The Real Reason Your Keyboard's F And J Keys Have Bumps

Things are better now, right? "How to change a typewriter ribbon without getting filthy " is about as pertinent these days as "how to load a flintlock without blowing off your hand." Helpful, even quaint, but probably not a daily occurence, except maybe for Tom Hanks. Just about everybody seems to know what to do with a keyboard, which in turn is no longer connected to a series of inky mechanical marvels (or pains, depending on your perspective).

One improvement, probably, is that computer keyboards — the standard QWERTY keyboards, anyway — come with built-in homing devices for your fingers. Just sit right down and you'll hear a tale, not of Gilligan, but of home keys: F for the left index finger, J for the right, the correct starting position for touch typists since approximately forever. And alert typists have perhaps noticed, and even pondered, a phenomenon: bumps — ridges, really — across the bottom of those two keys. (For those of you using an expanded keyboard, the ridge is also found on the 5 key on the keypad section.) For why?

Well begun is half done

The usual explanation, according to Mental Floss, is ease of transition, from whatever your office-centric fingers might have been doing before — unclogging the copier, maybe, or trying to put a new carboy into the water dispenser — to typing merrily away. Those ridges help you find your place in the world, a tactile reminder of where your fingers should start and, perhaps, end during a session at the keyboard. As Aristotle more or less said, "Well begun is half done."

"Being mindful of these grooves improves your efficiency at the keyboard, increasing your typing speeds so you don't have to constantly glance down at your hands," writes Brooke Nelson for Reader's Digest. The Independent reports that it was patented by June E. Botich, though she thought we all needed more ridges on more keys — specifically A, F, J, and the semicolon. Is it actually helpful? According to Mental Floss, not really — touch typists don't have that much of an advantage over the rest of us. So go ahead and look, just to make sure. We won't tell.