Ashwin Sundar

Thinking Slowly

I recently purchased a mechanical, ergonomic, and split keyboard1. I love the idea of yet another tech gadget to keep me engaged.

However, I quickly found myself in over my head. This keyboard is programmable, so the first thing I did was spend several hours tweaking the keys to my exact preference. I soon learned that key placement wouldn’t solve my immediate problem - which was the drastic reduction in my typing speed. I went from typing 100+ words-per-minute on a regular flat membrane keyboard, to a paltry 20 words-per-minute and barely able to scratch 95% accuracy.

After a few days, I was wondering if I had made a mistake. I tried to switch back to my regular keyboard, but was surprised to find I could no longer operate it effectively either. The only option left was to fully immerse in this new typing experience.

As a developer, I use vim keybindings a lot. Having mentally-mapped various keybindings to locations on the keyboard, I now had to painfully recall the actual key for each binding, find the location of the new key, and then precisely tap it with the correct finger.

Learning to use this keyboard has been a triple learning curve:

I am attempting to enjoy the process. One thing I’ve noticed is the reduced pace at which I can record my thoughts. This slowed-down process gives me more time to carefully select words for each sentence. It encourages brevity of expression.

In general, I have found myself thinking more slowly. When I was younger, I was in a rush to get ideas out of my head, to the point of lacking logic or cohesion. This bewildered friends and family. Over time, I found my ideas developing more slowly, but far more efficiently; and eventually reaching a lucid form, ready to share with the world.

I may never return to that previous record of 120 words-per-minute. My current pace of about 35 words-per-minute is rather agonizing. Hopefully I achieve a happy medium.

  1. Also, the key layout is ortholinear, and the keycaps are blank. I really did myself no favors buying this thing. But the lights and clacky noises are pretty sweet! ↩︎