[TUHS] Early Unix and Keyboard Skills

Rob Pike robpike at gmail.com
Wed Nov 2 17:11:26 AEST 2022

Neither ken nor dmr were impressive typists. In fact few programmers were
then, at least of my acquaintance.

In the 1970s Bell Labs created the Getset - think of it as an early wired
smartphone, or a Minitel, with a little screen and keyboard. It cost quite
a bit but was a cool gadget so the executives all got one. But, in
fascinating contrast to the Blackberry a generation later, no one would
touch it - literally - because it had a keyboard, and keyboards were for
(female) secretaries, not (male) executives. The product, although well
ahead of its time, was a complete failure due to the cultural bias then.

There may be a good sociology paper in there somewhere.

I'm not saying K&D shared this blinkered view, not at all, just that typing
skills were not de facto back then. Some of the folks were even two-finger
jabbers. I was a little younger and a faster typist than most of the
others, and I am not a good typist by any modern standard.

bwk was one who could smash out the text faster than many. His having
learned on a teletype, the keyboard would resound with the impact of his
forceful keystrokes.


On Wed, Nov 2, 2022 at 5:53 PM Michael Kjörling <e5655f30a07f at ewoof.net>

> On 2 Nov 2022 13:36 +1100, from sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au (steve jenkin):
> > There’s at least one Internet meme that highly productive coders
> > necessarily have good keyboard skills, which leads to also producing
> > documentation or, at least, not avoiding it entirely, as often
> > happens commercially.
> I wouldn't be so sure that this necessarily follows. Good keyboard
> skills definitely help with the mechanics of typing code as well as
> text, I'll certainly grant that; but someone can be a good typist yet
> write complete gibberish, or be a poor/slow typist and _by necessity_
> need to consider each word that they use because typing an extra
> sentence takes them so long. If it takes you ten seconds to type out a
> normal sentence, revising becomes less of an issue than if typing out
> the same sentence takes a minute or a minute and a half.
> Also, certainly in my case and I doubt that I'm alone, a lot of my
> time "coding" isn't spent doing the mechanics of "writing code", but
> rather considering possible solutions to a problem, and what the
> consequences would be of different choices. That part of the software
> development process is essentially unaffected by how good one is as a
> typist, and I expect that the effect would be even more pronounced for
> someone using something like an ASR-33 and edlin, than a modern
> computer and visual editor. Again, the longer it takes to revise
> something, the more it makes sense to get it right on the first
> attempt, even if that means some preparatory work up-front.
> Writing documentation is probably more an issue of mindset and being
> allowed the time, than it is a question of how good one is as a
> typist.
> --
> 🪶 Michael Kjörling                  🏡 https://michael.kjorling.se
> “Remember when, on the Internet, nobody cared that you were a dog?”
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