By Michael Hey (0703)
The Finger Organiser from Harvester Information Systems is the second touch-typing tutor to be produced for the Z88. (The other is T-Touch, which was reviewed in the Jan/Feb issue of Z88 Eprom.)
The Finger Organiser consists of a ROM plus a small sheet presenting a brief summary of the typing course; the instructions appear on-screen at the appropriate time. Unlike the T-Touch typing tutor the Finger Organiser comes with practically no printed material to offer extra guidance. I got round this short-coming quite easily by the simple expedient of a quick trip to the local library. To get started you select INDEX, insert the ROM and press H. Following the title screen the program asks you to enter your name. This is stored in a file called FINGER.HIS, which also holds the i.d. of the last lesson which you completed together with your typing speed. Thus whenever you resume work with the Finger Organiser it remembers where you are and whereabouts on the course you have reached. I loaded FINGER.HIS into Pipedream and edited it about a bit, with the result that the Finger Organiser attempted to start up non-existent lessons. (I don't recommend that anyone try this.) I managed to get the program to hang after torturing it for awhile.
The lessons are graded, starting with simple sequences and becoming more difficult. However, you must complete each exercise with fewer than three mistakes and at the correct speed before you are allowed to progress to the next one (though you can 'escape' and re-enter at a more difficult level, to satisfy your curiosity).
The first lesson introduces a simple pattern of letters "fff jjj fff jjj fjfj jfjf" and so on, working up to complicated sequences full of numbers and symbols. There are 60 lessons in the package, and one sound effect!
The display is divided up into two windows. The left window displays a picture of eight fingers, with the keys to be pressed by each finger displayed next to it. The right window gives instructions. On pressing a key the next exercise starts. The display changes so that the left window shows the exercise to be typed and the right window becomes a map of the keyboard. (This reminds you of a key's location which you may have forgotten without looking at the actual keyboard - which is absolutely forbidden in touch typing!)
Each exercise consists of a series of 45 letters which you have to enter twice. When you complete one exercise successfully (i.e. making fewer than three mistakes and within your allotted time) you automatically go on to the next. At the end of each exercise your speed and the number of mistakes are reported in the right window.
In order to get an independent opinion of the Finger Organiser I enlisted the help of my Mother, who is a fully trained touch typist (though rather out of practice these days). Getting started was a bit tricky but once she had got the hang of the auto-repeat progress was rapid. Soon she was typing away with growing enthusiasm. The method of tuition, repeating the same exercise over and over was similar to the method by which she learned to type, except that "we learned by typing to music."
My wife, who can't type but can teach, criticised the program for not moving on if you fail an exercise consistently - apparently it is poor educational technique to bore your pupil to death. However if you get too frustrated you can always kill the program and then re-enter at the next lesson.
The only real fault I can pick with this is that it mucks about with the Z88's clock! Once it travelled back in time six days. (This drastically cuts down the time taken to complete the course: you could theoretically complete it before you started!) No harm is done; you just have to remember to re-set the Clock each time you leave the Finger Organiser.
In my view learning to type is like learning to swim, or to ride a bike - no one can teach you how to do it, you have to teach yourself - but it helps to have a good coach shouting encouragement. If you want to learn to type without spending much money then buy a book. If you want a simple, straightforward package to help you learn on your Z88 then Finger Organiser is worth considering, but don't forget that it cannot supply the stamina and concentration you will need.
The Finger Organiser costs £40, but remember that when you complete the course you can erase the EPROM, thus effectively reclaiming £20!
The Harvester Wordchip is produced by: Harvester Information Systems Ltd., Unit 1, Ealand Science Park, Wharf Road, Ealand, South Humberside. DN17 4JW. Telephone: (0724) 710222
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