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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Surfing with a Different Board

Danaus plexippus is the scientific name for the monarch butterfly. I knew that . . . a long time ago. I knew it because Miss Richards taught it to me in biology class at Shortridge High School in Indianapolis. Although that fact is lodged somewhere within the deep folds of my cranial gray matter, I had to ask the Grand Internet Wizard to pull it up for me. The molecular formula for glucose is C6H12O6. I also used to be able to willingly recall that fact because I was required to do so in Mrs. Parker’s chemistry class in high school. Confession: I had to look that one up too.

As I type these reflections, I do not have to look down at the keyboard. My gaze stays on the screen while my fingers stroke the keys as if they are extensions of my hands. It’s called touch-typing – or, these days, keyboarding – and it’s as natural to me as eating rhubarb pie . . . which I can also do without looking. I can touch-type easily and well because 1) I was taught to do so, and 2) I have been practicing it continuously some fifty-five years.

Psychologists estimate that one retains for active recall and use roughly ten percent of what one has been taught. Eight years of post-secondary education included scads of courses that were interesting. While some of those learnings were actually put to practical use for a limited amount of time, a huge lion’s share of that attained knowledge remains in hiding somewhere between my ears. But not touch-typing. Put simply, learning to type on the QWERTY keyboard without looking is one of the most useful and oft-used skills I acquired in twenty-some years of formal education.

In today’s world (and the foreseeable future), keyboards are a way of life. Whether the context is education, profession, or personal use, computer literacy is somewhere between highly desirable and mandatory. Given that, touch-typing makes life measurably easier. To be sure, individuals develop their own typing methods that do the trick . . . more or less. But eyes-free touch-typing can really speed up the process, eliminate too-often mistakes, and add to the pleasure of the task.

Smith puts it this way in his delightful book, The Kalahari Typing School for Men: “On the basis of this instinctive positioning of fingers, the students would be taught, by sheer repetition, to bridge the gap between perception of the word to be typed (or its imagination) and the movement of the muscles. That was something that could be acquired only through practice, and through the constant performance of standard exercises.”

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