Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Current Word Processing
A few years back, I started getting some RSI symptoms in my hands. Tingling, numbness, cramps. Developed a case of "trigger finger," tenosynovitis, that eventually required surgery.
I've mistreated my mitts over the decades, and for the last seven or eight years, I've foam-taped the heck out of them when I work out, because there is no connective tissue left in a couple of joints. I can sprain my thumb taking my socks off, I'm not careful ...
Bad ju-ju for a writer.
I went looking for ways to ease the stress on my hands, and tried various split or ergonomic keyboards, starting with the Mac's now-out-of-production version; then one by FingerWorks that was flat and so sensitive that if I spilled a drop of water on it, it would type a letter. Bad keyboard for me, but a great touch-pad, the iGesture, also now out of production.
Ended up with the Kinesis Advantage, which looks, as I told J.D., like somebody took a big ice cream scoop to it in a couple places and then filled the hollow with keys. Major control keys lie under the thumbs, and it is every so much easier to use than any board I've tried. Even has an optional foot switch that can allow one-handed input, by shifting all the keys on half a board so each can input two letters, depending on the foot switch's position.
First one I had had a QWERTY/Dvorak switch. (Dvorak, a much more reasonable method of letter and sign placement, supposedly requires on 1/16th as much movement as classical QWERTY keyboards, which were designed to keep typists from going too fast and jamming the keys, back in the mechanical machine days.) I wore that one out. (Actually, wore the wire out, and didn't realize I could replace that, so I got a second one. They come up with a wireless model, I'm going to buy several.
Unfortunately, when I'm on a roll, I can type somewhere between seventy and ninety words a minute, and trying to learn the changeover to Dvorak, where on a good day I might could do twenty-five words a minute drove me nuts. They say it takes about forty hours of practice to get relatively adept at it, but I couldn't make myself wait while I was actually trying to get work done. My brain had run off down the road babbling to itself while my hands were struggling to keep it in sight. No good.
If you have RSI problems, or even carpal tunnel syndrome starting to loom, consider trying one of these babies. It's not cheap -- about three hundred bucks when I got mine -- but compared to the cost of hand surgery or not being able to type, that's a pittance.
They told me it would take while to get used to it. It did -- all of thirty seconds. I sit with it on my lap, lean back in my chair, and haven't had any real problems with my hands since.
I can't go back to a regular keyboard. One of the reasons a laptop isn't of interest -- keyboard is all wrong for me now, and if I have to lug this one along, it kind defeats the point ...