The Death of Qwerty Typing?

This’ll be short, but I think that if voice recognition gets advanced enough, the iPad could actually spell the death of typing.

The qwerty-esque keyboard for an iPad will be better than typing on an iPhone, but for kids and non-touch typists it still may take too long. Touch-typing, which was taught in my High School as its own course, may fall by the wayside if something faster could come along.

All you need is one small feature.

If Apple REALLY wants to change the landscape, they’ll include a one-handed typing option for the iPad, not mandatory, but an option. Imagine the brand loyalty you’d get if you patented an input interface that the next generation would learn as well as Qwerty. The subtle key placement differences of Mac and PCs that already exist cause some folks who hate change to become angry and confused.

I could also see the idea of texting splitting off from typing, and the qwerty keyboard becoming less and less in use on the iPad.

Again, you’d give older folks the ability to switch to qwerty if they want, but a lot of kids would never turn back. After all, qwerty was meant to slow down typing speed. I’ve been doing it for 20 years now, but that doesn’t mean my kid will.

There are more radical options than that, of course. For example, what if on every page, if you double-tap a text box with your finger, it gets vocal input from you and puts the words in the box.

Simple, but effective.

This wouldn’t be possible for everyone of course, but the main reason I think it’s not in wider use yet is that people haven’t been given a better option than typing.

You’d still have the option to have one, but it would be a specialized item, like a TTY machine.

The next stage could be a computer with which you can have a conversation, no screen necessary. However, if the iPad does well, it will quite possibly demonstrate that humans like their visual and tactile stimulation enough that audio-only options won’t catch on.

So, reading won’t die as quickly. There is some historical precedent for language that can be read but not written.

Either way, the fact that we’re clinging on to this old style of text input, based on a legacy of technology that has long since passed, is something to consider.

If the iPad’s not a flop (and I really doubt it’s going to flop) the marginalization and/or death of Qwerty typing within a couple of generations isn’t that far-fetched.


About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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4 Responses to The Death of Qwerty Typing?

  1. Nothing to do with the iPad, really (which is an awful closed fascist device whose creators can burn in hell), but I’ve been having the same thought recently, that touch screens are the death of Qwerty. I think eventually what we’ll end up with will be not just a different arrangement of buttons, but a fundamentally more fluid and predictive system.

    Look for instance at what’s happened to the URL bar and Google searches– I can’t believe there’s not more astonished commentary about it, because it seems to me like a fundamental transition in our relationship to the technology. I rarely type an entire URL anymore, just the first few letters until Chrome or Firefox figures out which site I meant. I sometimes still type my whole query into Google, out of habit or obstinance or something, but I have to do so in spite of the fact that almost always the end of the query I’m typing has already appeared in the suggestion box.

    So whatever typing system the kids are going to start using next, there’s already something incredibly different about typing these days: In an ever-increasing number of cases, the number of letters you need to type to communicate your message to the computer is plummeting. Many tasks that used to involve typing dozens of characters now take only two or three. I expect similarly predictive systems will eventually help with writing long texts as well– which will be increasingly freaky, the more accurate the prediction gets. 🙂

    I’ve been advocating for Dvorak for years and years, but now the fight is over. I lost, I lost the whole time, and now it’s over. At least, one way or another, we’ll finally see Qwerty die.


  2. paulgude says:

    Yeah, I can’t get over the fact that Qwerty was made to slow down input. (It’s why I keep harping on it, I guess.)

    Two other things:

    1) Employers seem to be using interns for more and more work these days. You don’t have to pay them and some of the kids coming up are really smart.

    2) If texting is any indication, kids are more apt to pick up and run with new technology.

    I completely expect to see some term be developed (if “texting” isn’t used) for rapid “youth-style” input into an iPad and similar devices.

    If you can get more that 60 wpm out of a device that is cheaper than a desktop or a laptop, you could have data entry pools dispersed all over the city.

    Just create your own custom data-entry app that *requires* you to log eight hours before the Internet is unlocked. Maybe even unlockable “breaks” where it works for ten minutes.

    Yum, yum, tasty food pellets.

    Some evil bastard may make a lot of money off of that idea.

  3. flamingbanjo says:

    re: the death of Qwerty: Right after the wholesale adoption of the metric system.

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