— Kate Libby, Hackers, after Dade shows off his ultra-rapid typing skills.
When the operator controls the computer by a continuous stream of clackity-clackity typing.
Anything can be done by a computer master through this technique. By typing so fast we can't see what they are doing. This trope is an effort to suspend disbelief where otherwise you would be left wondering why we can't see the screen at the time.
This rapid typing would make sense if one were merely typing a letter, but this is usually used to indicate programming or operating a system. There are no pauses to wait for a result, to think through the options, open a file or start a program. Even if they have a GUI, they don't use the mouse.
We rarely if ever have a clear view of the screen during instances of this; otherwise the gap between the typing and what's actually happening would be more obvious. Also, the astute listener will notice that the 'chunk' of the spacebar and the Enter key, which are distinct from the 'clickity-click' of the rest of the keys, is rarely if ever heard.
While some people actually are this fast at typing, they usually have to go back and delete spelling errors later, which is not an ideal state when programming. Not that anyone writes program code this fast anyway, because you always spend more time thinking about program logic and correcting minor errors (or simply copy/pasting redundant code with minor alterations) than actually typing large chunks of text, except if the program is really really repetitive or inane... in which case it wouldn't be performing the magic that it is (or is about to).
Occasionally this can be justified through Truth in Television as many computer users can indeed do things quicker by using the keyboard exclusively though shortcuts instead of a mouse, especially if using command line interfaces. This trope though is about egregious uses of speed typing to control what a computer does.
Related to this is the Button Mashing in Hollywood depictions of people playing video games. May be featured in scenes involving Hollywood Hacking.
Subtrope of Kinetic Clicking.
In Gundam SEED, Coordinators can do this with enough training. Kira Yamato actually reprograms the Strike Gundam's OS through a ONE-HANDED variant of this trope. Some fans refer to this as "Coordinator Typing", even.
Computer: It looks like you're just pressing the same buttons over and over.
Kaiba: That's because I learned how to hack by watching old episodes of Star Trek!
Yuki the data entity humanoid interface from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is shown graduating from waving the mouse around in the air to this trope within the week she learns how to use a laptop computer. At top speed it's surprising she doesn't fill the keyboard buffer. Unlike other examples, what she does actually justifies her use. Windows are shown rapidly appearing and disappearing as she plays the game from a source code level (when you're just that good, who needs the GUI?).
She also manages a method she uses when hacking reality, namely to speak really, really fast. What's spoken is, for bonus marks, SQL queries, fast-forwarded and played backwards.
In the first episode of Nana, Nana Komatsu performs this when sending a text message on a cellphone.
He remotely controls his supercomputer to reverse a denial-of-service attack with the one and zero keys on his phone. Causing the victim computer to explode rather violently.
He's also able to use six keyboards at the same time, supposedly to elevate his mental state to a thousand times that of a normal person.
He's compiling his code so quickly..! Then I shall just have to resort to... DOUBLE COMPILE!
In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, with the advent of direct neural interfaces, no one should even need a keyboard. Indeed, the main characters rarely use them. However, the android operators still dutifully punch keys on their consoles very fast. In the 1995 movie, some people have cybernetic hands designed to allow faster typing, a visually cool but creepy and inefficient device that splits one's fingers in two. The manga explains that some people are too paranoid about brainhacking to use a direct brain interface, and get the creepy hand operation to enable them to keep up with those who can just plug in directly.
The Operator androids are occasionally seen using the "fingers split into rods" method of typing as well when they have a lot on their plate. Incidentally, the reason Section 9 uses androids typing on keyboards for command and control is to prevent hacking attempts from succeeding, since the Operators are completely stand-alone systems. Even then, it's not enough to keep them safe in some higher level situations, so maybe the paranoids have it right...
In Weiß Kreuz, Nagi is seen typing this way... with no hands, using telekinesis.
In Code Geass, Lelouch can be seen operating the systems of the Shinkirou utilizing Rapid Fire Typing across multiple keyboards, sometimes with his arms crossed over each other in what would normally be an extremely uncomfortable typing position. When Rolo attempts to do the same later on, he is surprised at the difficulty and marvels at Lelouch's skill.
That's not all, in Shinkirou's first debut, the keyboard doesn't sound clickety, it sounds as if Lelouch is playing a church's organ. And the keyboard looks like a pallet with the keys lighting up when pressed.
Chisame is one of the Mahou Sensei Negima! world's greatest hackers, to the point that she can keep up with a highly advanced robot at a human level. Her finger taps are sometimes played up for drama.
Izzy does this every time the gang encounters a new mon on season one of Digimon.
In Dragon Ball Z Goku does this using two hands that cross over each other when trying to power an escape pod.
Justified, since Goku doesn't know jack about technology and is just randomly mashing buttons as fast as he can in a panicked hope he'll activate the escape pod. He fails.
In one episode of Sailor Moon, Ami does this with one hand while eating a dumpling with the other.
Celty the Dullahan in Durarara!! can do this with her PDA. We actually see her typing the same sequence spots over and over; but the keys that she really wants to be pushed light up. Because in actuality, she mainly uses her shadow-like substance to do most of the typing.
In Geneshaft, Dolce and her hapless subordinates do this to fix the extremely buggy code of their starship's control system, and virtually go in overdrive mode when battling a computer virus.
In The World God Only Knows, Keima Katsuragi has Capturing God Mode, a technique for playing multiple Dating Sims at the same time. The anime depicts this as sitting in front of his multiple-screen setup and rapidly typing... on a spread of console controllers. For a genre of game whose input is mostly "press X to continue".
Early in the run of Invincible the title character's father, an expy of Superman who's civilian identity is a novelist, notes that he has deadline for a book coming up so he'll have to buy several keyboards to burn through over the weekend.
Naturally Superman being a journalist in his civilian identity sometimes does this when nobody is looking. Apparently even as Clark Kent, he's known to be a very fast typist.
The Flash has been shown doing this to actually hack a system. He can apparently try millions of password attempts by hand. This would be justified if there was a computer capable of keeping up with his natural typing speed.
Parodied, albeit on a typewriter, in Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator. In one scene, the eponymous character dictates a letter to his secretary. He first lets off a long stream of mock-German, which the secretary records in a few keystrokes; he then follows it with a short syllable, which takes an absurdly long time to type.
Scotty in Star Trek IV, who probably has never seen, to say nothing of used, a keyboard before in his life, quickly adapts to one and cranks out the formula to Transparent Aluminum in less than a minute using a computer whose OS has horrendous support for keyboard shortcuts.
Semi-lampshaded in Up in the Air when Natalie was typing on her laptop on the plane. "Are you angry at your keyboard?" "I type with a purpose."
Elliot Carver, the evil media baron from the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, writes news stories, controls video-conferences and basically runs his entire empire by flailing madly at a small, hand-held computer console. This is one of the few instances where you can actually see words coming up on the screen as Elliot types, though he is still typing far too fast. Could be explained logically, in that Carver's company is also partly an evil parody of Microsoft, meaning he may have his own special "evil villain" control software that interfaces entirely through rapid fire typing.
In GoldenEye, the Big Bad orders Boris Grishenko, the hacker, to perform some necessary computer work and instructs a soldier to kill him if he moves. Boris starts typing fast, then the soldier motions with his gun. Boris types faster.
There was an especially grievous example earlier, when Boris performs rapid fire typing with only one hand, while spinning a (grenade) pen in the other. While doing so, he never stops to correct any mistakes — because he is that good.
Boris' one-handed typing is ridiculous, of course: No matter how fast one is, typing with one hand is not even close to half the speed of two - the keyboard is made for two hands.
Stanley Jobson in Swordfish. Mostly amazing in his first demonstration: he is ordered to hack into the Department of Defense in 60 seconds while at gun point, and receiving oral sex.
Amazingly, his typing in between buttons and in between rows means something to the computer he uses.
Played straight in the Disney Sci-Fi movie Earth Star Voyager. A group of Space Cadets control their space cruiser (steering, evading enemy fire, firing, etc.) only through frantic keyboard typing - no mouse, joystick, steering wheel or anything intuitive in the future, apparently...
In Iron Man 2, Ivan Vanko does this to hack administrative rights to Justin Hammer's network while the computer is booting up. When Hammer expresses incredulity at this, Vanko responds with...
Ivan Vanko: Твой софт - говно.
Justin Hammer: Excuse me?
— Ivan Vanko: Software's shit.
Done in the film version of The Beverly Hillbillies by a con couple ready to scatter the Clampett's money to so many bank accounts when their attempt to get into the family through marriage fails. The guy sits down what looks like a heavy-duty suitcase with a laptop inside and just goes to town on it. A well-placed shotgun blast prevents it from happening.
Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) types this way in a scene from Surrogates, seemingly calling up dozens of files with each stroke.
Used in one of the Halo books with Dr. Catherine Halsey. Apparently 500 years in the future, laptops will not have silent keyboards. Also they will sound like machine gun fire.
In William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy, even though cyberdecks use a neural interface as a display device, commands are still supposed to be input using a keyboard. Gibson also seemed to be under the impression that the timing of keystrokes would be an important means of identity verification: for example, the Dixie Flatline never replaced his heart because he didn't want to throw his timing offnote In real life, Morse Code signallers in World War II were sometimes identifiable by their "fist", or, loosely, the timing of their signals.
The Young Wizards series: It's mentioned that Tom's typing is like this.
In Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon; "Randy could hear a rattling sound in the background, computer keys impacting so rapidly it sounded like Avi was simply holding the keyboard between his pale, spindly hands and shaking it violently up and down." Later in the book, Randy is described as going on "a forty-eight hour hacking binge", one result of which is that his next email has to be written by poking the keyboard with the rubber on the end of a pencil, because his carpal tunnel sydrome is so bad that he can't type in the usual fashion.
The computers in Star Trek seem to operate via a Windows-type OS of on-screen button pushing when not simply responding to verbal commands. In a subversion, there don't seem to be any keyboards or mouse function at all. Nevertheless, despite thinking that keyboards are "quaint" and not knowing what a mouse is in the Time Travel-themed fourth Star Trek movie, Mr. Scott uses Rapid Fire Typing to the shock of 20th-century native observers.
In Star Trek: First Contact, in an attempt to stop the Borg from hacking into the Enterprise's computer, Data uses Rapid Fire Typing to improvise a highly complex encryption code on the spot and encrypt all the ship's major systems in a matter of seconds. Data's an android, though, which means his typing speed is limited mostly by how fast his fingers can physically move.
Also a subtle Special Effect Failure: you'll see the reflections of the "red alert" flashing lights speed up, since they just sped up the film to get the effect.
There are Voyager episodes where the "Relativity", a Federationstar time ship from the 29th century, is shown, which has a kind of "beefed up" console interface which also featured some kind of fusion out of a (real-life) Trackball and a Holographic Interface.
Crime shows do this. For example, in Criminal Minds Garcia operates half a dozen computers at once, pulling up all manner of information, all by typing.
On CSI: Crime Scene Investigation the lab folks routinely use the keyboard even when operating graphics and sound editing programs. Maybe the "enhance" command requires typing e-n-h-a-n-c-e?
Garcia is using multiple monitors, not separate computers. She is also explicitly using a custom version of Linux she designed herself as an OS, so it could just be optimized for this usage by her preference.
Similarly, pawing at the keys of a calculator with his whole hand, a gag carried over from Strangers with Candy.
In one of the Nick Burns: Your Company's Computer Guy sketches on Saturday Night Live, all the computer usage is done through typing. It gets particularly silly when Nick explains how to do something and the actions are all in terms of what to click on, then he does it by typing. Apparently Nick Burns is quite the command line purist.
24 is a particularly egregious example. No-one ever seems to use a mouse.
Considering the people actually using the computers - Chloe, for instance - are extraordinarily skilled, this isn't too far off. Many experienced techies will prefer a keyboard for some applications, because it can be quicker if you're a good typist, and many of the advanced commands are only available on a command line.
In an episode of Stargate SG-1, Carter, granted Super Speed, works on a book about wormhole physics she'd wanted to write for a while, but "didn't have time to." Now, she operates so fast that her hands blur over the keyboard and she occasionally has to stop and wait for the keyboard buffer to clear out. Of course, for all we know, she is making typos and fixing them; it's just that she's operating very, very, very fast.
Similarly, in Lois and Clark, Superman once speed-tried a bunch of different passwords, whether they're dictionary words or random alphanumerics, until finding the right one. The keyboard was smoking by the end of it.
Subverted on Whiz Kids, a 1980s-vintage show about teenage hackers; the camera angle did in fact show the monitor with words appearing as fast as the Whiz Kids could type (this was done with a program that stored the desired text in memory and then displayed it one letter at a time for each keystroke; therefore, the correct text appeared regardless of whatever gibberish the actors were typing).
Seen in at least one episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, where a hacker is fighting for control of an airplane's functions. Most notable for the episode's climax, where at a command from his boss (with You Have Failed Me undertones) to kill the thrusters, he panics and practically starts hammering the thing.
"School Reunion" has kids hypnotized into doing this in order to unlock some MacGuffin.
Donna accomplishes this in the series 4 Grand Finale, hand waved by her claiming to be the best temp in London.
Similar to the Superman example above, a Dalek in the eponymous episode hammered through a billion password combinations on a keypad in one second, apparently using directed suction with its sucker hand. Either that, or he was putting electrons directly into the chip (making the entry of that many passwords more plausible than with button-clicking). Of course, the real question is why the high budget, high security facility doesn't require smartcards in addition to PINs on the doors... with that setup, there would be quadrillions (or more) of potential card/PIN combinations and even at the CPU's clock speed it would take a significant amount of time (hours or days) to go through them all.
The Torchwood team is also prone to this. For example in the Doctor Who Season 4 finale when they need to boost a signal to call the Doctor everyone instantly goes into Rapid-Fire Typing mode while running around and taking turns on various keyboards.
The Doctor does this a lot, especially in "The Eleventh Hour", where he establishes his identity by typing the real Fermat's Last Theorem and a proof for faster-than-light travel (with diagrams), and codes a computer virus on a cell phone, in about two minutes. How does he make diagrams by typing really fast? He's coding the diagrams in LaTeX. Or SVG.
Absolutely everywhere in season 7 mid-series premier, "The Bells of Saint John". The Doctor, Clara, and the villainous organization of the week engage in tons and tons of rapid-fire typing in order to Hollywood Hack, counter-hack, and anti-counter-reverse-super hack each other.
Parodied in Seinfeld. Kramer appears on an episode of Murphy Brown, hammering keys haphazardly at a ridiculous rate that could never be real typing.
A TV show based on Maniac Mansion aired in the early '90s. One of the second season episodes, "Turnernator Too", featured Tina Edison embodying this trope; it was obvious that random keys were being pressed as fast as her fingers could move.
Abby from NCIS is apparently a big fan of keyboard shortcuts.
Several PC operating system support Alt-Tab to switch among open windows, and several applications recognize Ctrl-+ to zoom.
In one episode, Abby is opening an email (we see the inbox on screen) and does so by typing a ton of keys. Search boxes are convenient. Seriously.
Or the time Abby needed to employ rapid-fire typing to control a third-person MMORPG?
Done regularly in Quantum Leap. When Al would press one or two buttons on his hand-held device, the device would spit out all kinds of information.
To be fair, there's an AI on the other end of the line watching what's happening and deliberately trying to provide helpful data.
Parodied in a skit on Saturday Night Live, although they flat-out revealed that the actor was just typing rapid gibberish.
iCarly. Freddie, the resident "computer genius", does this all the time. Someone hacked the iCarly website? Rapid typing. Need to edit a discriminating photo? Rapid Typing.
Strangely, on Lie to Me, whenever someone asks Loker to call up a picture, not only does he never need them to be more specific than "that one thing you showed me the other day", but he never uses a mouse.
Subverted on Stargate Universe, when Rush is forced to work on the Lucian Alliance's Icarus gate program, he taps on the keyboard wildly for a few seconds and says "Alright then, I'm done." He then has to explain that he's kidding and the work will take a long time.
Frequently employed by Bryce and Theora on Max Headroom, where all the keyboards are antique typewriters and the monitors never actually display what they type.
Amanda Pays took a typing course in order to play Theora Jones (she wasn't THAT fast ... and she wasn't just mashing keys).
In Smallville, Chloe is quite an efficient hacker... she is able to pound her fingers on random keys with such skill! (at some points its blatantly obvious that she's not typing anything at all)
Subverted on Power Rangers Zeo. Bulk and Skull go to a computer to look up information on somebody, and Skull's fingers are ready to fly. Once he's at the computer, he starts flailing non-sensibly at the keyboard, and Bulk asks if he knows what the hell he's doing. Skull admits he doesn't know anything about computers but looks like he does, to which Bulk kicks him off and starts browsing more realistically.
Rimmer does this on two computers at once in the Red Dwarf episode "Holoship", after undergoing a "mindpatch" to give himself the knowledge of two of the smartest crew members.
The first episode of The Robert Guillaume Show has Edward trying to find a new receptionist and tries out a number of applicants. One such man employs this technique.
Edward: Okay, you can stop now. (Takes the page out of the typewriter) You know, I didn't believe you when you said you could type so fast but...(Looks at the page) Wait a minute, this is gibberish.
Played for Laughs in one episode of The Big Bang Theory: Howard uses a robotic arm and his laptop to unpack the Chinese takeout for the rest of the gang, and when Penny comes along, she asks him to pass the soy sauce. Cue Howard typing absurdly fast on his laptop, so fast that it's obvious to the audience that the actor's typing nothing of real use. The flurry of clicks goes on for quite some time, and Penny holds a conversation with Leonard while she waits for the sauce.
Exalted: This is what happens if you use Whirling Brush Method in conjunction with a Magitek typewriter/keyboard.
In the video to "Weird Al" Yankovic's "White and Nerdy", when the song says, "I'm a whiz at Minesweeper, I can play for days, once you see my sweet moves you're gonna stay amazed," his character is seen typing on a keyboard in this manner. Minesweeper is ordinarily played with a mouse.
Don't forget the Lampshade Hanging in the next line: "My fingers move so fast I set the place ablaze." Perhaps he's using a macro program.
Later episodes use realistic mouse-clicks, although they're still a little loud.
Averted in the first Resident Evil, where the game switches to first-person for a part where you have to enter the password for an Umbrella computer. Jill types at a relatively normal rate, but Chris hunts-and-pecks.
Parodied in Kingdom Hearts II: when encountering Hollow Bastion's supercomputer, Sora tries to search for information on Kairi. Noticing how Leon seemed to be waggling his fingers above an unresponsive, flat representation of a keyboard, Sora proceeds to bang the keyboard as hard as he can. Then the MCP from TRON gets severely pissed off and converts the gang into data entities inside the computer.
That last part was more because Stitch jumped on Donald's head, and Donald fell on the computer, and that made the computer mad.
Hollywood typing isn't for Hollywood anymore: in Metal Gear Solid 4 cutscenes, despite them being movie quality CGI, and despite having been made by computer people, all typing is of the clackity-clack-clack type. One particular computer has three different keyboards for added virtuoso. Still no spacebar in sight.
Princess Peach in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door whenever she types a message to e-mail Mario. Although it is a message (presumably she thinks about what to write while completing the Fetch Quest for permission to send it), and can simply type it straight out, she is most definitely capable of more than 300 WPM...more than any actual human typist, even with copied or memorized text.
The Flash game Stealth Hunter 2 incorporates this as a gameplay mechanic. There are minigames to pick locks and hack computers, and the latter requires you to randomly type as fast as you can within the time limit.
Flash game HAX0R utilizes this trope as its core gameplay mechanic.
In Tales of Xillia 2, Rowen is able dial numbers on the setting's equivalent of a cellphone with comical speed and without even looking.
The Typing Of The Dead Overkill generally subverts this in its gameplay, requiring you to type quickly, but to type in phrases to defeat enemies. The Final Boss is damaged by typing anything and hitting Enter, allowing you to play this trope perfectly straight and win, although typing words associated with a topic shown on-screen will inflict a Critical Hit.
They could be using Linux, and installing software or something - though that does use a large number of spaces in it.
Most shells use Tab for autocomplete, which would circumvent a lot of the space bar use.
Or they simply know the keyboard shortcuts for mouse commands. Alt-Tab anyone?
There are a lot of them. A LOT. Even today it is possible to operate Windows without even having a mouse attached to the computer (Although when you have many, many programs and documents all open at once, Alt-Tab gets noticably overcrowded). It's usually faster than using a mouse, and leaves people either impressed, or wanting to burn you as some sort of technological witch.
There are some operating system interfaces (like Openbox) that are meant to be controlled with little mouse operation. Additionally, the tab key can move you across fields, which most people don't know/use. Put the two together and you have a system that can be ran for rather more than average without lifting your hands from the keyboard, all the while typing in shortcuts and URLs and whatnot. To some people, this is a boon; to others, it's merely unusual.
dwm? Try ratpoison. It's specifically designed to completely banish the mouse from GUIs (You can still use the mouse, but all the window management functions and then some are done purely through the keyboard. The mouse is mostly there for apps you run that won't accept any other kind of input, which is, by the way, quite rare in *nix.) and it does a pretty good job of this. dwm is downright mouse-friendly compared to ratpoison. Of course, a great deal of Linux/UNIX fans, this troper included, will sometimes eschew the use of things like the X Window System altogether and do everything, absolutely *everything,* from a console, including watching movies, thanks to the framebuffer.
Clicky-spring keyboards such as the IBM Model M make two clicks for every keypress due to their internal workings. This can cause unaware listeners to assume you're typing twice as fast as you really are, which can really cause some stares if you're a natural fast-typist even with normal boards.
Combine buckling spring keyboards with people who type over 100WPM (Think 150-180 on QWERTY) with hard strikes, not only do people hear a very amplified strike and with a rapid finger lift, a return click, they'll hear the springs resonating inside the keyboard as well. Now apply that to someone writing the paper.
Richard Stallman, Unix hacker and free software activist. MIT's hacker lab where he felt at home was disappearing. Most of the hackers had left for or had been hired by two competing companies — LMI and Symbolics. Stallman took exception to the last one, because they'd made a friend of his quit. So he did the only thing he could to fight it — code. For two years, from 1982 to the end of 1983, Stallman worked by himself to clone the output of the Symbolics programmers, with the aim of preventing them from gaining a monopoly on the lab's computers with their proprietary software. If that doesn't sound impressive, think of it this way: he did the programming of ten or so hackers, matching them feature for feature, only stopping to sleep. That's two years of Rapid-Fire Typing.
The fastest typing speed ever, 216 words per minute, was achieved by Stella Pajunas-Garnand from Chicago in 1946 in one minute on an IBM electric .
The longest time typing nonstop ever is 162 hours and one minute, done by California high school teacher Robin Heil in 1976 .
Over a six-year span starting in 1968, Mrs. Marva Drew of Waterloo, Iowa, typed the numbers one to one million on a manual typewriter, a feat requiring 2,473 pages, because her young son came home from school and said that his teacher told the class that it was impossible to count to a million .
Often digital artists used to using wacom tablets will develop their own variant of this same rapid-fire task completion; one hand is occupied with drawing and manipulating the interface with a stylus pen, while the other rapidly bounces between various keyboard shortcuts to swap tools, open and close various interface panels, and alter parameters of the brush without having to move the stylus from the canvas or fiddle with a GUI. With a little practice, it becomes the next best thing to a Brain/Computer Interface, allowing tasks normally requiring clicking an icon or digging through a menu to be executed instantaneously simply by twitching one's off hand properly.
Since its also fairly easy to type with both hands while holding a stylus, and a stylus can do anything a mouse can, many users fall out of the habit of the right hand drifting away from the keyboard to the mouse. Some artists get so used to working this way that they habitually use keyboard shortcuts to perform even tasks that would be completed faster by reaching over and using the mouse!
One advantage to being a fast typist, being left handed. QWERTY Keyboards have most of the most common letters on the left side of the keyboard (A, E, D, R, S, T), so lefties have their more coordinated and limber hand covering them.
It is very common among translators working on very simple, standardized or well known texts (especially when translating into their native language) and writer or journalist who simply type the text they have composed earlier. In both cases such people can use a maximum writing speed for a prolonged amount of time.