In this post, I’ll be wasting your time by pointlessly comparing the Palm technology Graffiti to other methods of text input.
Graffiti may be retro but it’s one of the slowest ‘innovations’ I’ve recently gone back to. Don’t believe me?; remember Graffiti as a quick method of Palm input?; remember Palms? I wrote the following passage first in
gvim on my netbook, then using the software keyboard on my ancient PalmOne Zire 31—yes; they do have software keyboards—and finally on my Zire 31 using Graffiti 2 as the input.
This expanded edition of John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism includes the text of his 1868 speech to the British House of Commons defending the use of capital punishment in cases of aggravated murder. The speech is significant both because its topic remains timely and because its arguments illustrate the applicability of the principle of utility to questions of large-scale social policy.
The above passage, taken from the blurb on the back of my copy of Utilitarianism, took ninety seconds to write in
gvim and that writing-out is the quote above. I rewrote-out the passage, using the book’s back cover as the source each time and waiting five minutes between typing each version to reduce memory bias. Taking a stylus to the Palm’s software keyboard took four minutes and 35 seconds (275 seconds). To write the paragraph using Graffiti 2, it took seven minutes and thirteen seconds (433 seconds): 1.6ish times longer than the Zire’s software keyboard and almost five times longer than using
gvim on my Dell Inspiron mini. I’m not sure what scientific relevance or use this information has but remember: you’ve read it; you can’t unread it.
Palm Zire 31 and its software keyboard—accessible by tapping ABC in the bottom-right of the main Graffiti area
I’ve also been meaning to compare typing on one’s netbook and typing on one’s HTC Desire and its software keyboard (termed ‘Touch Input’ by the Android OS). The same-as-before passage of text took 108 seconds to type on the Desire; this figure versus the ninety seconds it took in
gvim on my netbook. Not a huge difference and a lot faster than I was predicting.
So, as predicted, my netbook is the fastest mobile/portable device I have when it comes to typing; possibly slightly slower than my MacBook Pro was (rest in peace) owing to its slightly-more-springy keyboard. My Mac mini uses a Apple wireless keyboard as its keyboard input and, while the keys are a little smaller than those on my netbook and the spring is a little subtler on my Mac’s keyboard, I think I prefer my netbook’s keyboard—though maybe that’s because I’ve been using my netbook as my sole computer for the last fortnight and over the last few months, I’ve seen my Mac mini use dramatically fall as I begin to get more and more comfortable with using my netbook at college and for ‘around the house’ typing and editing.
Just a little bene: Graffiti 2 tries to be more ‘logical’ in terms of imitating handwriting than Graffiti (or Graffiti 1 as I’ll call it here) was. Graffiti 2 introduced multiple strokes per character—for example, a lowercase ‘t’ character requires a stroke down (which types a lowercase ‘l’) and a stroke across from left to right (which changes the ‘l’ to a ‘t’; without the stroke down to begin with, a space would be typed)—and I’m not the only one who considers this change, from ‘one stroke, one character’, less easy-to-use and difficult to adapt to. The interesting thing is is that I never had any contact with Graffiti 1 until February 2011 (when I installed a Graffiti 1 input method on my HTC Desire; simply because of retro impulsion), and the only device I’ve owned to have any version of Graffiti on it—this dear-old Palm Zire—had always been Graffiti 2-based. What probably happened was that I’d forgotten most (if not all) of the gestures from Graffiti 2 and, in relearning Graffiti 1 in those crucial five minutes, it now means until I forget everything again, I’m stuck with feeling awkward and frustrated every time a ‘t’ won’t write the way I ‘expect’ it to. JSYK, a ‘t’ character is written/drawn in Graffiti 1 by stylus-ing a glyph that looks similar to mirrored capital gamma (Γ)—but right-and-down and not left-and-down; left-and-down would produce an ‘f’.
Stopwatch used was an iPod nano (3rd generation). Blurb used as passage-to-be-transcribed was back cover of Utilitarianism and the 1868 Speech on Capital Punishment (2nd edition; ed. George Sher) (ISBN 0-87220-605-X). Control variables: same subject (Kevin Steinhardt), same passage of text; variable variables: input devices and methods (Dell Inspiron mini 10 keyboard with Windows key, Palm Zire 31 using Graffiti 2 first then using software keyboard, HTC Desire using Android 2.2 default software keyboard).