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Confessions of a Left-Handed Technology User 267

Posted by timothy
from the sinister-implications dept.
harrymcc writes "Over at TIME.com, I wrote about my trials and tribulations as a left-handed person who uses technology products. An awful lot of them have clearly been designed with the right-handed majority in mind, even when they claimed they weren't. But the good news is that modern smartphones and tablets are very lefty-friendly compared to the devices that preceded them."
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Confessions of a Left-Handed Technology User

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  • by Bill Dimm (463823) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @10:51AM (#41149041) Homepage

    The Microsoft logo [fsdn.com] used for this story is outdated [slashdot.org].

  • Silly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by andy16666 (1592393) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @10:54AM (#41149091)
    As a life long lefty, I can honestly say I've never felt the need to complain because a piece of technology isn't designed for me. I don't find any technology gadget I own to be designed in such a way so as to impede my usage of it.

    I do know lefties who complain constantly about the injustice afforded them, but to be honest I've never been able to empathize with them.
    • by rjune (123157)

      I agree. I'm left-handed and have always used a right-handed mouse or trackball. I can't even use a left handed mouse or scissors comfortably anymore. In some ways using a mouse right-handed helps me work faster. I can click on a pull down menu using the mouse, then press a key with my left hand. (At least until Office went to the ribbon interface)

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm left-handed and have always used a right-handed mouse or trackball.

        This. As a lefty, I can not for the life of me understand how righties mouse and fap at the same time.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        I don't understand the complaints about using a mouse either. Us right handed people are the ones who suffer. Since you want to use the mouse with your off hand, making it much easier to use the phone or take notes with a pen and paper while also using the mouse to do whatever on the computer.

        Left handed people thus get a huge choice in mouse designs while still being able to use the mouse in the hand it should be. While us right handers get a crappy choice.

        Sure for most things lefties get the short end of

      • by ccguy (1116865)

        I agree. I'm left-handed and have always used a right-handed mouse or trackball.

        Well, what's your definition of left-handed? We should start by discussing this. For most people it's "people who WRITE with the left hand" even if you do everything else with the right one.

        I do write with the left, but apparently I do everything else (mouse, knife, and other mundane things) with the right. By the standard definition I'm a lefty but considering that I hardly ever actually write anything down, I don't think anyone who observed me for a few days would call me one.

        • Re:Silly (Score:4, Interesting)

          by realityimpaired (1668397) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @01:13PM (#41151439)

          Well, what's your definition of left-handed? We should start by discussing this. For most people it's "people who WRITE with the left hand" even if you do everything else with the right one.

          Depends... I'm left-dominant, but I write with my right hand. According to my parents, I used my left until I reached grade school, and then switched to the right in order to fit in, because nobody else was using their left and I was being teased. Sports, however, I play left in hockey, soccer, baseball, and golf, and when I train in Jiu Jitsu, I practice both sides equally. I *can* write with my left hand in English (my native language) or French (which I learned to write concurrently with English), but it looks like it was written by a 6-year old. Interestingly, with alphabets I learned later in life, like Japanese, I can use either hand, and usually pick which hand I'm going to write with based on whether I'm writing right-to-left, or left-to-right in order to avoid smudging the ink.

          Does that make me ambidextrous, left-handed, or right-handed?

          (and technology-wise, I don't really care... I have a right-handed trackball mouse right now, so my workstation is set up in a right-handed configuration, but my uncle has his set up left-handed, and I can use it without needing to think much).

    • by neminem (561346)

      Do you count scissors or pens as technology? Cause, as a left-handed person, those are annoying. But I've never had a problem with a phone, laptop, keyboard or printer. I've always used a mouse right-handed, though - I write left-handed, but I'd feel weird putting a mouse in that hand.

      • by Sique (173459)

        I notice my lefthandedness everytime I don't use the number pad. In fact, I never enter numbers with the number pad, because I am so used to the number keys on top of the keyboard, which I reach with my left hand.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Pens? Pens are symmetrical. How would that pose a problem?

        • Unless the ink dries quickly, lefties tend to smear it with the heel of their hand as they move across the page.
          • This. Also, fancy fountain pens draw lines of different thickness depending on their angle - a thicker line when moving up and down, a thinner one when moving sideways. The angle of pen to paper for a lefty is 90 degrees different from a righty; that means that anything that would be a thick line when written by a righty is a thin line for a lefty and vice versa. It's not an issue for normal stuff, but if you ever look at calligraphy written by a lefty it just looks - odd. Backwards.
          • lefties tend to smear it with the heel of their hand as they move across the page

            They do but only because they weren't taught to write properly. My mother is a lefty and so was my grandfather. He wouldn't let her write in that screwed up curled wrist method that most lefties adopt. When she became a teacher it was extremely beneficial - the chalkboard would have been a huge challenge had he not been so adement about forcing her to do it using his method (hand not smearing the writing, paper at an angle).

            The downside was that she was really strong/fast with cursive yet mediocre/slow with

        • The pen itself is symmetrical, but the orthographic system is not. For one thing, with your hand to the left of a pen while writing in English, you drag your hand through fresh ink.

        • I have to buy a higher quality ball point pen that dries quickly. The worse for me are those erasable ink pens. The best I've found so far are the space pens, the ink flows fairly well, they dry fairly fast and they aren't too expensive. Parker pens are even cheaper, and still pretty good, but I have to write a bit more carefully with them.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Do you count scissors or pens as technology?

        Of course. There was no such thing as a pair of scissors before 1500 BC (yes, it's very old technology) and pens before the Indians invented them in 500 BC. John Mitchell of Birmingham started to mass produce pens with metal nibs in 1822, the fountain pen in 1827 and the ball point wasn't manufactured until 1943. Erasable pens have only been around since 1979; I was an adult when that was first marketed.

        I'm not a leftie, but I agree, I don't see how a two handed t

    • Re:Silly (Score:4, Funny)

      by John Napkintosh (140126) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @11:08AM (#41149343) Homepage

      You should suggest that they get together and open a store filled with products which cater to the left-handed people to address this persecution. Some sort of emporium of left-handedness. A leftorium, if you will.

    • by SQLGuru (980662)

      Yeah, I found the whole article pretty bogus. He talks about the left-handed bias in the QWERTY keyboard and switched from a right-handed mouse to a left-handed mouse, killing the benefit. I'm a lefty-favoring-ambidextrous person that mouses with my right because it is a decided advantage. I can mouse and type quite well.

      Also, his caption about Jobs being ambidextrous and wearing his watch as a righty was proof that he wasn't? That's stupid. I've adjusted to using "handed" equipment with the intended h

    • If it was really as bad as this guy seems to think then leftys would become rightys.
      It is not like being gay, it is like not being particularly proficient at a language.

      • by cellocgw (617879)

        If it was really as bad as this guy seems to think then leftys would become rightys.
        It is not like being gay, it is like not being particularly proficient at a language.

        Not really true. There is a well-documented difference in the brain structure of righties vs lefties. That said, anyone can, with some effort, train either hand to do a variety of jobs. After all, musicians (generally) use each hand to perform a lot of tasks in concert [sorry] with the other. I've met several tennis players who succes

    • by Enry (630)

      Mice got me for a while. Figured it out, still going just fine 20 years later.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I think it depends on how well you can manage with your left hand.

      My brother is a lefty, and in school he was practically forced to try to learn to write with his left hand until they got over it. He's fairly dextrous with both hands, and actually golfs like a righty.

      But I know my DSLR camera and several electronic gadgets is set up nicely for a right handed person, and would likely be a pain for a lefty.

      In my case, my left hand has never had much fine dexterity. So if I was suddenly forced to do things l

  • What's the big deal? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm left-handed and I seriously don't see all of the life-challenges that are moaned about in this article and others, whether they concern technology or not. I'm pretty convinced that life as a left-hander is no harder than it would be if I were right-handed.

    • by Pontiac (135778)

      I'm in the same camp.. I can't stand left handed mice. Back in the 80s my dad got me a leftie mouse when I was getting into CAD. I tried it but I couldn't stand it. I was much happier with the right mouse because I was better at typing with my left so I could easily mouse and type at the same time.
      When I was doing desktop support I sometime run across the lefties with the mouse buttons reversed too. Those folks will really slow you down.

  • CD Jewel cases (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ehud42 (314607) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @11:03AM (#41149249) Homepage

    Other than smudging the ink from those awful erasable pens, I never payed much attention to products working or not working for us lefties, until CD's came along. Actually, it wasn't until I watched my right handed friend struggle to open a CD case. Somehow he was awkwardly trying to pry the front open with his right hand, which between the case swinging open against the natural movement of the right arm, and somehow gripping the edges of the lid with his left hand as he held the back, was quite entertaining.

    For me it was natural to hold the back with my right hand (hinge side on my middle fingers, other side on my thumb) and then grab the front with my left hand (fingers/thumb along top and bottom). The case just opened beautifully.

    It is the only tech device I can think of that worked better for us lefties from day one.

    • by Kozz (7764)

      For me it was natural to hold the back with my right hand (hinge side on my middle fingers, other side on my thumb) and then grab the front with my left hand (fingers/thumb along top and bottom). The case just opened beautifully.

      Aside from the fact that CD jewel cases aren't very well designed... I'm right-handed and open CDs exactly the same way you do. My "handedness" never occurred to me while using them.

      Does your right-handed friend also open the cover of books across his body with his right hand?

      • by ehud42 (314607)

        Does your right-handed friend also open the cover of books across his body with his right hand?

        Actually - he probably does. I observe that people hold books with their left hand and then lift the cover/turn pages with their right. It works because the book cover isn't clipped to the body/pages to limit accidental opening.

        I'm not 100% left handed, and have a lot of right handed tendencies (all sports are rh) - I dexterously open books, but sinistrously open CD cases.

    • From your description, I think your friend suffers less from any handedness issue - and more from the 10% rule.

      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Ten%20Percent%20Rule [urbandictionary.com]

      You must be 10% smarter than the equipment you are trying to operate.

    • by Quirkz (1206400)
      Curious. I'm a righty and use the exact same motion as you describe to open a CD case. It's been a few decades since I learned, but I can't recall ever considering it unnatural to do the holding with my right and the moving with my left. It's such a simple action and doesn't require much precision, so the left is perfectly suitable as far as I'm concerned. Or I struggled in the beginning and I've just forgotten over the intervening years.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Your friend is neither intelligent nor dextrous. Lacking dexterity all he would have to do to open it "right handed" would be to turn it upside down. He also is probably aliterate or illiterate, since CDs open the same way books do.

  • Take the gamepad, for instance. You do all the movement control that requires dexterity with your left hand, and use the right to simply bash buttons. For a couple of the very-hard fighting game maneuvers, I find myself crossing my right hand over.
    • From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

      The Famicom was also the first home system to put the directional control on the left. While many arcade systems had the directional control joystick on the left of the buttons, most home systems of the era used joysticks designed for right-handed operation. The division has continued to this day, with computer joysticks typically being designed for use in the right hand with gamepads and arcade joysticks favoring the left hand.

      If Atari had come up with a Gamepad for their 5200 system, who knows, perhaps the standard would have been stick on the right, buttons on the left.

  • It's not that difficult to switch hands, infact it may be better for you in the long run. Many of the users where I work have switch the mouse from right to left because it's more ergonomic.
    • It's not that difficult to switch hands, infact it may be better for you in the long run. Many of the users where I work have switch the mouse from right to left because it's more ergonomic.

      Actually, I do this when my wrist cramps up. I'll just alternate back and forth. But I grew up in a family of lefties and I was taught to do all sorts of crap left handed. For some reason they just assumed I was a lefty until I was like two or three and it became obvious that I was not.

      Still, I get asked if I'm a lefty a lot. Like when I'm using the mouse left handed, or I'm using silverware, or I pull my wallet out from my back left-hand pocket. I still don't have the same dexterity with a mouse left-hande

  • by Anonymous Coward

    One of the photo captions: "Steve Jobs claimed to be ambidextrous, but as this 1981 photo shows, he wore his watch on his left hand -- a tattletale sign of right-handedness"

    Really?! On which hand is an ambidextrous person supposed to wear a watch?

    • by Quirkz (1206400)
      The other other hand, I suppose.
  • So, will lefties demand to drive british cars in the USA? Right now they are forced to operate the gear lever with their non-dominant right hand.

  • by CanEHdian (1098955) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @11:32AM (#41149709)

    This is exactly how I am explaining to everyone what the 'ideal' (so it won't be confusing) side of the road is to drive on:

    Assumptions:
    1. There are two side-by-side seats in front, with a center console for instrumentation.
    2. One sits on the opposite side of the side of the road one drives on (e.g. drive on the right, sit on the left).
    3. Drivers prefer to use their dominant hand for tasks that require the most precise motor control.

    Argument:
    Since the console, which holds the gear shift, climate control, GPS, stereo, etc. is in the centre, it depends on what the dominant hand is for the majority of the population. If that happens to be the right hand, the console should be to the right of the driver, hence the driver is sitting in the left seat. With assumption 2 that follows the car should drive on the right-hand side of the road.

    Lefties can rejoyce themselves in thinking what it would be like for a right-handed person to learn to drive with a standard stick-shift over in the UK.

    • 3. Drivers prefer to use their dominant hand for tasks that require the most precise motor control.

      That task is turning the steering wheel, surely - leaving, in the UK at least, the less dexterous (see what I did there?) hand to do the much simpler task of pushing a stick into a slot.

      Lefties can rejoyce themselves

      Not in public!

      • 3. Drivers prefer to use their dominant hand for tasks that require the most precise motor control.

        That task is turning the steering wheel, surely - leaving, in the UK at least, the less dexterous (see what I did there?) hand to do the much simpler task of pushing a stick into a slot.

        If you were steering with a joystick then I'd agree, but normal car steering wheels (i.e. not racing cars) aren't sensitive enough to need as much precise motor control.

        Not that I'm saying this "proves" drivers sitting on left is best, since 90% of all car controls should be easy to use with either hand. The remaining 10% are touchscreen interfaces like GPS and some in-dash systems displays.

    • by Carnivore (103106)

      I don't think it's too much trouble. I drove in South Africa for a few days and only had one "no hands on the wheel, grabbing at the door for the gearshift" moment. If the pedals were rearranged, that would be a problem but fortunately they are not.

      I usually have the passenger manipulate the climate and audio anyway.

  • by PPalmgren (1009823) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @11:39AM (#41149815)

    Most recent example of a hand bias that hit major headlines. While I doubt Apple made this mistake by using only right-handed testers and it likely had more to do with minimal testing in poor signal areas, this problem manifested more frequently with the way a lefty held their phone.

  • I think the worst thing about it is buying sport equipment. All three of us brothers are lefties, and growing up, we played a lot of sports. A nice set of left handed golf clubs, for example, are almost twice as much for the right handed version if they are even available.

    On an unrelated note, in my first engineering course in college my professor said for all the left-handed people to raise their hands, which ended up being more than 50% of the class. Aside from my own home, that's the only time I've ev

  • I'm ambidextrous. I can screw things up equally with both hands.

    Actually, I'm left handed, but I've never had any issue with right-handed devices.. scissors work just fine for me, etc.

  • Learn to be ambidextrous. It will serve you well no matter which is your dominant hand and it is helpful protection against strokes and such.

  • I'm left-handed and of course have always bought ambidextrous / neutral mice. What puzzles me is why anyone would *want* to use a mouse that was permanently shaped for one hand. I mean, I switch off my mouse hand sometimes when I start to feel tendinitis (such as after a marathon gaming session on the weekend). I can't imagine using the same mouse hand *always*.
  • I'm left-handed and if I want to quickly skim through some magazine or book, I tend to start from the back cover.
  • Most left handed people (such as myself) learn to handle tools and gadgets right handed. It is a right handed world. In a way this is an advantage, as we southpaws do more and therefore tend to have more dexterity using the "wrong hand" than most righties. This tends to make southpaws somewhat ambidextrous. Watch someone doing a repetitious task -- if they're naturally a leftie, chances are they're using both hands. If they're naturally a rightie, often their left arm just hangs there like a piece of m

  • In second grade, my teachers tried to force me to be right handed. (For which I would like to give a personal "thank you". Oh, and "may you burn in hell".) I got terrible headaches and a bad stutter. (I know handedness as a cause of stuttering is now considered controversial. I can only tell you what I experienced.) In fifth grade I switched myself back. My symptoms gradually disappeared. As a result, I never learned to write cursive with my dominant hand, as those years were spent training a hand t

  • by subreality (157447) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @02:17PM (#41152927)

    A few years ago I started setting my desk up lefty: keyboard on the right, mouse on the left. This means that the QWERTY section is dead center and that reaching over to the mouse is a much shorter distance. My typing speed is up considerably and my right wrist no longer bends at a weird angle.

    Retraining to mouse left-handed was easy. It took a few days of being a fumbling klutz but now it's completely natural. Having to buy ambidextrous mice really limits your options though.

    You lefties DO NOT want a lefty keyboard. That just gets you back to the same dysfunction that I had to escape. I want a lefty keyboard. Does anyone know of a lefty keyboard with light clicky keyswitches (Cherry MX Blues are perfect)?

  • I consider myself to be very left-hand oriented. I write, use my mouse/trackpad/trackball in my left, play a left-handed guitar, and golf lefty. I'm a switch-hitter in baseball, but prefer my left, and throw lefty. My shotgun is bottom-eject, because I shoot lefty, too.

    Right-handed tools are the bane of my existence. I hire contractors to do all my home repairs/upgrades that involves power tools. I won't risk it. As a computer-oriented professional, my hands are too important to lose them, or any of my fing

  • I've found that Swype is a notable exception to the original article's statement that mobile is better for lefties. What makes Qwerty so good for lefties on a keyboard is what makes it so terrible for Swype.

    First, the most common keys in Qwerty are on the left, which benefits from the angle at which a right-handed swype-motion attacks. Secondly, when using the right-hand, the keyboard is not as frequently obscured. The thumb always covers the least-used keys, exposing the more frequently used keys (those on

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