Is Touch-Typing an Obsolete Skill?

December 16th, 2010 221 Comments

I can touch type.

If you don’t know what I mean, you probably don’t touch type, and if you don’t touch type, you hunt-and-peck.

I didn’t make up the terms so don’t get mad at me if you don’t like them. I’ve seen impossibly fast hunt-and-peck typing on a keyboard, and perhaps the greatest hnp typists are texters, whose thumbs can fly across their keypads.

I would compare their words-per-minute output, but as we all know, texting involves “words” that would make my typing instructor lulz.

Photo by Lainey Powell from Flickr used under Creative Commons

Touch-typing is a lost skill, and I wonder why, given its utility to people like me who use a keyboard all the live-long day. I’ve met developers who pound out millions of characters each week without touch-typing. It seems horribly inefficient.

Didn’t they ever stop to wonder why the “F” and “J” keys have nubbies on them?

It would seem odd that touch-typing classes have not become a prerequisite of computer science courses, if only to help the students become more productive. I don’t know if they are, but somehow I doubt it.

Why?

Because through texting and computers at home, children are exposed to keyboards much earlier now, and it’s supremely tough to break ingrained habits like hnp typing. So what’s the point of a touch-typing class?

In addition, I doubt anyone finds real utility in a typing class now, since the touch-typing hallmark statistic of words-per-minute no longer seems valid or useful to getting a job.

The benefits of learning to touch-type vs. hnp typing are too hard to quantify, and thus, “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy yellow dog” is now just a sentence no one uses anymore.

So, am I right? Can anyone touch-type anymore?

Find the comments.


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221 Responses to “Is Touch-Typing an Obsolete Skill?”

  1. Jimmothy Says:

    It’s worth it to take the time to touch-type guys. The only question is, will the keyboard ever become obsolete? I’m already using talk to text on my phone. Maybe that’s a discussion for another blog.

    I took typing class in Middle School and used a lot of AIM & AOL chat rooms at the time.

    Your score: 546 CPM (that is 109 WPM)

    Your score beats or equals 99.45% of all.

    Congratulations! You typed all 99 words correctly!

    I advise you to take a 2 minute break now.

  2. Andrew Borne Says:

    A skill is driven by the needs of the environment or the society. Most of us cannot start a fire without matches because we just don’t need that to survive. Look back 200 years ago and I’m sure lots of people, including children, could do it.

    So the question is, do we need touch typing in the future? No. Unless you have business writing lengthy essays or books, no you don’t. While it’s true many of us write something everyday, it’s usually in short bursts such as texting or post updates. Also, consider speech to text technology. Just as the typewriter reduced the need to write lengthy letters by longhand, with a quill, so it is that typewriters have been replaced with word processing and other forms of communication.

  3. P Says:

    I don’t think it’s about “needing it”, Andrew Borne, it’s about whether you can be better at what you do if you can. I got by ok without it for 25 years, but I can do the same stuff better now since I learned to touch type.

    Some people don’t benefit from it, some do. Same as it was 50 years ago before word processing. The point is, it’s not obsolete.

  4. Doreen Says:

    That’s true P in your reply to Andrew Borne. And Andrew, there are heaps of people who do actually type long articles for their work or personal needs.

    Some of us are typing up our life stories or notes for courses and students for their studies and all the assignments that have to be handed in typed.

    Maybe we won’t type in the future but a long time from now. You want to read the comments I get from people who have lost their jobs because they haven’t got good enough typing skills and are pleased to find a good touch typing course to help them.

  5. Ben Says:

    I don’t think touch typing is a lost skill at all. As someone who learned how to touch type as adult I can attest to how difficult it is to survive a a job in an office setting without the ability to touch type.

  6. Doreen Says:

    That is interesting to hear Ben and I would be interested to know which country you are working in. In New Zealand there are still many jobs which require correctly typed work and many people in management are now wanting to type themselves.

    Also, students MUST hand in their assignments for any subject in a correctly set out, accurately typed assignment.

    However, I have rung around the secondary schools and found that very few are actually offering a typing course for their students.

    At the same time I’m receiving messages from around the world from teachers wanting a good touch typing course for their student.

  7. James Says:

    I confess I am a touch-typist. I first took touch typing as a high school course, at which point I had been hunting-and-pecking for ten years, so it’s certainly not an unbreakable, ingrained habit…

    Personally, I don’t find that the SPEED of typing is the true advantage to touch typing. Rather, if you consider the fact that touch typists look at the screen while typing, you end up with

    1. better accuracy, as you catch mistakes as they are being typed (rather than having to read over your text later on, which I find less effective)

    2. better ergonomics, as you are looking forward at the screen, rather than looking down at your keyboard all the time

    With that said, I often wonder if a better “keyboard” could be developed. We are using a flat rectangular keyboard, I suspect, because it was developed with the mechanics of a mechanical typewriter in mind.

  8. Doreen Says:

    Your points are so right James.

    I’m glad you confirmed that it IS possible to change – but there has to be a real desire to do so.

    About keyboards. Do a google search for keyboards, maybe keyboard styles or shapes.

    Some are actually almost like two parts, one for each hand, on a slanting angle.

    You might be surprised what’s available, but I feel comfortable with the standard layout but it’s rather annoying when needing to buy a new laptop to find where some frequently used ‘extra’ keys are situated. No god finding that out after you get it home as I did once.

  9. Doreen Says:

    I was thinking recently about how some people think standard keyboards are going out so there is no need for touch typing, but it seems, where ever I go – I see people using keyboards – including the hospital where it’s laptops, not notebooks, which are being taken round wards to record patient’s details etc. Big department stores, hospital surgeries, all are still using them.

    It’s obvious Touch Typing is not obsolete. There are still vast numbers of websites offering typing courses. My own web site averages 9,000 to 11,000 visits on week days and even allowing for a bounce rate that’s a lot.

    Also, we have a growing response to our eBook which promotes the benefits of Touch Typing and best way to achieve this.You can check this though the following link:

    http://www.learntyping.org/typingebookcontents.htm

  10. BC Says:

    Thanks for this Website Article/etc, and some Interesting Comments, but The Question(s) (imho) … is the Number of those who can Officially Type with ‘All Fingers’ increasing, decreasing, or about the same ? … and what ‘source’ is used to determine those Numbers ? … is there some kind of Survey/Study/etc that gives ‘Hard Numbers/Percentages/etc’ ? … someone know/provide the Link(s)/Source(s)/etc to those ‘Numbers’ ? … thanks again

  11. P Says:

    BC, are you wanting to include people who type with all fingers but have to look at the keyboard? I’d class those people as between hunt and peck and touch typing.

  12. Doreen Says:

    From responses I have had it appears that at least in some countries there are people losing their jobs because of their poor typing skills and say tell me they need to touch type at a higher level before they can get another job.

    Certainly there are people who touch type, meaning they don’t NEED to look at the keys to find which to type and some will use four fingers in each hand, others maybe less, but may sometimes look at the screen and other times at the keyboard.

    However, if you can keep your eyes on the screen and not keep looking up and down you are more likely to spot errors in time to correct them ‘on the spot’ and save a lot of time proof reading after to find errors.

    Of course, if you are looking up and down while you are copying something from a book or notes beside your keyboard it is easy to lose your place on the page you are copying from. It’s great if you can keep on reading and know your typing will end up perfect or with very few mistakes to correct.

  13. wayne jennings Says:

    I learned “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs” Your sentence leaves a touch typist not knowing where to find “S”. “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy yellow dog”
    I love the comment about kids today not knowing how to use matches. Very true

  14. P Says:

    I think it’s normally “jumps”, not “jumped”.

  15. Doreen Says:

    Yes, it was ‘jumps’ and there was only one dog.

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  17. Lisa Tweedie Says:

    Here in the UK I taught the whole of my kids primary (elementary) school to touch type using the BBC dance mat typing course on the web. It took roughly 6 hours to teach the average child aged 7-11 to touch type. I did it in 12 half hour sessions over a term in groups of 30 – once a week at lunchtime. I was very firm that they looked at the screen and did not look at their fingers. They loved it and I feel like I have given those 200 kids a skill for life. Really easy to do. My daughter is dyslexic so for her it really was a key skill.

  18. Doreen Says:

    Good for you. That’s a great achievement. My concerns over recent years have been that so many, from such a young age, are allowed to use computers and not shown any actual typing skills so when they need them for work skills or study assignments, they are stuck with their hunt and peck methods unless somebody prompts them to replace that habit with true Touch Typing.

  19. Becca Says:

    The reason I’m here is I’m looking for some statistics on typing speed. I’m the hunt-and-peck type and first of all, I don’t know how common that is. I think touch typing gives a clear advantage in typing speed, so I guess I’m curious about hunt-and-peck speed. I’ve got mine at 55 WPM, anyone else?

  20. Rain Says:

    It’s “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” …….

  21. Doreen Says:

    Becca, the advantage touch typists have over the hunt and peck is that they learn to type with their fingers over what are called the Home Keys and stretch the most suitable finger to any other key, seeing in their mind where each key is, rather than having to keep looking at the keyboard to find the required key.

    If they are thinking out what they want to type they can keep their eyes on the screen and see if their typing is appearing correctly or if they are copying from a page they don’t loose their place on the page by looking up and down.

    Some hunt and peck can type quite fast but a ‘top touch typist’ could type faster.

    I’ve known some sight impaired typists who do very well with their touch typing.

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