Sunday, March 01, 2009

"Qwerty" proficiency for programmers?

A funny artifact of my own professional background comes to mind. Shortly after starting a mainframe programming and systems analysis job at an insurance company in January 1990, I noticed that some people had their terminal keyboards blocked out with some sort of plastic overlay. There actually was a course in “keyboard proficiency” offered as part of the company’s training then. I thought that the whole idea was passé and silly. I thought back to my high school days of the 1950s, when people (almost all girls) took typing as an elective. “Clerk-typist” was a real MOS in the Army (and a sought-after one in the Vietnam era, to stay off the front lines).

It seems that programmers learn to type fast and reliably quickly enough, with no prompting or need to stop looking. Just look how quickly Geek Squad guys type in Microsoft XP operating system commands to repair a machine.

“Qwerty” is one of the few words where the Q is not followed by a u. Go to Europe, though, and, as I remember, in every country the keyboards were different. It would throw me, to go into the hotel guest “business” room in Bilbao Spain (with its unusual multiplicity of languages) and find the keyboard totally rearranged.

By the way, I had a mysterious “keyboard error” recently, which went away with a cold boot. I talked about it last week on the internet safety blog.

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