Dvorak Keyboard

Comments by a Professional


I've been a Dvorak typist since about 1992. As a word processor for a law firm, I used Mavis during my lunch hour, and taught myself Dvorak while I was still typing in Qwerty during business hours. Unfortunately, it was too late for me: I was by then in the latter stages of bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. I had to lay off typing for a long time. Now, I'm back. My hands still get cold and numb and prickly, but it's still easier to use Dvorak, because my hands hardly move at all. I think the home row count is up to 5,000 or so.

A few years back, I let a 19-year-old friend use Mavis’s first Dvorak lesson. Although she had no typing experience at all, after that first lesson she was touch-typing at 22 wpm! 'Nuff said!

Transparent typing is the most fun of all. I love being able to "think out loud" with my brain and fingers fully engaged and in happy tandem. I found out about Dvorak in a 1980 computer magazine, but it took until 1991 for me to find the software to teach it to myself, and until Windows supplied the keyboard option. The only problem is, when I go to DOS, it's in Qwerty. My husband — a non-typist — is probably one of the few people here in Houston who knows how to convert from Dvorak to Qwerty; otherwise, he wouldn't be able to do his 2-finger hunt-and-pecking

I have such a low opinion of “status quo” mentality. Really, how difficult is it to learn something logical? The question should be: Why is Qwerty being taught at all? It's irrational, illogical, and downright painful! Remember what Christopher Shoales did in order to create his first-successfully-patented keyboard? He ran the same investigation that Dr. Dvorak did (i.e., what letters are most/least convenient/prevalent, etc.). Only in the Shoales design, since the technology wasn't yet there, and to prevent keys from jamming — his machine could only handle 10 wpm, and people of that time could type 20 wpm (and that with 2 fingers, as touch-typing didn't come into being until the early 1900s) — Shoales deliberately put letters in the least convenient places, in order to slow the typist down! So what people are using today is the result of antiengineering! It's a minefield!

Further: the top row includes all the letters to the word “typewriter” as a sales gimmick. So, not only antiengineering, but marketing as well!

Is it possible to sue the government using this new hate crime legislation? I'm only partly kidding. After all, I'm a professional typist with an RSI disability that I blame completely on Qwerty. None of the other things I do with my hands ever hurt me in the least: I have played several musical instruments, including piano (another keyboard), since the age of 3, have knit and crocheted since the age of 14, but only after becoming a dedicated word processor and typing a whole lot did I develop carpal tunnel. Workers' Comp was even worse than the disease: I was never “cured” but I was blamed. I was not allowed to crochet for months, and without crochet to occupy mind and hands, I went into a depression that has lasted these last 6 years! Not only did Workers' Comp not fix me, they hurt me: they accused me, they blamed me, they forced me to see doctors who wouldn't listen to me, and they never did a damn thing about Qwerty/Dvorak. Not a single physician gave Dvorak the time of day!

So maybe we can alter the status quo in court.

Hollis Ramsey

Trancribed from an email message by Hollis Ramsey Sat, 24 Jun 2000
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Revised: 29 Jul 00