Core Developer @ Hudson River Trading
On 3/8/2023, 5:55:34 PM
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Inspired by a recent conversation with a friend, and by the fact that I've abused my laptop keyboard to the point that multiple keys have started failing intermittently.
It's been a while (1.5 years!) since my last post about typing. Then, I was still rapidly improving (see the 5,000 race mark, below); now, my progress has greatly leveled out. I've learned some more about typing since then, and this January/February I had a nice jump in speed. By now I've completed around 21,000 races on Colemak. You can see my overall progress below: the first image is WPM plotted over races, and the second image is WPM plotted over time.
There are probably a lot of things you can infer from these two graphs. One little feature is that it shows when I was busy with work or moving1; these caused the two mostly-empty periods around July 2022 (moving to California) and December 2022 (busy with work). As a result of both of these gaps, my typing speed average decreased gradually following those two periods. Conversely, there are also large jumps in the typing speed average when there is an influx of races, such as the one in May 2022 (summer after college) and February 2023 (following my layoff2).
As mentioned before, the most recent influx of races after 20k races (after January 2023) was an inspiration for this post. I was able to hit 140wpm averages over 10 races fairly consistently, and would hit 150wpm or 160wpm on many texts that I haven't been able to do previously. When reflecting on the reasons for this surge in typing speed, I came up with the following list of reasons.
The most recent drop in typing speed average is due to my normal keyboard breaking; I am now typing on linear switches rather than my usual laptop keyboard, and I feel that my accuracy is much lower. Current keyboard setup:
My personal favorite keyboards for getting the best speed are still laptop keyboards with scissor-style switches. These have a small travel for a quick response, are tactile-enough, and usually have a fairly soft bottoming-out so your fingers don't hurt much. Another great benefit about keyboards is that you can rest your palm and wrist on the laptop and your wrists will still be straight (which is almost as good as keeping wrists raised). My favorite keyboards are the old non-chiclet style (~2010s) laptops like Dell Latitudes8 or older Lenovo Thinkpads, although newer keyboards are usually okay. The laptop whose keyboard I just broke was a 2017 Acer Spin 3. Macs with the butterfly keyboards are actually fantastic for burst typing, but quickly start to hurt from all the harsh feedback when bottoming-out.
I do like taller keyboards (more travel) for typing practice, as I feel that it makes me stretch out my fingers more and practice precision typing. These are usually more comfortable too with softer bottoming-out. I'm fairly okay with standard rubber dome keyboards if they're tactile enough (e.g., Dell L100), but I don't like many of the mushy standard-issue keyboards (e.g., Logitech K120). I don't really think there's a big difference in speed between many of these standard and cheap keyboards though.
Regarding mechanical keyboards (or more esoteric switch types such as optical switches or buckling-spring switches), I still can't say I've tried any other than my hand-me-down Redragon K552 with Outemu Red (linear) switches. I have two problems with this keyboard: it's so darn tall (compared to the other keyboards I have); and my accuracy on red switches is atrocious. This model does support hot-swappable switches, so I think I will probably try tactile switches at some point to see if that fixes the issue.
I don't have much experience with other keyboard form factors except for my Perixx Periboard 512 (version 1), which honestly is pretty comfortable to type on but I don't think is as well suited for speed typing. I feel that the curve spaces keys further apart and makes it hard to burst; conversely, I feel that this makes it good for practice and stretching your fingers out.
I've come a long way since starting out in Colemak, and I think I've learned a lot about the way I type and have greatly reduced the"angry typing" and been able to increase my consistency and burst typing. For now, I will probably spend some time with three keyboards: my Redragon K552 with linear (and perhaps tactile) switches; my Latitude E6420 laptop with scissor switches; and the keyboard of some unknown new laptop that I will be purchasing in the near future. It will probably take some time to adjust given that I'm switching away from my usual keyboard.
I think I've reached the point where I'm fairly comfortable with my typing speed in Colemak, which I can comfortably say is 130-140wpm nonquit on my usual laptop keyboard. It also means that I've reached a steady-state with typing, where it becomes a regular routine rather than something where I try to actively improve or compete. It's uncertain where it goes from here.
1. Even when I was busy with school, I still kept up a fairly regular regimen of typing.
2. Maybe not the best use of my time, but it was a necessary respite from job searching.
3. This is my terminology, I don't know what the standard term for this is.
4. Of course, it may still be better to use regular Bksp when necessary, e.g., if you just made an error in the last typed character. Burst erasing is useful when you made a character multiple letters back, or made multiple errors.
5. Don't quote me on this or hold me liable if issues arise from loss of blood circulation to your legs. It's a purely non-scientific hypothesis.
6. I roughly estimate that a 1% difference in accuracy for any particular race on TypeRacer to be equivalent to a 5-10wpm difference in observed WPM.
7. I don't know if there is a scientific name for this, or if it just affects me. I assume it's not just me, and everyone has these zone-out moments.
8. My trusty E5420/E6420 combo are amazing.
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