morse code for software developers?

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Distinguished member
Dec 10, 2007
i'm a software developer, or have been a software developer, but this disease is making it tough to use the keyboard. everybody suggests voice recognition, but i have doubts about that working well for software development. the tech guy at the als clinic suggested a usb morse code input device. sounds kinda crazy, but interesting...anybody tried it?
i picked the morse device this morning. its a "darci usb" by WesTest engineering. sells for $200. i think you have to buy the switches or paddles separately.

trying it out now
i'm surprised how much morse i can remember from when i was a kid (thirty years ago). of course back then morse didn't include stuff like alt-tab.
for now, finger pecking at the traditional keyboard is quicker, but morse lets me keep my eyes on the screen. the guy at the clinic seems to think that with practice my morse speed will be faster than the one-finger peck.

are other forum participants using morse or other alternative input devices?

What symptoms specifically, prevent you from typing? Is your ability to type degenerating? If so, in what fashion?

I am still able to type, but I wonder for how long given the degree of atrophy I see on my hands and what appears to be progressive weakness in finger pinch or grip strength.
I have a Tracker Pro headmouse system but find it hard to keep my head steady with it. I just got Dragon Naturally Speakinng 9 on eBay for $ 45 but haven't installed it yet. I am down to typing with 1 finger now.
you're using the "stick-keys" feature, hope?

one thing to be said for sticking with the standard keyboard, even if you must do the 1-finger peck, is you can use any computer without having to lug special equipment around. usb has done a lot to eliminate compatibility problems.

i wish i could turn the volume down on the morse. it sounds like im playing video games. does hawking really use something likethis for speech? he must be incredibly fast?
As far as voice recognition goes I can tell you for a fact that Vista Voice Recognition and Visual Studio do not play well together. I'm running Vista x64 so there isn't a compatible Dragon Naturally Speaking yet. I have used Dragon in the past and was quite impressed with it. If they get a x64 compatible version I'll test it.

What symptoms specifically, prevent you from typing? Is your ability to type degenerating? If so, in what fashion?

My atrophy began in the thenar (thumb) nerve of the left hand. In fact that was the first symptom for which i sought medical treatment--when the thenar muscle visibly disappeared. for a couple years obvious atrophy was limited to the left hand and arm, though fasics showed up in chest, back, etc. now my left hand is mostly useless--even the wrist cannot work against gravity. i peck one key at a time with the right hand, but now it is visibly atrophied too (also beginning with thenar), and tires quickly. having to keep my eyes on the keyboard makes for lots of typos.

i wonder if theres other pals out there using adaptive input devices--maybe a graphical we-based forum like this isn't as easy to use as a pure-text based system? the mouse still works for me--in fact i'm probably less likely to use eyboard shortcuts now--but maybe not for everybody?

p.s. i'm excited to be starting lithium tomorrow--hopefully it will stabilize me!
Let's pray the lithium does for you what it has done for many others.
I'm researching several types of communication devices. Al, tell me more about the Dragon Naturally Speaking software that you have. I started my search at the ALS Association website...found several links to things that seemed promising. Kathy would ideally like her communication device to be a part of a computer so that she can send e-mails, write in her journal, surf the web, etc. from the same machine. One link I found on the ALS site was for the Mercury II Full-featured Computer and Augmentative and Alternative Communication Device...anyone out there heard of it or perhaps use (or have used) it? Or, if you have any other ideas of a combo computer/communication system that would be great!

I've known people who used "dasher" with really good results once they'd gotten the hang of it. it's software, and it's free, and open-source. you "drive" a cursor through letters to form words and sentences. the letters form larger 'targets" based on predictions.

the problem i had was i didn't figure out how to get it to input text into my various applications. maybe you're supposed to copy-&-paste, but i was hoping for something better. maybe its easier on ms-windows (than on linux)?

the usb device solved all that--the computer thinks its just another keyboard.
So Dragon Naturally Speaking is more voice recognition rather than voice "synthesizer". That won't work then. Kathy's voice is very weak and has some recorded phrases from a couple summers ago, but wouldn't be able to record anything at this point.

One problem I have with the Voice Recognition software that I use is that, by the end of the day, it no longer recognizes the words I speak. People tell me I do not sound as if I am slurring my words, but the computer gets really confused. By the end of the week, my computer and I start the day off, miscommunicating.
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