Almost-Touch Typing

Chatting about touch-typing unlocked a memory.

I was about 14, and got to live in Sweden for a month. Mobile phones were not a thing yet, and I kept in touch with my friends and family via email. I didn’t own a laptop, of course, but I could use my host’s PC.

Translit1 is a pain to type and read, so I set up Cyrillic keyboard layout. Naturally, there were no Cyrillic markings on keycaps, so I tried to touch-type, keeping my eyes on the monitor. It didn’t work well.

I tried looking at the keyboard, and all of a sudden it seemed like familiar red markings2 started appearing on the key caps! I was so used to these markings being there that my brain was projecting the image, as if in augmented reality. So that’s how I went on typing, my eyes looking at the keyboard, with almost no mistakes…

Tens of years later, having long ago learned to touch-type in both Latin and Cyrillic layouts, I still remember that magic-like experience.

  1. Translit (from “transliteration”, of course) is a technique to write in Russian (or any other language with non-Latin script) using Latin letters. It was widely used back when computers only had ASCII symbols; fortunately, those days are long gone. ↩︎

  2. Having Latin and Cyrillic letters on keycaps makes a visual mess. To make it more navigable, it used to be common (not so much anymore) to have Cyrillic letters painted in red and Latin in black (or white, on black keyboards), like this:

    Keyboard with Cyrillic markings (photo found online)

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