Code and musings by Darshak Parikh

The Keyboard Is Mightier than the Pen

We have all been “writing” since we were toddlers. But it’s only after a certain age that we start writing for ourselves, if at all.

The mode in which we write depends on our personal choices, the time we were born in, and the environment we work or study in.

As for me, any non-trivial writing I have ever done falls into one of three modes:

  • handwriting: for all my formal education (~18 years)
  • glide typing: since I started using a smartphone in 2011 (~9 years and counting)
  • touch typing on a hardware keyboard: since I started my first job in 2014 (~6 years and counting)

I stopped using pen and paper the moment I stepped out of college. Few people will agree, but using the pen is an activity I find painful and tedious.

This could be because my last memories of using a pen are largely negative. School and college required students to submit long, written assignments at the end of each term. Few students put any brain into it. I find this an unproductive, unnecessary chore which yields zero value to education.

As if that is not enough, there is little focus on actual programming in courses like Computer Science and Information Technology. I graduated in the latter, and landed a software job, yet I could not touch type. Because I rarely needed to type at all.

Such is the plight of the Indian education system.

That said, I’m not the one to whine. My first role at the said job was that of a manual tester. And I was unamused at the prospect of listing test scenarios in a spreadsheet. So I used that to my advantage.

I forced myself to touch type.

It was painstaking at first: I would take three seconds to type one key. It would appear as though the spreadsheet program was stuck. But I had been watching Naruto at the time and had learnt not to give up.

One month later, touch typing became second nature.

Thinking back, this month-long practice is one of the best life decisions I’ve made. To this day, I find touch typing to be the optimal way of putting down my thoughts. It puts me into a natural state of flow. Whether I am writing a blog post, styling a web page, or free writing, the experience is nothing short of meditative.

Funnily though, this is the mode of writing I have spent the least time with: a mere third of what I have spent handwriting.

As it happens, my preference of mode is inversely proportional to the time I have spent using it. Touch typing is my go-to solution. If not possible, I will glide type on my smartphone. I do not own a pen.

And like any touch typist, I have strong preferences when it comes to the keyboard.

I am a gentle typist. My previous boss used to say that it was always an enjoyable experience to watch me typing. He said that the way I swiftly but silently pressed the keys, the keyboard would last centuries.

And when you type gently, a mechanical keyboard doesn’t work for you. Chiclet is the way to go. The one on my Dell Vostro is so perfect that it’s a reason I still use the seven-year-old machine as my primary device.

But never go too far with chiclets. Apple did. While I am by no means their fan, I need to use a MacBook Pro for work. And I’m glad the 2020 MacBooks got rid of that butterfly monstrosity.