My mother had a few jobs in her career, one of these was teaching secretarial skills in TAFE (Technical and Further Education). When I wanted a computer when I was young, the deal was I had to learn how to touch type first, it wasn’t just a toy.
Mum was a canny one, so I had to learn before she would get the computer and I learnt on her portable typewriter, like the one pictured, with it’s big clunky keys that you could jam when you really flew. So off I went, ‘asdf asdf asdf’ to ‘the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’. Eventually I picked it up and I got my computer. It was great, the main benefit being a keyboard with keys you didn’t have to slam down harder as the ribbon ran out and the lack of ink that stained fingers and anything they touched. “Daniel, I don’t understand how you got this mark on the ceiling!”
So onto today, I believe touch typing is one of the biggest comparative advantages a developer can have and I’m surprised just how many developers I see who haven’t actually mastered touch typing. Go learn now! People go to great lengths to use an IDE that works for them and is perfectly tailored, but then when it comes to the raw character entry which is inevitable (at the moment :), they overlook the physical aspects that can improve their development.
The worst thing when you’re in the zone is context shifting, having to stop and either wait for the hands to catch up or not being able to output as fast as you think is a subtle context shift. Basically for me touch typing means I only need to think about the problem and not the output and it’s one of the most important physical skills I have for software development. Nowadays I remember back to the toil and tedium of learning touch typing and can’t believe I did so much to get out of it.
So safe in the fact my mum uses the Internet mainly to exchange pictures of cute animals and forwarded malware and I know she wont read this blog, here it is, yes you were right, I will actually use it.