keyboard-layout-analyzer/

    In regards to the Dvorak switch, I’ve tried to do it many times, but being that my career depends on typing speeds, I’ve found it hard to spend enough time with Dvorak to get to the same proficiency as I have with QWERTY. I’m also left-handed, so I guess having the higher frequency letters on the left doesn’t bother me.

  5. @Treisaran I have read your comments and I find them interesting. You have suggested that because the base 10 numbering system is not divisable by 3, and is fundemental to the metric system, that this is a disadvantage compared to a dozenal (duodecimal) measurement system. There may be some advantage within numbering systems that 12 is divisable by 2, 3, and 4 while 10 is only divisable by 2 and 5 ..but not within measurement systems.
    Numbers are digits on paper, or computer screen. They are symbols, they do not divide. Its what the symbols represent that is divided. For example 6 could represent six apples. I can divide them into three parts consisting of 2 apples, 1 apple, and 3 apples. So most physical items can be didvided into 3 parts. But they are not equal parts. If I divided them into 3 parts of 2 apples, 2 apples, and 2 apples by the definition of the numbering system, they would be equal and EXACT, but they would NOT be equal and exact by the definition of a measurement system. Thats because a numbering system, and a measurement system, are two diffreent things. To divide the 6 apples into 3 equal parts with the measurement system, one has to weight the 6 apples and divide the total weight by 3. This would result in 1 apple being cut up.so that each of the 3 parts of the apples equaled a third of the weight. The numbering system gave an exact result, but the measurement system, metric TGM or Imperial/USC cannot give an exact result. It doesnt matter what measurement system we use, there is never any exact measurement, and there is always some tolerance and uncertainty in any measurement, and just as a meter or a kilometer cannot be exactly divided by 3, the same applies to a foot or mile which cannot be divided exactly by 3. It not possible for measurements to be exact and thats why all measurements are arbitrary.

    • wjong, thank you for the comment! As I said, my issue with Ametrica’s remarks isn’t their being critical of dozenal and TGM – I was expecting criticism, and far be it from me to think I advocate perfect systems – but that they were full of strawmen. Yours is the type of criticism I was looking forward to, because it’s substantial.

      Your contention that weights and measures, unlike numbers, could never be exact because physical division is fraught with inexactitude is spot-on. It’s the difference between the exact, perfect Platonic circle or equilateral triangle, which are just ideals and concepts, and the corresponding shapes in the real world, which will always have some deviation from the ideal, no matter how minute.

      Since I agree with you, what’s the point of having a dozenal measurement system over a decimal one? The point is to avoid generational loss. When you divide by 3 in dozenal, any inexactitude you have is that which stems from physical reality, just like you’ve stated; such inexactitude can be kept to a minimum. But dividing by 3 in decimal can introduce numeric inexactitude, which can be kept to a minimum at its first instances, but the error grows with each further operation carried out on the approximate number. The interests of efficiency demand that any potential source of generational loss should be minimised (that’s why signal processing today is usually digital throughout except for the ADC and DAC converter interfaces with the real world).

      In addition, since such numbers as 0.33333… are annoying to look at and deal with, regardless of the issue of exactitude, there is psychological pressure on users of decimal systems (whether weights, measures, statistical percentages etc.) to avoid division by 3 even when called for. The use of a dozenal system would eliminate such inappropriate bias always, while in a decimal system you need to use a module size divisible by 3 beforehand (such as 300, 600 or 1200 millimetre lengths in construction), which is a kludge; having to fit your practices to the system instead of the system fitting your needs is a sure sign of inefficiency.

      Thanks again.

  6. A final comment on dozenal.

    The EU is the world’s largest economy and has been since 2007. The US is a dying empire who hurts only themselves by resisting metrication. As long as the world moves forward and has accepted SI what the US does is really insignificant.

    But actually the US is in the worst of all positions. It is USC on the surface, but many industries in order to survive in the world need to be and are metric internally. This division between the two groups creates a nation divided against itself problem and nations divided against themselves collapse. The costs of being divided are far greater than the costs to complete metrication. Best though to allow the US to collapse so that the EU under German leadership and China can be the world leaders in the next few years.

    Your claim of the wonders of TGM is biased. Has there ever been a independent review on TGM by metrology and/or scientific experts? If yes, what is their conclusion?

    Has the BIPM or the CGPM made any review? What was their conclusion?

  7. Ball peen hammer, nice illustration! Why do I run marathons because it feels awesome when I’m done!!!! I a took typing class in high school for an easy credit, for my moto was at that time was:
    “Do as little as possible to get by.”
    Now my children have been very diligent with keyboarding (not typing any more Maven its keyboarding) since the the fifth grade I watch them in awe, if Dvorak really is better I could see it catching on easily. I might buy one….

    This mere simpleton is learning alot of new things here Dozonel Society? Dvorak keyboard? Never had a, incling they existed…