Principal Consultant Robert Leahey knows a lot about languages and computer keyboards. Below, he shares how confronting change head-on has defined his career.
It’s 1998. I’m typing code 8-10 hours a day, playing music gigs at night, and my wrists are telling me they’ve had enough of this nonsense. To varying efficacy, I try a number of possible remedies including ice, anti-inflammatories, oddly-shaped ergonomic keyboards, some changes to my musical techniques, etc.
I’m having a modicum of success with an ergonomic keyboard when I read of something really odd: the Dvorak Keyboard Layout
I’m not here to sell you on Dvorak, and I’m aware of its over-hyped reputation. You can read about it for yourself here. But look at that layout insanity! What was August Dvorak thinking? A friend once described it as “playing 52-card Pick Up” with your keyboard.
I was desperate enough to try it; but I knew that just dabbling in it was insufficient. To test its effectiveness I needed to go all-in. So I switched my Windows Input Layout, printed out a Dvorak layout like above and taped it to my monitor. Since I couldn’t afford an actual Dvorak keyboard, I went with my QWERTY ergonomic keyboard, flipped that Windows input and never looked at my keyboard at all. I couldn’t! If I typed what the keyboard said was “Robert”, I would get “Osndok”.
The point is that I made the decision to take the productivity hit to learn the new skill. The productivity hit was significant, but 20+ years later, I am a touch-typist in Dvorak, and until recently, was pain-free in my wrists.