(Cleaning a keyboard on the bank of the river Iset – Ekaterinburg, Siberia, 2012)
Today I came across a quote from the Observer (22 January 2017) – Research company Gartner reckons that by 2018, 30% of all interactions with devices will be voice-based, because people can speak up to four times faster than they can type, and the technology behind voice interaction is improving all the time.
This doesn’t look right to me. I think we type faster than that. In my first job at the European Commission I was a speechwriter. I had to provide 100 words for each minute that the speech would last (120 for Commissioner Kinnock). By contrast I type at 40-45 words a minute (including thinking time). Two or three times slower, not four times.
In French I type half as fast as in English (more thinking time). In Russian I type a thirtieth as fast (much more thinking time – the main reason – and a different keyboard).
When I write by hand I go two thirds as fast as when typing. I was sad when I found that out. I like writing with a fountain pen, on paper with a bit of resistance in it. But when you can, typing on a laptop seems to be the best way to write. It’s fast, and afterwards, it’s searchable.
I have one more quote about typing. It comes from a review by David Bromwich of “On Empson” by Michael Wood (New York Review of Books, 26 October 2017). In 1937-1939, William Empson taught English in the makeshift universities of China under siege… [W]hat they chiefly required was books, and “Empson, without saying anything, typed out Shakespeare’s Othello from memory”.
(My son’s old computer keyboard)