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Unfortunately, out of any 100 pairs of consecutive letters in a typical English text, six require a reach and four a hurdle on the QWERTY keyboard.These inconveniences are minimized by any of the numerous competing keyboard designs that concentrate the most common English letters onto the home row.All human societies have many apparently arbitrary practices that persist for centuries or even millennia--writing systems, counting systems, sets of number signs, and calendars, to name just a few examples.

So when the chicken pox forced me to stay home from school for two weeks, I used the time to learn touch typing.

At age ten I, like millions of Americans each year, memorized the QWERTY keyboard (as it is called from its starting arrangement of letters).

For instance, the Dvorak keyboard devotes the home row to nine of the 12 most common English letters--including all five vowels and the three most common consonants (T, H, N)--while the six rarest letters (V, K, J, X, Q, and Z) are relegated to the bottom row.

As a result, 70 percent of typing strokes remain on the home row, only 22 percent are on the upper row, and a mere 8 percent are on the hated bottom row; thousands of words can be typed with the home row alone; reaches are five times less frequent than in QWERTY typing, and hurdles hardly ever happen.

Your fingers must not only reach from the home row to the top or bottom but must at times hurdle completely over the home row, moving directly from top to bottom and back again.

Those awkward hurdles and reaches slow you and introduce typing errors and finger strain.You can thereby fall into a steady rhythm and type quickly.In reality, though, even a good typist’s speed is seldom steadily maintained.Another easily understood vice of the QWERTY keyboard has to do with alternation of hands.Whenever the left and right hands type alternate letters, one hand can be getting into position for the next letter while the other hand is typing the previous one.When you prepare to type, you rest your fingers on QWERTY’s second-from-the-bottom row, called the home row.Obviously, the more typing you can do without having to move your fingers from the home row, the faster you’ll be able to type, the fewer errors you’ll make, and the less you’ll strain your fingers.The Gilbreths sought to decrease worker fatigue and increase the efficiency of many industrial processes (as well as of surgical operations and buttoning a shirt) by time-and-motion studies and slowed-down motion pictures.Applied to keyboard design, such studies showed that typing fatigue, errors, and slow speed depend especially on bad design in allocating letters among keyboard rows, among fingers, and between the left and right hands.The typewriter, and its successor the computer, are among the most widely used office machines in the Western world, and keyboard-related repetitive-strain injuries are among our most common industrial accidents.Commitment is incessantly urged upon us fin de siècle twentieth- century Americans.

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