How much has typing speed changed over the years, for general home computer use? Are there any authoritative long-term studies on this?


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Kim Snowling Profile
Kim Snowling answered

When you look at typing speed but for personal use, I think the actually words per minute ratio, has not really changed.  It really depends on how often the typewriter or computer is used, as with all activities the more you use it the better you become at it.

Early History of the Typewriter

In 1714, Henry Mill obtained a patent in Britain for a machine that, from the patent, appears to have been very similar to a typewriter. 

In 1808 Pellegrino Turri created a typewriter and carbon paper to provide the ink, which were invented to enable the blind to write.

However the 'Typographer' was invented in 1829 by William Austin Burt which was listed as one of the first typewriters.

Don't get me wrong if you lined up the original typewriters and asked me to type a document, I would find it quite difficult.  The keys are heavy and you are unable to correct yourself which is common place in computers today.

Through invention and the ideas of many people the typewriter was altered, amended and ultimately improved.  Making way for the development of electric typewriters, word processors and personal computers.

We must not forget the development of the QWERTY keyboard, as this hold significant importance to typing speeds.

When the original typewriters were invented they had problems with jamming.  The characters were mounted on metal arms which would clash and jam if they were pressed with neighbouring arms simultaneously or in rapid succession.  Unfortunately because of the design of the typewriters, the operator was unable to notice the jam until they removed the paper to review what they had written. 

Christopher Latham Sholes was the gentleman who invented the QWERTY keyboard with the basic principle not to put commonly used letter pairs together on the keyboard.  This would then reduce jamming on the typewriter.  It took him 5 years to perfect his invention and come up with the perfect arrangement of letters.  His designs were tested and used on the Sholes and Glidden typewriter.

In 1873 the typewriter was sold to E. Remington and Sons, where they made several adjustments to produce the keyboard we know and love today.

With both inventions happening to make the lives easier for everyone in business and at home, the speed of typing must of improved through the years. 

However, I have researched this and can only find studies about professional typists and how the speeds have increased along with a expectations of employers, nothing about personal use.  Therefore I am going to go back to my original statement, it really depends on how often you use your personal computer.  With practise you can increase your words per minute and ultimately train yourself to become an efficient touch typer.

Though to be honest I do not think that this skill will be required in the future.  With the invention of intelligent assistants like Siri on the Apple iPhone, who will write messages for you.  I think it is possible to expect office workers (and home users) to have microphones and they will spend all day talking to their computers rather than using them.

Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered

I learned on a "manual typewriter" similar to the one pictured. The goal was to learn to type 60 WPM (words per minute) with no  mistakes. That was average. If you worked in an office where a typewriter was used all day, a person could easily type 100 WPM upwards to 125 or more WPM. The goal was more to type with no mistakes than speed back in those days because there was no way to correct errors and no back space key if there were. As time went on, correction tape was invented as well as a back space key. Still, on legal documents there could be no errors corrected. It had to be typed until it was perfect. On an electric typewriter, the goal was still 60 WPM with no mistakes and someone who typed a lot could easily do up to 125 WPM or more. A computer keyboard is very similar to an electric typewriter such as an IBM may be a bit easier  to type on a keyboard. There is a secret to typing fast and that is to let your fingers flow and do not pound the keys. Just let your fingers touch lightly on the keys and you will type faster. There's no need to pound the keys hard and you won't get carpal tunnel as bad either.

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