A pair of keyboard related questions.

  1. Do you touch-type, or (like me) do you kind of know where the keys are but "freestyle" type, looking at the keyboard on a semi-regular basis?*
  2. Are any of the letters wearing off on your keys?**

In answer to #2, I've completely lost L and N, and A and S are fading fast. Which, given my answer to #1, suggests that there will come a point where I'll be in real trouble.

(OK, you caught me with more than the pair of questions promised in the post title.)

*If you touch-type, do you have now or have you had recently a typing-related repetitive stress injury? (I tell myself that I avoid learning to touch-type so I won't end up with a RSI, but it's entirely possible that I'm just lazy.)

**If you have worn-off keyboard letters, have you found a good way to re-apply them? I tried to write them back onto the keys with my black Sharpie, whose permanence is legendary, and they wore back off in less than an hour.

More like this

Fomites are inanimate objects that act as modes of transmission for infectious agents. You know. The doorknob or airplane armrest handled by someone who coughs on his hand or blows her nose. We know that some agents, like influenza viral particles, can remain viable (i.e., retain their ability to…
I got hit on the wrist with an elbow in Wednesday's lunchtime hoops game, which was painful enough to overcome my deep antipathy toward the medical profession, and send me to the doctor. After a referral to an orthopedist Friday morning, the verdict was a contusion of one of the umpteen little…
For me, the main drawback of switching to an Android phone was not having a physical keyboard any more. Typing on the touch screen keyboard is infuriatingly slow and error-prone, even if you use the word-suggestion feature. (It isn't very smart, offering word suggestions not in order of how…
By now I assume you've experimented with Alpine, as a character-based email client. Well, I have another tip for you. I have been using alpine almost exclusively for a few weeks now. I switch to Evolution now and then because it is easier to gather groups of emails and move them to storage…

I touch type, but haven't had any RSI issues.

I type fairly fast, and almost never look at the keyboard (except when I'm going for some rarely used bit of punctuation whose location I forget).

I do use various forms of "ergo" keyboards, where the keys curve out a bit to void too much wrist bending.


I neither touch-type nor look at the keyboard. I taught myself to type at age 5, and I still use that style; my palms hover to either side of the spacebar, and I type mainly with my index and middle fingers. But all ten fingers get some use, and I don't look at the keys — my keyboard makes it futile.

I don't get the traditional RSIs, but when I overexert myself (as I have recently) I can get numbness in my elbows and/or cramps in my forearms. I find it helps to type with the keyboard in my lap.

I don't touch type and use the home row like I was taught to do at school. I freestyle for the most part, I often type, like I am right now, sitting in bed in the dark. So, I couldn't really see the keys well if I really wanted to.
In response to #2, I haven't really had my laptop long enough to have lost any of my letters yet. I think I just got in March or April. I also have a keyboard cover to keep the dog hair out, so that should prevent the keys from wearing off.
My dog used to bite keys off a laptop I used to have. I got them replaced by calling the company, and claiming I had absolutely no idea how they fell off. They would suggest that I push the keys back on, which would have worked, had the dog not chewed them a bit. So, they fell off all by themselves, and I mysteriously lost the brackets to hold them on. They sent me new keys several times without question. Of course, if that doesn't work, maybe you could try little letter stickers?

1. Freestyle but touch with many miskaes in a pinch#

** Try VWR lab markers and let them dry for 10 minutes OR replace the key entirely.

# The kind of mistakes I make in a pinch.

I type with two index fingers. I learned this technique in my second year vertebrate zoology class, when we had to submit quarterly lengthy reports on our dissection subject. I found that hunt-and-peck typing was easier than writing the damned thing legibly for a typist. Now, I can do about 15 wpm, which is good enough for my purposes.
I don't have RSI from typing, but I DO have it from using a mouse. I screwed up my right wrist building a concrete block wall about 10 years ago, and it has never completely recovered. When I do a lot of "mousing", it kills me.

By T. Bruce McNeely (not verified) on 26 Jun 2007 #permalink

Oh yeah, in response to the second question, I haven't worn out any of my keyboards because I usually destroy them with coffee or beer, or my girls spill pop or ice cream on them. Keyboards are <$10.00 at Future Shop or Costco, so what the hey...

By T. Bruce McNeely (not verified) on 26 Jun 2007 #permalink

I taught myself to touch type by adopting a Dvorak keyboard. Since the letters are in the "wrong" places by default, you kinda have to learn where they are, touch typing, the hard way. No "kinda" knowing; even looking at the keyboard confuses me. Dvorak doesn't work on an ergo keyboard; it's designed such that you keep your wrists at the correct angle above normal keyboards.

I developed keyboard-related tendonitis before switching. I now have a weekly exercise regimen that includes strengthening my wrists (and brutalizing them with bagwork), too. Part of the reality of being both a writer and a programmer, and being over 40.

I also touch type and don't have RSI. I credit this to my childhood piano teachers who drilled it into me to use my arm, not my wrist.

I am like you in that I look down, even though I can basically know them all. However, when I try to go to real touch from time to time, I inevitably get frustrated by my error rate. My kids are all quite contemptuous that I could reach my stage of life and years of keyboarding without really mastering it.

Noticed that my daughter's keyboard is losing AC and E. My first typewriter was bought secondhand from a large company and a number of the keys had sharp grooves, presumably worn by typists with long fingernails. (This was late 60s.)

I touch type around 100 words per minute. Last year, I finished typing a book that has over 800 pages for the usgenweb.org project. I wore off the ridges on my fingerprints, but I didn't wear off the letters on my keyboard. I type thousands of words a week because I have a blog and an online job which involves typing. I'd say you have a wimpy keyboard and should invest in purchasing a new one since they're relatively inexpensive. Although once the letters are gone, maybe you will learn touch typing--just a thought.

When I typed that book, I was so afraid that I'd develop an evil RSI that I was extremely careful to "listen" to my wrists. If they said, "Ouch, take a break," I took a break. I also typed for about 5 minutes, then took 5 minutes off. And I followed good ergonomic wrist practices, making sure my wrists had support and were at the correct level.

I love being able to type quickly. I'm glad my mom made me take typing back in 1969 (she made my brothers take it too, which came in handy in their careers as computer programmers).

I touch-type; it's the only thing of value I learned in high school besides (nod to Quentin Crisp) how to bear injustice with dignity.

And seriously J, you can afford a new keyboard. I'll bet your department will even spring for one.

The keyboard is actually part of a laptop computer, so it's not a matter of just swapping it out (although I suppose I could investigate the availability of replacement keys). And department funds are tight -- I'd rather they be spent on something really good like conference travel or a grader!

In answer to your questions,
1) I touch type, but find myself staring at the keyboart anyway...
2) I use a sharpee and then put clear nail varnish over it. It stays on longer, but not indefinitely

The keyboard is actually part of a laptop computer, so it's not a matter of just swapping it out ...

On any of the 4 or 5 laptops I've had, that's exactly what it is. I've replaced a keyboard twice, and it was a one-minute operation each time.

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 27 Jun 2007 #permalink

Freestyle here, but it's a habit I'm trying to break... I reckon my error rate is actually lower when I don't look at the keyboard too much. I have seriously considered spray-painting my keyboard black to force me to type properly (or buying one of those sexy DasKeyboards Kerne Fahey linked to). I used to have a bad habit of buying really cheap keyboards without bothering to check the key layout, so I've got some odd Scandanvian keyboards kicking around, which I always configured as UK English - now that confuses people! ;)

Never lost any key markings yet...

Sometimes key tops can be replaced without hassle. Sometimes not. Mileage, as we say, varies. Some schools have pretty good computer repair shops on campus. If your school has a repair shop, you might bring in your laptop to see if someone there seems competent and helpful.

I touch type. I've worn off a few letter labels over the years, but typically I've worn out the machines at the same rate, so all components could be recycled at the same time.

I do have to be careful about RSI problems. Years ago I invested in the funky-shaped ergonomic keyboards for home and office. (They're among the few things I highly recommend from MS.) Whenever I'm typing at my desk I plug in an ergonomic keyboard and an external trackball.

When I began noticing RSI symptoms several years ago (typer's elbow), I trained myself to become "ambimousetrous" (TM). Frequently switching hands for mousing helped some. Later I figured out that a trackball is better for me than a mouse. I now use a Logitech trackball, but I still switch mousing hands several times throughout the day.

If you try the trackball approach, I recommend you go to a computer store while you have RSI symptoms to try out all the display models. I found that some trackball configurations were just as irritating as mice. The kind that works best for me has the trackball mounted at the center rather than on one side (example here).

Good luck. And let's be careful out there. Cheers

I've been a two-index fingers typist (looking at the keyboard semi-regularly) since forever. I did attend a formal touch-typing class back in the 1970s but it never really took.

Despite this I managed to get carpal tunnel problems in both wrists. I might blame it on all the mouse work, but that doesn't explain how I got it in the left hand.

I spent a couple of years on Naproxen, got CT release surgery on both wrists, and cleaned up my poor wrist posture practices*. One or all of these seems to have worked, and I have had no more trouble.

No worn off letters at present.

* Perhaps one of the important ones was that I found was sleeping with my wrists bent and twisted around. I still wear wrist braces at night to remind me not to do that.

I learned to touch-type on an Underwood manual typewriter (Note: 'manual' means muscle-powered-mechanical) and then went to electric typewriters (Smith Corona first, IBM Selectric last). When I got into computers, the 'keyboards' were Terminets (think ancient teletypes), on which I could touch-type. When computers got keyboards, I never had to look at the keys, as I knew where all of them were.

By the way, today's keyboards are indexed wrongly. The original indexing was on ten-key calculators, with a raised dot centered on the '5' to index the middle finger (letting the user know it was correctly placed so that no one ever had to look). When typewriters began indexing, they correctly put the dot centered on the 'd' and 'k' keys. When computer keyboards came along, they kept the index on the tenkey on the '5' but someone stupidly thought that the indexing for the 'typewriter' part of the keyboard should be for the index finger, not the middle finger, and hence we stupidly have those bars below-center on the 'f' and 'j' keys. Why index on the middle finger? Well, duh, it's the longest finger -- and so it contacts the keys first.

I touchtype, but with a lot of looking; no particular RSI.

For the keys wearing off: use the black enamel paint that they sell in very small pots for model painting, with a very fine paint brush, and let it dry for at least 12 hours -- over a weekend is better. And for gods sake don't spill it, because it *doesn't* come off....and just don't sit the little paint pot anywhere near your computer, that's just inviting disaster.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 27 Jun 2007 #permalink

I touch type. I had horrible RSI issues in college from my job as a grocery store cashier and they do come back from time to time. I find my laptop keyboard to be very comfortable and have no trouble with it. I used to use the apple adjustable keyboard, which split down the middle and swung out to allow your arms to sit at an angle, not parallel. With other keyboards I generally need a wrist rest. A mouse really bothers my wrist, so I use a trackball and a wrist rest for that too.

I have worn the N off of my iBook. I hear it is not uncommon.

I'm an autodidactic typist; I use 5 fingers (R thumb, index, middle; left index & middle; occasionally the L ring finger for Shift).

I'm more of a freestyle typist. Sometimes get pain in my wrist if I spend too much time at the laptop.

I'm losing my S and N on my iBook's 2nd keyboard. The first was replaced (for free) by the good folks at the genius bar. I suggest you get some stickers if you can't replace the keys.

I'm freestyle. I kind of touch-type when I'm not thinking about it, but if I try to touch-type, it all goes to hell. So I try to keep it at a happy medium. Either way, for some reason I type using only my index finger and thumbs.

HOWEVER, the touch-typing has become a little more incumbent since I started, yes, wearing the letters off my (laptop) keyboard. All my vowels are completely gone, along with R, T, S, H, L, C, N, and M. W, Y, and D are on their way out.

It's fun to watch other people try to use my computer. They take one look at the keyboard and just stare at me in utter confusion.

I touch type. I was going to mention the the fact that the raised dots should be on the d and k keys, but somebody beat me to it (it's actually quite annoying because instinctively, I feel for the dots on the d and k keys and they aren't there). I have on occasion encountered keyboards in foreign countries and I cannot type on them to save my life. The keys are in the wrong places!

I was also going to suggest a VWR lab marker (which tend to be more permanent than Sharpies) or perhaps one of the cryomarkers from Nalgene (I have no idea why I think they'd be more permanent, but you never know).

Touch typer, thanks to mandatory high school course (long, long ago)! Only suffered from carpel tunnel syndrome during pregnancy (ouch!!!!! putting in mildly), when I was starting my freelance writing business (yeah, I know, not the time to have wrist swelling, right?). Those nasty gloves did the trick, was able to get a series of preclinical study reports and a few regulatory reports out the door before having the twins, so I guess I'm a testimonial to wrist wraps!

Never had key IDs disappear, but I fell in love with a bendy ergonomic keyboard with my last computer that is no longer available with my new one (dratted plug compatibility issues!), so now I'm back on the straight and narrow.

Touch-typist (Qwerty keyboard), learned c.30 years ago on a manual which was then at least 20 years old and had been extensively used. Other than several very faint (worn) keys, it was in fine shape (it'd clearly been made when things were built to last!).

My current computer keyboard doesn't have any worn keys, but it's also fairly new, so that's not too surprising. Nor are there any on the keyboard it replaced (which was only four years old before failing!). On one of the keyboards before that, I managed to totally destroy the right-hand Shift key (as in physically destroy).

I did have some RSI symptoms years ago, but immediately started using a wrist/palm rest, and have been fine since.

If I were going to learn to touch-type now, I'd consider using a Dvorak rather than a Qwerty. There are various pros-and-cons here, but if you haven't got an ingrained habit, it might be worth thinking about or investigating?