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Practical typewriting: By the all-finger method (1894) (hathitrust.org)
69 points by jesperlang 7 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments






Also amazingly on page 158 shows the same ergonomic typing position still recommended (and generally disregarded) today!

Interesting that he teaches putting fingers on the top row, not the home row.

I'd also never heard that the ring finger, "anatomically considered, is different from the others" and that pianists had elective surgery ("double tenotomy") "to free the finger from the impediment to action". Anyone know more about that?


Hold your hand up in front of your face, and try to stick each finger up, in turn, starting with the index finger. You'll find that you can easily extend or stick up each finger except for the ring finger, which will experience a lot of tension. The ring finger can only be moved up fully and easily if the middle finger is moved up with it.

I am a classically trained pianist, but I've never heard of anyone having surgery to free up their ring finger. Doesn't mean it hasn't happened, though.


There is a rumor that Schumman ruined his hand by getting surgery to free up his tendons but there doesn't seem to be any proof of that.

From the NY Times of 1885, October 24: There is no saying to what extent martyrdom in the cause of art will go. It has just been discovered that nature, when designing the human hand, forgot to make allowances for the invention of the pianoforte, and that, consequently, all who are anxious to excel on that instrument must undergo an operation known as digital tenor-my, or the severance of the tendons which prevent the fingers from being stretched very far apart from one another. Doctors have, naturally enough, expressed their approval of this proceeding, considerately adding that there is certainly some chance of the wound thus inflicted not healing by first intention, and therefore patients should be warned of the risk they undergo previous to the operation. This is, perhaps, not quite so bad as putting out a horse's eyes in order that he may pump up water properly, but it is a step in the same direction. and it is scarely to be expected that in these days of infant prodigies such a royal road to success will be confined to those who are old enough to fully understand the steps they are taking.

Mavis Beacon early access release.

Somewhat after this, probably about 1915, my grandfather learned to type. My father said that he was quite quick, but typed with three fingers. Did he learn that way, or was it his own quirk? I can't say.

there is an interesting a strategy on page 23 where they suggest shifting the entire hand when typing TGB/YHN rather than stretching. Does anyone do that today?

I just tried a bit of typing where I shift the entire hand for appropiate keys rather than stretching my fingers and although it is a very unusual feeling I must admit it is quite a bit more comfortable. The fingers stay curled rather than being stretched out. Did I just get an epiphany from typewriting tutorial written in 1894??


I suspect this would significantly lower the typing speed and also accuracy (as you have to search for FJ keys to orient yourself again).

On page 29 the author says that you should use three spaces after a full stop, 'for the customary space between sentences'. I wonder if number of spaces was as contentious then as it is now?

It's certainly an interesting thought. I suspect that if he's typing in a fixed width font, anything which allows more space between sentences was not just expected, but a practical requirement.

These days, it's not really a relevant concern.


> if he's typing in a fixed width font

On a typewriter in the 1890s, its definitely fixed font.


According to my book on typewriters, the 1881 Crandall typewriter and the tiny 1888 Automatic supported proportional spacing. The bar-lock featured in this book did not.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

page 13

> and brain and heart throb with sympathetic zeal when fingers begin their saltatory movements

Rings true to this day with the joy of using my mechanical keyboard. Nothing like tactile and sensory feedback.


Will we still be using hardware keyboards 73 years from now?

Yes. I think it will always be useful to have a method of precise, non-verbal communication produced by the rapid trigger of physical switches in a particular order. The physicality of the switches is actually quite important to this behavior. So as long as we need to type, I would expect hardware keyboards to be desirable.

We may not need to type, however. We might dictate or think our words; however when absolute precision is required, I'm pretty sure a text-level voice interface is always going to be pretty tough to do well.


I think we'll still be using physical buttons/switches 73 years from now, and qwerty keyboards will still exist. The qwerty layout will definitely be around. Hardware keyboards will be a niche compared to all the other kinds of input types we'll have in the future. I'd like to say that hardware keyboards will be the domain of knowledge work but 73 years is a long time.

Page 7 has a very cool diagram of a typewriter



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