Sean Wrona: Typing

Sean Wrona

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Typing:

I am primarily famous online for my typing prowess. Since I am asked the same questions so frequently by various other typists, I figured I would provide substantive detail on my typing history here.

I taught myself to touch-type when I was about three years old on the old DOS program CPT Personal Touch-Typing. I attained a high speed of 83 wpm (415 cpm) at age six and 108 wpm (540 cpm) at age ten, which was faster than any of the other students or teachers at Smith Road Elementary. The faculty occasionally had me type things for them, most notably a poetry book featuring poems from all the second-grade students. In my teen years, I promptly forgot about typing applications, but continued to improve.

I discovered competitive typing by accident in the spring of 2008 while in grad school. My high school classmate Jordan Nott was using the Facebook Typing Speed application and it appeared in one of his status updates. I did a few 30-second races most days for the next few months, and was rather startled to discover that I was consistently 20 wpm (100 cpm) faster than almost all the other users, with the primary exception of MIT computer science grad student Jelani Nelson, who was essentially my equal. Eventually, over the next year and a half, I was receiving a few Facebook friend requests a week from people intrigued by my typing and many PMs inviting me to other competitive typing sites.

I'd seen some typing tests online of course, but the sheer number and diversity of competitive typing sites surprised me. In late 2009 and early 2010, I joined a multitude of typing sites and set records on most of them. That culminated in Jelani inviting me to compete in the Ultimate Typing Championship for a $2000 cash prize at the 2010 South by Southwest Interactive Conference. Jelani and I were roughly equal on that site and far faster than anyone else, each scoring peak speeds of over 200 wpm (1000 cpm). However, Jelani was declared ineligible since he is from the Virgin Islands and they were seeking participants from the continental United States only. With Jelani absent, I won all three rounds of the semifinals for the Ultimate Typing Championship fairly easily, averaging 154 wpm (770 cpm) in the first round, 146 wpm (730 cpm) in the second round, and 157 wpm (785 cpm) in the third round. Former Harvard Crimson reporter Yifei Chen finished a fairly close second in all three rounds, but could not get time off work for the contest, so my competitor was instead Condé Nast programmer Nate Bowen.

The championship itself was a best-of-three match and I won both matches over Nate rather easily.

I beat Nate 163 wpm-110 wpm (815 cpm-550 cpm) on the following text in the first round of the finals:

That all our knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt. For how is it possible that the faculty of cognition should be awakened into exercise otherwise than by means of objects which affect our senses, and partly of themselves produce representations, partly rouse our powers of understanding into activity, to compare, to connect, or to separate these, and so to convert the raw material of our sensuous impressions into a knowledge of objects, which is called experience? In respect of time, therefore, no knowledge of ours is antecedent to experience, but begins with it. But, though all our knowledge begins with experience, it by no means follows that all arises out of experience. For, on the contrary, it is quite possible that our empirical knowledge is a compound of that which we receive through impressions, and that which the faculty of cognition supplies from itself (sensuous impressions giving merely the occasion), an addition which we cannot distinguish from the original element given by sense, till long practice has made us attentive to, and skillful in separating it. It is, therefore, a question which requires close investigation, and is not to be answered at first sight whether there exists a knowledge altogether independent of experience, and even of all sensuous impressions? Knowledge of this kind is called a priori, in contradistinction to empirical knowledge, which has its sources a posteriori, that is, in experience. But the expression, "a priori," is not as yet definite enough, adequately to indicate the whole meaning of the question above started. For, in speaking of knowledge which has its sources in experience, we are wont to say that this or that may be known a priori, because we do not derive this knowledge immediately from experience, but from a general rule, which, however, we have itself borrowed from experience. Thus, if a man undermined his house, we say, "he might know a priori that it would have fallen;" that is, he needed not to have waited for the experience that it did actually fall. But still, a priori, he could not know even this much. For, that bodies are heavy, and, consequently, that they fall when their supports are taken away, must have been known to him previously, by means of experience. By the term "knowledge a priori," therefore, we shall in the sequel understand, not such as is independent of this or that kind of experience, but such as is absolutely so of all experience. Opposed to this is empirical knowledge, or that which is possible only a posteriori, that is, through experience. Knowledge a priori is either pure or impure. Pure knowledge a priori is that with which no empirical element is mixed up. For example, the proposition, "Every change has a cause," is a proposition a priori, but impure, because change is a conception which can only be derived from experience.

The second text was considerably harder as most of the special punctuation marks on the keyboard were included to slow the typists down. I beat Nate 124 wpm-79 wpm (620 cpm-395 cpm) on this text to win the Ultimate Typing Championship. I am frequently criticized on YouTube for "only" winning with a speed of 124 wpm (620 cpm). I have typed more conventional texts at a rate of over 160 wpm (800 cpm) over a ten minute period in English, and recently exceeded 170 wpm (850 cpm) over a fifty-minute period on hi-games.net, as mentioned below. I believe it's understandable that Nate and I both typed this considerably more slowly:

1.a) [MAN] A man ordered 2,000 drums of pink ping pong balls in Paris, France. Each drum contained 100 pink ping pong balls. He paid $120 (80 Euros!) per drum, which means he spent $240,000 on 200,000 pink ping pong balls. 1.b) {BALL} These pink ping pong balls measured 40mm (how many inches?) and were given a 1 star rating [1 star?]. [FRIEND] His friends all asked him, "why did you order so many pink ping pong balls, how can you afford to spend that much, and what are you going to do with them?" His answer: "I'll tell you tomorrow." [MAN] Every day his friends asked the same question, and every day he gave the same answer: "I'll tell you tomorrow." {BALL} The pink ping pong balls started decreasing in quantity: only 189,000 left, and then only 172,000, and then 163,000, and then 147,000, etc. {BALL} One day 90% of the pink ping pong balls were gone (100% - 10% = 90% right?). His friends were really feeling frustrated with him now and demanded an explanation, "Tell us what the &^%$ [blip] you're doing with all of these @#^& pink ping pong balls!" [MAN] The man's response: "I spent $240,000 on 200,000 pink ping pong balls for a project. I have now used 90% of those, as you have observed. I promise to tell you tomorrow." [FRIEND] His friends decided to wait one more day and pronounce the alphabet to kill some time: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ then wrote a code word with strange signs: /a/&B#R{+1}>>[Bb] = X0 - 3 + @a rooftop ^ 32 + 12443678923458789 && 1 2 3 < 4. . The next day they were gathered in the man's house for the big revelation. The man stated, "Of the 200,000 pink ping pong balls I ordered I have 137 left. Would anyone like them?" His friends all groaned and said, "[---] no! Give us an answer!" The man began again, "Friends, I am about to unveil a great invention." He took a deep breath...and died. His 7 friends would never know why the man spent $240,000 on 200,000 pink ping pong balls, and neither will you.

I won a deluxe Das Keyboard as part of my prize for my semifinal result and used that to set most of my records on the other typing sites.

My current records on each typing site are as follows:

TypeRacer:

237 wpm/1185 cpm (last 10 races, 1st all time), 189 wpm/945 cpm (average, 1st all time), 256 wpm/1280 cpm (peak speed, 1st all time). Also note that I used race selection to obtain those averages, as almost all the top members on TypeRacer do. I have two accounts on TypeRacer; I use the arenasnow account to set records by only including fast races, while I use the arenasnow2 account to show my actual ability not inflated by race selection. My average speed on the latter account is 173 wpm (865 cpm), higher than anyone else who is not race-selecting.

TypingZone:

English permanent text - 181.06 wpm (1086.36 cpm) - 1st all time. Also note that TypingZone is a European site which defines 1 wpm as 6 characters per minute as opposed to 5 characters per minute on most other typing sites. Hence, my US equivalent typing speed on this passage was 181.06*1.2 = 217.272 wpm.
French permanent text - 167.15 wpm (1002.90 cpm) - 1st all time
Pi to 200 digits - 738.18 cpm (147.64 wpm) - 9th all time
Alphabet - 1.241 sec (209.51 wpm; 1257.05 cpm) - 17th all time
Alphabet backwards - 1.600 sec (162.50 wpm; 975.00 cpm) - 32nd all time

I am an endurance typist and I tend to benefit the longer a text is. As the alphabet tests prove, there are certainly several other typists who are faster than I am at sprint typing on extremely short texts, especially Guilherme Sandrini from Brazil.

hi-games.net:

30 second typing in English - 205 wpm (1025 cpm) - 1st all time
1 minute typing in English - 203 wpm (1015 cpm) - 1st all time
2 minute typing in English - 182 wpm (910 cpm) - 1st all time
5 minute typing in English - 175 wpm (875 cpm) - 1st all time
50 minute typing in English - 174 wpm (870 cpm) - 1st all time (this unofficially breaks Barbara Blackburn's Guinness world record of 150 wpm (750 cpm) over 50 minutes, but is perhaps less impressive because she used a typewriter while I used a computer keyboard).

TyprX:

This is the site that the Ultimate Typing Championship uses. I set the still-standing record of 212.0 wpm (1060.0 cpm) on this site and also exceeded 200 wpm (1000 cpm) once at SXSW itself live in a practice race. Unfortunately, I was not logged in at the time.

typera.tk:

2 minute English sentence test - 895 cpm (199 wpm) - 1st all time
2 minute Finnish sentence test - 622 cpm (124 wpm) - 10th all time
2 minute German sentence test - 761 cpm (152 wpm) - 1st all time
2 minute Portuguese sentence test - 627 cpm (125 wpm) - 2nd all time
2 minute Turkish sentence test - 527 cpm (105 wpm) - 4th all time
2 minute Dutch sentence test - 725 cpm (145 wpm) - 2nd all time
1 minute English words test - 855 cpm (171 wpm) - 1st all time
1 minute German words test - 836 cpm (167 wpm) - 4th all time
1 minute Dutch words test - 767 cpm (153 wpm) - 2nd all time

Intersteno:

This international organization holds the online typing contest where participants type in up to sixteen languages for ten minutes each. In 2010, I won the mother tongue championship and placed third in the multilingual championship; in 2011, I won both championships. I set the all-time multilingual score record of 81505 keystrokes in 2011 despite not typing in Russian, averaging 162.98 wpm (814.9 cpm) in English, 139.96 wpm (699.8 cpm) in Dutch, 134.58 (672.9) in Italian, 129.04 (645.2) in Portuguese, 127.38 (636.9) in Spanish, 122.02 (610.1) in German, 117.98 (589.9) in French, 112.90 (564.5) in Romanian, 104.34 (521.7) in Finnish, 97.78 (488.9) in Polish, 95.38 (476.9) in Croatian, 78.58 (392.9) in Slovak, 75.46 (377.3) in Turkish, 69.42 (347.1) in Hungarian, and 62.30 (311.5) in Czech over a ten minute period. My winning English score was the highest ever Intersteno score in English and the third highest score in any language in the history of the competition.

I have also been active on several other typing sites with considerably fewer users, but I'm omitting them for brevity. I have uploaded performances on several of the above sites and many others on my YouTube channel to prove their authenticity.

Keyboards and Layouts:

I am frequently asked which keyboard layout I use. I have only ever used the traditional QWERTY layout. I recognize that Dvorak and Colemak may be better on the hands, but it would be too much of a loss of speed in my case to justify switching. I presently use a Das Keyboard Professional.

Typing Tips:

I am also frequently asked for tips on typing faster. I believe my biggest advantage in typing is that I do not necessarily use the same finger to type the same key. I use whichever finger is most comfortable, which can vary based on the context of the letters in the word. I cannot completely explain what I'm doing since I have been doing it since my childhood and it comes naturally, but I do tend to use whichever finger is closest based on the positioning of my hands typing the other letters in the word. Additionally, if you want to increase your speed, do not type each word at uniform speed. Speed through the easier words and take a little more time on the harder words to ensure accuracy. Always focus on the word after the word you are currently typing so there are no unnatural pauses in your typing. I recommend using caps lock instead of shift to type capital letters to allow more flexibility in the hand that you would normally use shift with. Finally, with regard to online typing games, for whatever reason my scores seem to register higher in Google Chrome. Although this won't actually improve your speed, it could improve your nominal scores on certain typing sites.

I also host and assist with Noah Horn's TypeRacer statistics archive at http://www.seanwrona.com/typeracer.