I remember when I first learned to type, reading about a better alternate keyboard layout called Dvorak. It seemed like it made a lot more sense than QWERTY, which was laid out in the days of typewriters in such a way as to keep commonly-used letter combinations far apart, to minimize jamming.
Dvorak, on the other hand, is laid out for optimum typing speed, with the most common letters on the home keys and strongest fingers. It is also designed as much as possible to alternate letters between left and right hands, with all the vowels on the left hand. The world record typing speed is 212 words per minute, set in 1985 on a Dvorak keyboard.
But when I learned to type, I didn't have the resources to learn about or switch to Dvorak. I was living in Africa pre-Internet, and had to program my own typing tutor on my Amiga. I went with QWERTY.
Now, I spend a lot of time on a keyboard, and I've gotten very fast at typing -- about 180 words per minute. Four days ago, I took the plunge and made the switch, and my speed has dropped to under 20wpm. It is agonizing.
But there are already benefits. There is a real pleasure in feeling the efficiency of this layout; you can type over 3000 words on the Dvorak home keys, as opposed to "a dad falls alas; a jaffa salad". And some words just roll delightfully off the fingers. My speed is growing rapidly, and my goal is to surpass my previous speed in the next week or two.
And someday to beat the world record.