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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 00:37, 4 March 2013

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Voice Commands
Dvorak words may sound hard to pronounce, but studies show they actually put less stress on the vocal chords.
Title text: Dvorak words may sound hard to pronounce, but studies show they actually put less stress on the vocal chords.


The Dvorak keyboard layout was designed to replace the QWERTY keyboard layout (the de facto standard keyboard layout in English-speaking countries, so named for the starting letters in the top row). The Dvorak layout was designed in the belief that it would significantly increase typing speeds over the QWERTY layout. This can be seen, among other ways, by the popular misconception that the placement of letters in the QWERTY standard were deliberately organized to limit typing speed in accommodation the tendency of original mechanical typewriters to jam if two adjacent keys were pressed in quick succession. (In fact, the original QWERTY layout was designed to help type American Morse code and subsequently optimized a bit for different users [1], [2].)

Even as other arguably better layouts were proposed over the years since the introduction of the QWERTY keyboard, QWERTY remained the standard due to widespread use.

Using Dvorak for speech to text, however, makes no sense whatsoever as there is no keyboard, real, virtual, or otherwise, involved in speaking. Even the virtual keyboard (usually QWERTY layout but often changeable) included in most phones and tablet devices is not used when speaking to the phone.

The sentence Cueball tells his phone translates to "Okay Google send a text" - he says it as if he were typing the sentence on a Dvorak layout with the keyboard set to a QWERTY layout. How such words would be pronounced is a mystery, as the letters in the words are merely substituted with others with no regard to phonetics; without standardized pronunciations, a speech-to-text program would be useless. To add to the confusion, one of the words in Cueball's sentence includes an unpronounceable semi-colon as one of its letters.

The title text is a reference to the fact that many users of DVORAK keyboards claim they may be hard to learn, but they are more movement efficient and put less stress on your fingers due to less movement. For example, see the link at . This makes little sense in the scenario set up by the comic, as speaking gibberish using oddly placed vowels would be equally difficult, if not in fact harder, on the vocal cords. The use in the title text of 'vocal chords' rather than 'vocal cords' may be a reference to a stenograph (a typewriter used by a court stenographer) using multiple keys pressed at the same time, called a 'chord', to produce a single letter.

Using a Dvorak layout on a smartphone (for actual typing, not voice commands) is possible, but the very features that make it desirable in a physical touch-typing environment are drawbacks on a swipe-enabled keyboard. A placement designed to alternate a typist's left and right hands requires the finger of a swipist to travel back and forth across the keyboard more often. Fitting commonly-used letters onto the typist's home row reduces finger movement but makes many words the swipist enters indistinguishable. On a QWERTY swipe keyboard, four English words can be entered by swiping right to left from P to T: "pot", "pit", "put", and "pout"; however, setting the layout to Dvorak causes this to happen with many more common sets of words.


[Ponytail and Cueball are standing looking at each other. Cueball is holding a phone.]

Ponytail: Can you text it to me?

Cueball: Sure!


Ponytail: ...What?

Phone: *BEEP*

[Caption under the panel:]

Setting my phone's speech recognition to Dvorak was a pain at first, but it's more efficient in the long run.

Note: Cueball is saying "OKAY GOOGLE SEND A TEXT" if you account for keyboard layout.

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