I type faster than I can write using a pen. I know this because after handwriting a few paragraphs, I had to stop because my hand became tired. Evidently writing is no different than any other physical activity. If you don't do it for a while, you have to build back up to it.
Now, while I can type fairly quickly, I know I could type even faster if I took the time to learn how to touch type. I don't feel too singled out because I see others like me using their thumbs and the first three fingers of each hand. And also like me, they have to look at the keyboard. Yes, I know where every key is located but I still have to look at it. Which brings me to an interesting solution I recently discovered. What would happen if the keyboard didn't have the letters printed on the key caps? That's the idea behind the very cool looking "Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate" from Metadot Corp.
The Model S Ultimate is a gorgeous jet black, matte-finish enhanced 104 or 105-key layout that sports a non-reflective finish that gives it an eerie appearance that I found to be strangely attractive. But what makes it truly look bizarre is the lack of lettering on the key caps. All of them are totally blank. The idea, according to the company, is that the lack of key identification gives you nothing to look at while typing, thus your brain will quickly adapt and memorize the key positions. Supposedly if you keep doing that, you'll find yourself typing a lot faster and with a lot more accuracy. Metadot says that slow typing people almost double their speed and those who type quickly become blazing fast. It's an interesting concept and I can see how consistent usage of the Model S Ultimate just might do the trick. Sure beats using a blindfold.
In addition to the blank keys, the Das Keyboard has an additional feature that again, according to the company, will help to increase your typing speed and accuracy. The keys are individually weighted and placed into groups. Most keyboards require around 55 grams of force to depress any key. But the Das Keyboard has five different levels of force, each of which is located in its own cluster of keys in different areas on the keyboard. Each grouping ranges from 35 to 80 grams. These correspond to the strength of the finger that touches the keys. The outer keys that fall under the weaker pinky and fourth or ring fingers only require 35 grams of pressure to type. The stronger third and index fingers as well as all of the numeric keypad keys get 45 grams assigned to their keys. The Shift, Caps Lock, Tab, Escape, Function and cursor cluster keys require a stronger 55 grams. And to depress the Space Bar as well as all the other keys on its row plus the Num Lock key, you'll need a whopping 80 grams of pressure. The result of all this is more comfort for your hands.
The Das Keyboard requires no software drivers, has 2 USB ports and works with all computer operating systems including Windows, Linux and Macintosh. It comes with a matching black cable and blue function indicator LEDS.
By the way they also make models that have the letters just in case you already know how to touch type and are looking for a really sweet keyboard. It is available for $129 at www.daskeyboard.com.
Craig Crossman is a national newspaper columnist writing about computers and technology. He hosts a radio talk show, "Computer America," heard at 10 p.m. weeknights on the Business TalkRadio Network and the Lifestyle TalkRadio Network. His Web site is www.computeramerica.com.