Our View

The quick red fox jumps … oh, never mind

By From page A4 | June 26, 2013

The issue: When it comes to typing, they’re all thumbs

Among those lost skills like using a standard transmission, making a call on a rotary phone or adjusting the rabbit ears on the TV may soon be included the ability to type on the traditional QWERTY keyboard.

A whole generation now types only with their thumbs on handheld devices. And soon, according to the technology watchers at The Wall Street Journal, the users may not type at all. Their smartphones may do it for them, even anticipating, based on predictive algorithms, what they mean to say, even correcting their mistakes before they can make them.

To a generation raised on sturdy Underwoods and Royals that required a certain level of finger muscle to use, this development is weird, even scary.

According to the Journal, an outfit called Snapkeys does away with the traditional keyboard altogether. Instead, there are “four ‘keys’ that represent three commonly used letters each, and doesn’t show letters that aren’t often used.” This sounds suspiciously like an alphabet reduced to 12 letters — although we’re assured that little-used letters like X and Z are there, but just kept out of sight.

Some of the new keyboards will respond to hand gestures gliding over the screen or to voice input, rather like taking dictation. The idea, it seems, is to keep the screen uncluttered so while the smartphone is reading the user’s mind the user can surf, play games or shop — especially, one suspects, shop.

With the old standard manual typewriter, the users could concentrate on only one thing — what they were writing. This no longer sounds like such a bad idea, antiquated though it may be.

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