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    Colemak - cold turkey, with The Hobbit

    • Started by Shaz
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    • Registered: 25-Dec-2020
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    I've just treated myself to an ErgoDox EZ. Never used a mechanical keyboard before, never used an ortholinear keyboard before.  What could possibly go wrong?!

    I learned to touch type in around 1985 on machines exactly like these:

    Spoiler:

    Vintage-1952-M44-BRITISH-OLIVETTI-TYPEWRITER.jpg  OlivettiGraphika.jpg

    Of course, the second one is the newer model, and you had to get to class super early to score one of those! You've no idea how old it made me feel when I searched for these images and Google told me that Gumtree (Aussie Craigslist) has them listed under Antiques & Collectibles!

    I do around 96wpm with 98% accuracy on QWERTY, and my fave keyboard to date is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 - the only thing that's nicer than using that keyboard is the joy I get watching other people try to use it!

    I've been toying with learning DVORAK (a guy at work swears by it) and figured I could dive in in the few weeks it takes for the new one to arrive.  But after seeing what they did to the Control+Z/X/C/V and discovering there are other layouts out there, there was only a bit of investigation and deliberation required before I settled on Colemak.

    So today is my first day.

    I decided to go the whole hog - no tutors, no stages (some of the tutors gave me flashbacks to my typing class - fjf fjf fjf fjf omg omgomgomg I can't do this again!).  Grabbed Amphetype and The Hobbit (my newest fave movie - I only watched it this year for the first time, late to the party) and away I went.

    Today is day 1 and my first group of tests averaged about 13 wpm.  Have practiced on and off during the day and I'm up to an average of 19 wpm and about 97-98% accuracy.  I am more interested in getting comfortable with key locations now.  Stage 2 will be building muscle memory and maintaining accuracy.  I'll worry about speed later.

    I began with an image of the keyboard layout above the text, but found it too distracting to search for the keys.  I knew where they all were, so put that away and it was easier going.  I haven't swapped my keys around (so if I DO get stuck and glance at the keyboard, that throws me right off!).

    I wish Amphetype would tell me how long I've spent typing.  I've been on and off all day, just doing 3 or 4 sets (each one 2-3 sentences) then having a 15-30 minute break.  I am up to the part where Gandalf and Bilbo meet (yes, that IS only 3 or 4 paragraphs into chapter 1).

    I'm struggling with the location of s (seriously - they couldn't have just left it where it was and put r where d was?) and i, so I think I'll have to pause and do some rote learning with those. I'm having no issues with the center columns.

    My right hand at times feels quite numb and weak, and I got some pins & needles in my right arm.  Left hand/arm are fine.  Is this a case of forcing relearning against muscle memory?  I've read Viper's suggestions and trying to put them into practice and making sure there are plenty of breaks.

    Thanks for all the great information, resources and experiences everyone's contributed.  I've really enjoyed reading through it all.

    Onward!

    Last edited by Shaz (25-Dec-2020 09:14:54)
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    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    Welcome traveler, grab a seat! The wonderful world of Colemak typing awaits. Upon the hearth, there is a fire.  ( のvの) c[_]

    Browse around in the BigBag if you haven't already. I think you're right in that Amphetype doesn't register your mileage, ah well. Seeing it would mostly scare me I think...

    If you're feeling adventurous, also do check out Extend! It's a wonderful tool, you can get it both for Linux (in my BigBag for XKB) and Windows (in the EPKL program).

    And no, they couldn't leave S where it was. Believe me, it was attempted. Shai tested out several layouts before finishing Colemak and the ASETION layout had S in its old place. It led to too many bad same-finger bigrams and other trouble. You must either abandon the ZXCV consistency or avoid having S in its old QWERTY position, you cannot have both.

    Last edited by DreymaR (26-Dec-2020 12:32:07)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
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    In 1985 home computers were on the brink of becoming established, so you must have been among the very last of the typewriter generation. That green typewriter looks to me as though it has a split spacebar. Does the bit on the right do something different? Were typewriters with extra thumb keys a thing?

    Impressive to have gone straight in with an Ergodox - most people's journey through into the world of keyboards and layouts is more winding. I think you've done the right thing by picking Colemak over Dvorak - although obviously both are big improvements over Qwerty, Colemak makes more sense for most newcomers, especially if you have a programmable keyboard and don't need to limit yourself to options that are built into Windows.

    Everyone complains about the S, including me when I started. The reason is to avoid what would be awkward same-finger bigrams with the R, such as CR and FR. It will come good eventually, and you will come to love the ST bigram.

    Avoid over-training if you experience pains - I know I experienced some pain during learning, but probably because I was too eager and pushed myself too hard.

    Since you have an Ergodox I guess you're familiar with extra layers on the thumbs etc, don't forget to check out stuff like Extend if you haven't already.

    Using Colemak-DH with Seniply.

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    • Registered: 25-Dec-2020
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    Thanks for the welcome!

    Yesterday I got a max of 25wpm but it averaged out around 22.  Gandalf and Thorin have just arrived at Bilbo's house (yes, I'm only half way through chapter 1).  I notice now that I type more quickly/smoothly when I'm not thinking about where the keys are, typing words rather than letters, if you know what I mean.  If I stumble and have to think about the location of a letter, then I start typing letter-by-letter and it slows me down.  So now I have to focus on not focusing.

    I'm improving with the s, but still having troubles with i. No pain yesterday, but my fingers still feel well-worked.

    stevep99, our family got a C-64 around that time, but it wasn't until about 1988 when I was in uni that I touched a PC for the first time, and 1989 when I bought my own.  It was pretty cutting edge - had TWO 5 1/4" floppy drives (no HDD) and 20k RAM, and an AMBER display!  And IIRC it cost me about as much as my mid-range gaming computer that I bought last year!  I think it was probably a few years before PCs were a common household thing, at least in Australia.  I think we had a few years of electric typewriters first. I honestly don't remember what the split spacebar was all about on that typewriter.

    I don't have my keyboard yet - just ordered it last week, so should arrive mid-January. The ergonomic layout is more important to me than the mechanical switches, and there are not very many keyboards that have both - if I had to choose one or the other, I'd have stayed with what I had - ergonomic. Of the few that did have both, the Ergo looked nicer and more customizable (including physically) and their rep was super helpful.


    DreymaR, I have taken a quick look at the Big Bag but most of it is a little over my head.  Is a programmable keyboard required?  I looked at some of the mods and decided to stick with vanilla for now. I think both the angle and DH mods will be very uncomfortable for me. I'm looking forward to playing with layers when my keyboard arrives.

    Last edited by Shaz (26-Dec-2020 21:31:29)
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    The Angle Mod is designed to make typing more comfortable on traditional, row-staggered keyboards - so you won't be needing it on your Ergodox EZ. However one thing you may not have not picked up on, is that the Angle Mod makes the typing experience on traditional board closer to that of an ortholinear one. This makes switching between traditional and ortho easier: I use both a traditional(-ish) board with Angle Mod (Matias Ergo Pro) and an ortho board (Keyboardio Atreus) and can switch between them without much trouble.

    A programmable keyboard is not required, but since your ErgoDox is programmable, it means you can set Colemak set on the board and not need to change any software settings - which can be handy if you want to use your keyboard with other computers.

    Last edited by stevep99 (27-Dec-2020 12:26:09)

    Using Colemak-DH with Seniply.

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    Nearing the end of day 4.

    Last 10 tests have an average of 27.4wpm with 97.8% accuracy.  I managed to hit 30wpm once.  These are all different texts - I am only doing each one once, not repeating the same text several times.

    Spoiler:

    Colemak2020-12-28.png

    s and i are playing much more nicely now.  I'm messing up a bit with kn.

    Feels like I'm starting to build a little bit of muscle memory now.  I'm using QWERTY right now and find myself going for the Colemak keys instead, so that's good.

    Back to work tomorrow, and I can't install the layout on my work computer, so will be swapping about a bit during the day.  I should be much more comfortable with it by next weekend, and will then take a closer look at the Angle mod.  Glad you gave me that bit of information.  That's a nice looking keyboard you have there stevep99!

    Last edited by Shaz (28-Dec-2020 11:01:52)
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    • From: Viken, Norway
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    The BigBag is a way of getting the benefits of programmable boards – and more – without having to buy one.

    At some point you may want to start alt-fingering KN and NK, sliding in with the middle finger to avoid a same-finger bigram. But it isn't strictly necessary: I don't think Viper uses it and he's the fastest we have. At any rate I'd probably wait until I was around 50 WPM to start learning alt-fingering. See the BigBag training topic.

    By the way: Learning Colemak using The Hobbit is an awesome idea! Pedo ArstNeio a minno!  ( のvの) c[_]

    Last edited by DreymaR (28-Dec-2020 15:24:57)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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