Back in high school, I was never satisfied with my typing speed. I could get up to 60 wpm or so, but I wanted to get better. After a year of college, and significant exposure to the internet, I decided to learn Dvorak. By this time, I could type at up to 80 wpm, but I was convinced I would never type much faster unless I changed.
For one month, I swore off QWERTY. I was sorely tempted to give in because of the ICPC, but I stayed firm. I started keeping a journal for practice, making nearly daily entries. By the end of the month, I could type at about 50 wpm in Dvorak. After another few, I could type as fast as I could before.
It has been a few years now, and Dvorak is well ingrained. The computer has told me that I type as fast as 120 wpm, but generally I type from 80-100 wpm. I still use QWERTY when necessary, but I type at ~50 wpm. Fortunately, I almost exclusively use linux, and it is incredibly easy to change keymaps – ‘setxkbmap dvorak’ or ‘setxkbmap us’ (or loadkeys if you are outside of X).
Relearning commands was an unexpected difficulty. When you use a computer, you don’t think ‘Okay, cut is Ctrl-X’ or ‘The address bar is Ctrl-L,’ you just hit the keys. I had to re-learn the keybindings, and remember them by name as opposed to feel.
Would I go back and make the same decision? No. It was more hassle than it was worth.
Will I change back? No. Not only do I like my uniquiness, I believe that Dvorak is in fact superior.
Would I advocate that everyone learn Dvorak? No.
Would I support teaching Dvorak in schools? Very probably. With modern computers, it takes moments to change from one keymap to another. QWERTY keyboards can be, in nearly all cases, fully functioning Dvorak keyboards with a simple command. May I also suggest that learning Dvorak might help many typists who type with 1-4 fingers?
Do I believe we will ever change on a broad scale? No. Switching to Dvorak would be very similar to converting to metric.
I know at least 5 Dvorak users. Interestingly enough, 2 of them are Lispers. I can’t help but wonder about a possible connection between those two communities…