Using DVORAK instead of the traditional QWERTY keyboard, Barbara Blackburn from the US state of Oregon, became the world’s fastest typist: her top speed having been recorded at 212 words per minute. This is listed in 23rd US edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. According to “Secret and Urgent: the Story of Codes and Ciphers Blue Ribbon Books” (Fletcher Pratt, 1939, p. 252), the average length of an English word is 4.5 characters. This means that Barbara Blackburn clicked an impressive 954 characters in 60 seconds. While wearing a blindfold, Elliot Nicholls (17) from New Zealand has just been found to be the record breaking fastest SMS clicker/sender (aka ‘texter’) on earth, with a thumb-breaking speed of 160 characters in 45 seconds, which places him at around 47 words per minute – Blackburn seems about four times faster – but she isn’t. I believe that Elliot Nicholls piped Barbara Blackburn to the finish line, simply and elegantly. When using my cellphone to text, I have to key in my name like this: p-q-R, t-U, D, wxY, with a total of 9 key-presses for a 4 letter word. The sentence Nicholls was tasks with writing and sending was: “the razor toothed piranhas of the genera serrasal musand pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. in reality they rarely attack a human”. Let’s take a closer look at this. The first three words of the sentence – “the razor toothed” contain 17 characters (with spaces,) but are keyed in like this: T, gH, dE, [space], pqR, A, wxyZ, mnO, pqR, T, mnO, [forward], mnO, T, gH, dE, D – 34 characters.
This probably means that Nicholls keyed in at least 320 characters in order to produce his 160 characters message. Blackburn did more than double this amount. This is true, but she used her ten fingers, while Nicholls used only is thumb. She also had free-and-flowing access to each of the key she typed, he had to work around a clunky matrix of 12 keys that represent all the letters of the alphabet, as well as special characters and punctuations.
Under these conditions Nicholls showed great dexterity. Is it reasonable to assume that, had he been able to practice and use a “normal’ keyboard (be it DVORAK or QWERTY), the 17 year old from NZ would have clicked Ms Blackburn out of the park.