The Evolution of Writing Speed
(According to AlphaGrip)
Ever since Man first began recording his thoughts, he has required a hard, flat, stationary surface in order to do so in an efficient, productive manner. He still does… but not for much longer if AlphaGrip has its way.
From Chisel and Stone to the Quill Pen and Parchment
In 3,000 B.C., using the ground as their “desk,” cavemen used chisel and stone to generate "words" at a rate of about 5 per hour. Thousands of years later in the 15th Century, Man had progressed to a writing speed of 10 words per minute with a quill pen on parchment which required the writer to assume a stationary position seated at a desk.
Say Hello to My Heavy Friend – the Typewriter
More than 400 years later, writing technology took a big leap with the advent of the mechanical typewriter, which was invented by Christopher Sholes and Carlos Glidden in 1867 and manufactured in 1873 by E. Remington & Sons, a sewing machine company. The typewriter doubled writing speeds to 20 words per minute, which was doubled again to 40 words per minute in 1888, when Frank McGurrin, a court stenographer, invented touch typing, i.e., using all his fingers to type without looking at them. Though portable typewriters were eventually introduced into the marketplace, they still required a typist to find a table or desk to support them for use.
The Typewriter Goes Electric
Though the first electric typewriter was produced in 1902 by the Blickensderfer Manufacturing Company in Stamford, Connecticut, electric typewriters did not become popular until the 1950's. IBM had already become the leading manufacturer of electric typewriters when, in 1961, it introduced the Selectric with its typeball design. While average typing speeds increased to 50 words per minute, speeds in excess of 100 words per minute were not uncommon. As of 2005, Barbara Blackburn of Salem Oregon held the world record for high speed typing at 212 words per minute.
The Computer Keyboard Deletes the Electric Typewriter
In the 1980's the electric typewriter was eclipsed by the personal computer running a word processor, which became, and still is, the most popular high speed writing mechanism. A monitor is used for viewing characters (output) and a keyboard for data entry (input). Typing speeds on a computer keyboard are comparable to those of an electric typewriter.
Slow Mo (as in Mobility)
As computing moved from offices to handheld devices, the full-size keyboard could not come along for the ride, though it tried to do so in the form of a foldable keyboard, the most popular of which was the Stowaway by Think Outside. Though compact when folded, with an acceptable key size when unfolded for use on a hard, flat, stationary surface, the Stowaway merely converted a handheld device into a desktop one.
In 1996, the PalmPilot, the first commercially successful handheld computer (also referred to as a personal digital assistant or PDA), was manufactured by Palm Computing (then a division of U.S. Robotics). It used a pen stylus and a handwriting recognition program called Graffiti to enable text entry at an average rate of 10-15 words per minute. Thus, Man had effectively reverted back to the 15th Century and the quill pen in terms of writing speed.
Also in 1996, a Canadian company, Research in Motion, introduced the Inter@ctive Pager, the first two-way messaging pager and forerunner of the now ubiquitous Blackberry, a mobile phone with a miniature keyboard designed for typing with a user's thumbs. This form of text entry requires the user to look down at his thumbs while entering data and is thus comparable to hunting and pecking on a typewriter. The average rate of text entry speed of the first two-way messaging pager was 15-20 words per minute.
Over the years this handheld communication device has become much more sophisticated and is, for all intents and purposes, a handheld computer, though it is widely referred to as a smart phone. Today a number of large, multinational corporations compete in the smart phone space including Apple, Sony-Eriksson, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG, and HTC. Most smart phones on the market today have some form of thumb keyboard, primarily those with physical keys or an onscreen keyboard, the most popular of which is currently the iPhone.
While the thumb keyboard is adequate for generating short text messages (proficient users who forego capital letters and punctuations, and use numerous abbreviations, can text at rates exceeding 60 words per minute), it is not conducive to creating longer messages or detailed emails, writing reports or memos, or engaging in any number of tasks that can be done on a desktop, laptop, notebook, or netbook computer. In order for the smart phone to enable truly productive computing, one must be able to comfortably type at productive rates of speed for extended periods of time.
AlphaGrip to the Rescue
In 1995, Michael Willner, an entrepreneur in the real-time financial news business, determined to develop a sub-notebook computer that would allow him to type detailed emails, memos, reports, and documents as quickly as he could on a desktop computer equipped with a full-size keyboard. He soon began working nights and weekends with an old college buddy and successful oil trader, Scott Arnel. In 1997, the duo founded AlphaGrip, Inc., and patented the world's first handheld touch typing technology, which consisted of full-size, multi-directional keys on the back of a handheld device and a means to grasp the device between one's palms while leaving the fingers free for relatively fast typing (over 60 words per minute).
Without the resources nor expertise to develop a handheld computer, AlphaGrip decided to focus its efforts designing a keyboard to prove that the technology worked and could, in fact, be incorporated into a handheld computer. After two years of product development, AlphaGrip began demonstrating a working prototype of a handheld, ergonomic keyboard in the form of a game controller (now called the iGrip Ergonomic Keyboard) to some of the world's leading technology companies.
Though impressed with the technology, every product manager shuddered at the thought of trying to convince prospective customers to spend an hour a day over a period of two months to learn to touch type on the device. The inventors pointed out that it takes much longer to achieve comparable touch typing speeds on a standard QWERTY keyboard, which millions of people have learned and continue to learn. Regardless, the inventors were cordially invited to come back when they could prove that millions of people would be willing to learn to use their handheld typing technology.
Rather than spend their resources on market research which would likely be inconclusive, the inventors decided to produce the iGrip Ergonomic Keyboard and bring it to market themselves. The product was launched in 2006 and was sold primarily by word of mouth over the internet. It received good reviews by the trade press and rave reviews by many of its customers who hale from all walks of life, including students, gamers, computer programmers, and a wide variety of other knowledge workers. Grippers love being able to lean back away from their desk while comfortably working or playing on their computer. Many have said the iGrip is the most comfortable ergonomic keyboard they have ever used.
Next Stop: Hi-Speed Handheld Computing
AlphaGrip is now in the process of developing the iGrip Ergonomic Phone. It will measure 3.5” x 6” x 0.75” and enable typing at over 50 words per minute while standing, walking, reclining, sitting in an auditorium or on a park bench, lying on a blanket at the beach, on a sofa or in bed, or riding on a plane, train, bus, or in a car. Anything you can do on a computer you’ll be able to do on your iGrip Phone; from creating detailed emails and reports to entering data, from computer programming to playing the most challenging video games.
AlphaGrip technology has the potential to lead the way to faster writing speeds on smart phones (or handheld computers, if you prefer), which are destined to become the world’s most prevalent communication devices for the written word. When AlphaGrip technology was described to Doug Englebart, the inventor of the mouse, he said, “Of course, some day everyone will type that way.” Can I hear an Amen....