The Problem With Texting

The problem with texting (at least in English) is the existing typing setup. More detailed info can be found on the history and whys of the existing key pad setup can be found here and here. Below, I’ve listed what I’ve got on my cell phone keys:

1 – All Punctuation
2 – ABC
3 – DEF
4 – GHI
5 – JKL
6 – MNO
7 – PQRS
8 – TUV
9 – WXYZ
* – Space

Putting in one of the later letters on a key (i.e. a “c”, which is the third letter on the 2 key) requires one to press the key multiple times. When typing the same letter twice in a row or typing two successive letters from the same key, one must wait a moment for the cursor to move to the next space or arrow over to it manually. (I don’t have the patience to wait for the cursor to move itself.) My cell phone automatically capitalizes the first letter of a text message, but any other individual capitals have to be made by pushing the up arrow on my phone. So to text the following message via my cell phone:

I’m a little teapot short and stout. Here is my handle, here is my spout. Put me on a burner ’til I shout: “Tip me over and pour me out.”

I have to make the following key presses:


Alternately, I could type ten digits to call someone and impart this information by voice in half the time.

This isn’t to say texting is useless. I can’t call my Twitter account and tell it what text I want published. There are other, similar ways in which to use texting services, too. We’ve come up with ways for texting to be useful because we have it available to us. But there needs to be an alternate keypad setup for typing.

We can’t just discard the old key pad system — at least, not in the United States. There are too many well-established phone numbers like 1-800-ABCDEFG which require the current keypad system to keep chaos in check. I have known a guy who didn’t know the numbers for his own home phone because it was easier to remember a simple two-word phrase (relevant to his interests, even) which the number spelled out. Hell, I don’t even know his phone number, and for the same reason.

On the other hand, for texting to be made less tedious and more useful, we’d have to rearrange the key pad. An analysis of the English language regarding which letters frequently occur next to each other in words and especially common words would be the first step to take. G and H, for instance, are on one key, but appear next to each other frequently (right, sight, might, height, light, fight, etc). D and E are another obvious such pair. Eliminating such occurences would be the first step towards reducing the number of key presses used and time taken.

Of course, as with the creation of the QWERTY keyboard layout, the lack of alphabetization might slow people down a bit overall, especially until they learn the new keypad layout. However, the lessening of button presses will also lower the number of chances to make mistakes, which is another step towards less time taken. Furthermore, fewer button presses is less repititious movement, and in an era where repetitive motion injuries are becomeing more widespread such considerations bear their own weight.

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