zaterdag 8 september 2012

Workshop Veyboard

Enkele weken geleden zijn we weer naar de Tweede Kamer in Den Haag getrokken – voor de tweede keer al dit jaar –, deze keer voor een workshop Veyboard. Intersteno vroeg me om er een Engelstalig stukje over te schrijven voor hun volgende nieuwsbrief. Jullie mogen meelezen:

The Veyboard

On August 20th, 2012, the Dutch Interinfo Group and the Parliamentary Reporting Office of the States General of The Netherlands together organized a workshop Veyboard in The Hague. A second workshop was held on September 14th.

Both workshops were given by Ms. Marianne van Gool. After an introduction, the participants (including people from The Netherlands and from Belgium) received a first lesson and they could try out the Veyboard for themselves. They quickly discovered this was not an easy feat.

Veyboard is an orthographic syllabic chord keyboard. This means you type syllables, not characters, by pressing multiple keys simultaneously. An orthographic chord keyboard is very different from a phonetic chord keyboard like a stenotype machine, which produces an intermediate shorthand format. In contrast, the Veyboard can directly produce correctly spelled readable text (provided its operator doesn’t type any mistakes, of course).

The keys are arranged in a butterfly-like pattern. On the left side of the keyboard (the left wing of the butterfly), there are keys for typing the consonants at the beginning of a syllable. The right side is roughly a mirror of the left side: here you’ll find the same consonant keys, but mirrored. They are used for typing the consonants at the end of a syllable. The vowels are located in the middle of the keyboard.

For example, when typing the word soft, you type four keys simultaneously: the s on the left side of the keyboard, the o in the middle, and the f and t on the right side of the keyboard. When the keys are released, the Veyboard produces the one syllable word soft, including a final space. If you want to make longer words (like software), you can prevent the addition of a space by simultaneously pressing the big “no space” key with the palm of your right hand. If you want the first letter capitalized, you also press the “capital” key with your left hand. The Veyboard software is smart enough, however, to automatically capitalize the first word of a new sentence (after a period, question mark or exclamation mark).

If you inspect the keyboard closely, you’ll notice that not all consonants have their own key. Some of them are produced by typing a combination of keys, e.g. pressing the J and T keys simultaneously produces a D. J plus C equals G. This reduces the number of keys on the keyboard, but it also increases the number of key combinations you have to learn and remember.

Learning to type on a Veyboard is far from easy. Even if you’re an experienced QWERTY typist, you’ll have to start from scratch. According to Ms. Van Gool, if you’re serious about learning to master the craft, you must practice for two hours every day during the 6 month course. But with hard work comes great reward. Someone who learns to type on a Veyboard can easily double their typing speed compared to the same person using a regular QWERTY keyboard. Some experienced Veyboard typists can produce 800 or even 1,000 characters per minute, which is more than fast enough to keep up with speakers at conferences, workshops or in parliaments.

The Veyboard, a Dutch invention, has a long history which goes back to the invention of the Tachotype by stenographer Marius den Outer in 1933. The mechanical Tachotype was further developed with the help of Nico Berkelmans, a Dutch linguist. In 1982 an electronic version was introduced under the name Velotype. In 2001, the stand-alone Velotype text processor was renamed again to Veyboard, and it can since be used as an alternate keyboard for PC’s. In 2010, the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht officially adopted the teaching method Getting started with Veyboard for its courses in interpretation for the deaf.

Workshop Veyboard

Marianne van Gool is herself an interpreter for the deaf. Using her Veyboard, she can provide an instant translation of the spoken word intro written text on a computer screen in front of the deaf person, for example during a visit to the doctor or the courtroom. This provides a good alternative to the use of sign language. Millions of people worldwide suffer from some form of hearing impairment, and many of them don’t know sign language. For these people, Veyboard technology offers an effective and efficient instrument to enable them to fully participate in society.

Apart from higher typing speeds, the Veyboard has some more advantages over a regular QWERTY keyboard. The Veyboard has an ergonomic design and layout, resulting in a balanced movement of arms, wrists and fingers, with minimal stress on muscles, tendons and joints. RSI (repetitive strain injury) occurrence, not uncommon among QWERTY typists, is very rare among Veyboard users. In contrast to the QWERTY system, Veyboard ensures an equal energy distribution between left and right hands, and assigns the hardest tasks to the strongest fingers. The keyboard can also easily be placed on the lap.

During the workshop, participants used the VeyboardTrainer, a computer program written by Van Gool’s husband. The software is an integral part of the Getting started with Veyboard method and provides the necessary practice needed to learn to master the Veyboard, offering a wide range of exercises and resulting in a well-balanced and efficient program.

At the end of the workshop, all participants were very enthusiastic about this powerful keyboard, and some of them seriously consider learning the skill, despite the great effort needed. The Parliamentary Reporting Office of the States General at The Hague has started a pilot project to introduce the Veyboard for their reporting activities.

Perhaps we’ll see an increased number of Veyboard users at future Intersteno text production contests?

More pictures at

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