Monday, March 21, 2005

Mad Typing Skillz

Click here for AmazonHow important is typing ability to a developer? I've always had a gut feel that it's quite important. It's important enough to ask the question, "How fast do you type?" in an interview. Because, in my opinion, the productivity of a developer who types via hunt -and-peck will suffer, no matter how smart they may be.

Consider the "fail fast" philosophy: it touts the importance of trying many approaches, knowing most will fail. Discovering which algorithms suck and which meet the challenge is important... and the rate at which you can make these discoveries is likewise key.

Thus, developers who succeed by "failing fast" are quite valuable.

When I was in high school, there was a "typing class" that was a standard part of the curriculum. Ostensibly the class was for would-be government employees, because the civil-service exam had a minimum typing speed requirement. I don't recall the rationale for my taking this class, but it turned out to be a great decision. Little did I know I'd be a developer someday and would need to hit top speeds on the keyboard.

Most years, a female would take the fastest speed honors in the class.

But in our class, a guy named Chuck Thornton and myself were always the top two. We had some brutal typing contests. Remember, this was the day and age of mechanical typewriters (not quite as antedeluvian as the Underwood pictured at top left, however). We would try and intimidate each other -- and all of the others in the class -- by not only typing as fast as we could but by pounding the crap out of the keyboard. The combination of the staccato, rapid-fire hammering was reminiscent of an assault on a machine-gun nest at Anzio.

My kids are both excellent typists. I suspect it has less to do with genetics or their early exposure to Mavis Beach Teaches Typing for Kids than their chocoholic-level addiction to instant messaging.

Joel on Software: Typing Software

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