Ergonomics and Dvorak...

After working some ridiculous hours for a number of weeks, I managed to get RSI in my right arm. It wasn’t too bad. It mainly ached, no sharp pains or anything of that sort. However, I decided to take a look at a few things to see if there was something that I could change (posture, keyboard height, mouse, etc) or learn to help combat RSI. So, I bought a new keyboard tray (my keyboard sits just a little too high), switched to a track ball, and have been learning Dvorak.

So far things seem to be going pretty well. I definitely like the new keyboard tray I got for home (it’s a Human Scale, for those who are interested). It’s easy to adjust, has a solid tray, and fits my Kinesis keyboard nicely.

The toughest part has been learning Dvorak. I’ve been practicing twice a day (for a couple of hours at a time) for almost two weeks now. I’ve been surprised by a few things. First, I never really considered myself a “touch typist.” I learned to type to write software. Typing was just a means to an end. However, I’ve been typing for nearly 20 years, and had become quite proficient at it. Well, after the past couple of weeks, there is no doubt in my mind that I was indeed a touch typist. I was surprised at how instinctive many of the keystrokes had become. The first few days weren’t too bad (I was just working on the home row keys). When I started working on other keys, that’s when the trouble really hit. It took a lot more determination than I imagined it would take to prevent myself from reaching for the old qwerty equivalents.

Secondly, I also found that my arms were quite tired after a round of practice. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but Dvorak uses your hands in a completely different way than Qwerty. It requires a different kind of endurance in your fingers and arms. It’s getting better now, but I was definitely surprised when they got too tired to continue practicing the first few times.

Finally, I’m a little disappointed at how much work my pinky fingers need to do. ‘s’ is under the right pinky, and the letter seems to be used far too often to be under your pinky. I’m pretty sure my pinky has never gotten quite the workout it has over the past few weeks. I hope that once I get back to more realistic work that I won’t have to use that finger nearly as much.

The jury is still out on whether making this change was worthwhile… I think I’ll find that it was, in the long run, but I’m certain I have a long road ahead of me.