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Review: Ergo Interfaces Evolution Keyboard 190

I've been using the deskmount Evolution keyboard from Ergo Interfaces on my main work machine for a couple of months now. I've been doing so both because of some chronic wrist pain, and to try actually using the split-keyboard approach to things. What follows are my own personal tribulations and truimphs using said technology.

The keyboard itself, as seen in this older photo, is split and angled, with the touch pad in the upper-left corner of the right-hand section. As you can see from the image, it's a full size keyboard -- complete with numkey area, real function keys, and all that.

The primary difference between the version I tested and this older one is that rather then being mounted on arms of the user's chair, a la the older Evolution, the new keyboard sits on the desk.

There's a whole steel/metal mounting system that you have to install on the underside of your desk. Luckily enough, I use the TJ series desk from Herman Miller, which came with the appropriate mounting system already installed. Otherwise, it'd be a remove-everything-from-desk, flip-over (because the mounting system is heavy) and careful-work ordeal. You need to hold the mount perfectly still while you drill in the eight screws that hold it in place.

However, since I already had a keyboard/mouse mounting tray installed, the tray for the new keyboard fit right in place -- no fuss, no muss. I suspect that it's a standard size, so if you have an average-looking mounting system in place, you may be able to just use that.

Again, the only big difference between this and the other Evolution keyboard is that it's made for the desktop, rather than chair mount. Doesn't sound like much, does it? Believe me, it is. One my big complaints with the chairmounted Evolution was that you couldn't roll your chair over to another part of the room, because of the length of the cables hooked to the computer. And moving the arms of your chair loosened the screws holding the keyboard in place. Over the six months or so of Rob using it, the screws slowly stripped till they could barely hold the keyboard up. The desk mount with this version makes a big difference in this department -- far less hassle.

My other big complaint about the keyboard, though, hasn't gone away: the mouse sucks. It's a small touchpad surface, and the mouse buttons are horribly non-responsive. It's also a two-button mouse, so you have to chord for the 3rd button, and having non-responsive buttons means that cutting and paste becomes a difficult process, under any *nix. And because the pad is so small, you really have to turn up the sensitivity to be able to move around at 1024 x 768. There was software included with it, but for Win9X only, so that didn't really help out much.

So, the mouse is frustrating. The desk-mount fix is good, but I'm switching back to a more regular setup, until the mouse situation gets better. But if you have do wrist problems, or want to take an ergonomic approach before they appear, this keyboard is well suited for that. And if you are running mostly Windows, then the mouse issues become less of any issue -- no need for the 3rd mouse button, and the software on the disks will mean better support.

You can find more information out from:
Evolution Keyboard

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Review: ErgoInterfaces Evolution Keyboard

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    You might note that these keyboards are made by Kinesis [], and can be purchased from them online. I use a Kinesis contoured keyboard, which is great. There is a lot more information on kinesis' site than on the site mentioned in the story.. go there, fool
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I tried this. When I tried this I ended up with a control key that I'd need to hit twice to use/unuse. Kind of awkward to describe, but most keys (abcde) are "on" when you hit them, and "off" when you release. the caps lock key is on when you hit it, and off when you hit it a second time. How'd you get around this?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here's what you're looking for []
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Simple..put your rig in a Faraday cage, you get the added bonus of secutiy form those who you don't really want listening to the emf's your wired keyboard produces already!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think every programming language should have its own keyboard layout. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    better link, the author's is too general [] Not a karma whore!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I can think of a few...
    win + e: Runs Windows Explorer, great when you need to access the file system fast.
    win + r: Does what you can do keeping my hands near the home row.
    win + d: Minimizes/Restores all visible windows. Good for clearing screen clutter.
    win + f: Opens the Find dialog. Hell, that's just convenient.
    win + m: Minimizes all visible windows. (I never use this one.)
    win + break: System Properties sheet. Good for a quick peek at system resources, manipulating hardware, etc.
    All I need now is something like win + c for a command prompt or something... =)
    I sometimes use the context menu key as well, usually to make new folders in explorer:
    context, w, f.
    While not useful for everyone, they make life that little bit easier. When I was in the middle of cleaning my MSNatural (say what you want about their software, but their hardware kicks ass.) I was using my good 'ol IBM klunker. The lack of those keys tooks seconds off my life!
    Seriously though, they do have their uses, and I'd rather have them than not.
    Beyond that, can't we capture the key codes and map them to something in *NIX? Maybe make it another meta key?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Create new win-key shorcuts with this:
  • Here here, the Kinesis Essential keyboard is great. I can touch type numbers with ease, and it has a nice subset of a keyboard just including the actually useful keys. There might be a couple problems for some people, though:
    • My girlfriend hates it. She never uses it enough to really learn it, so it's just annoying to her
    • It really feels best when I type with it on my lap. I don't know if you'd get the same benefit if you have it sitting on your desk.
    • It has a really wimpy Escape key. I find this really annoying. And I don't know what it is about xmodmap, but every attempt to map the Insert key or other not-so-useful key to Escape ends up failing.
    • The function keys are all little and wimpy, but that's pretty appropriate since I use almost no function keys during the day. The windows keys are almost inaccessible (some random keys when in keypad mode), which would be annoying on Windows since you won't be able to use all the keyboard shortcuts that will make your hands happier. But I'm sure there's some xmodmap-like program for Windows you could use to fix this.
    • You still have to hit shift with your pinkies, and so my pinkies are the first fingers to get tired. But Control, Alt, space, delete, backspace, and enter are all done with the thumbs, so it's still a lot better.
    • While there is a button to put the keyboard in keypad mode (where the right side acts like arrow keys or a number pad), it's rather lame. Worst part, the space becomes a zero, so if you want to type spaces with your arrows or numbers, you'll have to switch back and forth (which would be too annoying to bother). This usually isn't a problem, but when using certain games that don't allow you to remap keys it is very very annoying (I have another normal keyboard sitting around, though).
    • OTOH, with games that do allow you to remap keys (first person shooters, particularly), it's really nice -- you have reliable access to quite a few keys from one hand, much better than a normal keyboard (especially because of the numerous thumb keys).
    Still, highly recommended. I think it's definately a step up from the MS Natural-style keyboards, and is fairly non-intrusive. While it takes a little while to learn (less if you already practice proper touch typing), it's entirely worth it if you type a lot (and who here doesn't?) I'd choose the Essential over the Maxim or similar conservative split-keyboard design any day, and it's entirely worth the money.

    The keyboard is pretty good quality, but after several years mine is starting to have some problems with some keys repeating too much (like I hit the backspace once and the computer gets two signals). Still, good quality.

  • What I would love is some place that has a large number of these setup and for a modest fee you could go try them all. The problem is that what is perfect for me may suck for you and vice versa. It would be very nice to be able to test drive keyboards first.
  • Why is it everybody assumes that mice are only used right-handed? Although designed right-handed, my MSFT IntelliMouse (not the one with the thumb button) works quite well with the left hand, but this keyboard doesn't even offer the option of using with the other hand. I'm actually right-handed, but use the mouse with the left hand living the other free to type or write. This keyboard would just annoying me as I would be constantly moving my hand from the mouse to the navigation keys (which I generally find are much faster and accurate).
  • WARNING: using arm rests while typing can cause severe injury! I actually would rest my arms on them while typing and this led to tendonitis at both of my elbows. This is a very common injury and incredibly easy to avoid. If you have arm rests, just be sure to lower them to a point that they will not even brush your elbows/arms while typing.

    A good source of more info would be It's not carpal tunnel syndrome [] or the typing injury faq [].

  • I thought that it was because I have abused the keyboard a bit, but my e's are repeating sometimes now. Might be a design flaw.

    Also, one thing I forgot to mention is that the shift gets 'stuck' sometimes. It always has from the time I first had the keyboard. I have gotten so used to it that I have forgotten it, but it does still irritate me sometimes. Apparently this is not normal behavior and Kinesis offered to fix it for free, but I never bothered to send it in to them.

    Your other comments are quite accurate. I also keep a 'normal' keyboard around for the games that don't remap keys well.

  • by Malor ( 3658 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:20AM (#255965) Journal
    Based on recommendations from a prior Slashdot article, I bought a Kinesis Ergo. At the time they were in Fry's for about $200 (the cheapest model). Fry's doesn't seem to have them anymore; you may have to order them from Kinesis.

    The Ergo is shaped like a Microsoft Ergo keyboard in reverse; instead of a RAISED section for each hand, it has two SUNKEN sections, a bit like you took an ice cream scoop to a regular keyboard. Each key is at a slightly different angle and height. This makes it very difficult to type on at first. It took me probably about a week and a half before I was back up to acceptable speed with it, and probably most of a month before I was back to 100%. But, I kept improving -- the design of the keyboard makes it easy to feel mistakes. At this point, I make fewer typos, type faster, and experience much less wrist discomfort. It is a thoroughly superior solution. And I have no problem at all switching between standard 'flatties' and the Ergo. I don't even notice it.

    I bought mine two years ago. At the time they still all used the older, large keyboard plug. I don't know whether or not they have been updated.... if not, you will need an adapter cable to use it with any machine that is less than 3 years old.

    Yes, $200 is a lot to spend on a keyboard, but it's a lot less than it costs to fix your wrists. And these seem very well built.

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:34AM (#255966) Homepage
    Of course, if people were a little more aware of ergonomics, maybe we could prevent the injuries in the first place.

    Well, it's actually not as simple as that. What's "ergonomics"? There's a ton of definitions, but basically, it's the science that studies how people work. How does being aware of that science prevent injury?

    I think what you're getting at is that more people need to go out and buy "ergonomic furniture," but really there is no such thing in the sense that you imply. That is, no one chair is going to be perfect for everybody to prevent injury. The real key to ergonomic furniture is to find furniture that will let you adjust its positioning in as many ways as possible. That's about it.

    Yes folks, what I'm saying is that you can buy a Herman Miller chair and still end up with RSI. Awareness of ergonomics is not so much the issue. Awareness of the potential for injury is. Far and away the #1 factor in preventing RSI, and even in reversing some level of RSI, is not new furniture -- it's change in work habits.

    And, in the event you feel like reading about some folks who probably aren't much older than you (and may be younger) who have indeed already developed what may be permanent injuries, read on. []

  • The studies you are refering to are really economic studies. These studies do not refute the ERGOnomics of the Dvorak layout which is superior to qwerty keyboards. That is not a hard claim to make. The keypress frequency numbers speak for themselves.

    I have used a dvorak keyboard. My typeing speed never increased but I can type for longer on a Dvorak keybord before my hands and wrists get tired. You should try one.

  • by otis wildflower ( 4889 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:43AM (#255970) Homepage
    ... and while I found myself typing as fast or faster than I did with a normal kybd, I ended up chucking it for a few reasons.
    • The trackpad is HORRIBLE !!! This keyboard, more than any, really needs a touchpoint. The whole point is to NOT extend your wrists, and moving to the trackpad always had me looking down at it and throwing off my typing. I ended up just buying a M$ mouse and not connecting the trackpad.
    • The keyboard itself is pretty tough, but the fastener to the armrests was lame (part bad fastener design, part flimsy armrest), and one of the "keypads" fell off after about 3 weeks. The hole it was bolted into had stripped and I needed to buy a nut/bolt combo to refasten it. Oh, also the palmrests were pretty shoddily glued on, and they fell off after about 3 weeks of constant use.
    • Its mounting location means you often cannot push your chair under your desk. In a space-constrained office, this is murder.
    • Obviously, you have to type everything into your computer or get out of your chair and let someone else hunt-and-peck. Not necessarily a bad thing (nor insurmountable once USB was solidified) but quite inconvenient at times.
    • It has some complex internal macro capability, which ended up freaking out on me at one point, and I could not get the kybd to reset satisfactorily. I was using it under Linux only at that point, and they didn't have linux support for the macros.
    • It wasn't available in USB at that point, and now that I'm a USB nerd (Linux/Mac component sharing) I find that to be sadly limiting. I bet a USB kybd/mouse would work on one of the new USB Sun workstations, though I would still want my Type 5..

    It's a really cool kybd, but there are some pretty big caveats IMHO and I would definitely not recommend it except in very particular circumstances..

    HTH, HAND... (omigod, Tube Tunes strikes again.. The Punky Brewster theme just popped up in iTunes... :ppp)

    Your Working Boy,
    - Otis (GAIM: OtisWild)
  • On Windows NT, try this:

    ctrl2cap from SysInternals []

    I install this on every NT machine I have to use. It's wonderful! Works great. Patches things at the kernel level so you never have to worry about that pesky control key being in the wrong place, or capslock wrecking your code.

    mmmm. It's an amazing piece of 'ware. :)

  • by Luke ( 7869 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:20AM (#255974) Homepage

    Dvorak International []

    Makes you wonder why we even bother with QWERTY anymore..

  • AMEN! :-)

    I use a Microsoft Natural Elite keyboard, and believe me, after you're used to that keyboard going back to a regular keyboard is totally not fun at all.

    I think the reason why is because on the Natural keyboard you type without angling the wrist, and when you go back to a regular keyboard the need to angle the wrist makes a regular keyboard feel very uncomfortable and cramped in comparsion.

    By the way, another thing that really helps to cut down wrist problems is to get yourself a chair that has adjustable height. It makes a huge difference in terms of proper wrist position, too.
  • What I find interesting is that while everyone gripes about Microsoft software, they all love Microsoft-branded mouse pointers and keyboards. The latest MS Intellimouse and Intellimouse Explorer standard mice and their latest trackball pointers are flat-out excellent units, in my opinion.

    I use a MS Natural Elite keyboard, and after getting used to it going back to a regular keyboard was totally no fun: it felt unnatural and cramped in comparison.
  • From what I know, most large computer manufacturers either use Mitsumi or KeyTronic keyboards.

    But most of them offer the option to upgrade to a Microsoft keyboard at a pretty low price.
  • If you're an X11 user, look up some of the functions of xmodmap. This will enable you to bind the ever-annoying "Caps Lock" into another "Control" key. I have my own laptop keyboard altered this way and it should work on any keyboard that doesn't implement the "Caps Lock" in pure hardware.
  • by tuffy ( 10202 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:23AM (#255982) Homepage Journal
    Here's what I've placed in my .xsession/.xinitrc (yanked from the xmodmap man page):

    xmodmap -e "remove Lock = Caps_Lock"
    xmodmap -e "remove Control = Control_L"
    xmodmap -e "keysym Control_L = Caps_Lock"
    xmodmap -e "keysym Caps_Lock = Control_L"
    xmodmap -e "add Lock = Caps_Lock"
    xmodmap -e "add Control = Control_L"

    And this is working for me right now. (GNOME/KDE users might need to place these in a different file) If that doesn't work, try adding:

    XkbOptions "ctrl:nocaps"

    to the keyboard segment of your XF86Config file. And if that doesn't work, you might have an oddball hardware-caps-lock type keyboard (which some Powerbooks use, and probably others) that might not be bind-able. In that case, try another keyboard, perhaps.

  • by tuffy ( 10202 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:20AM (#255983) Homepage Journal
    These guys [] make non-Windows keyboards with pride. And the best IBM ThinkPad lines ship without Windows keys to this day. So yes, fortunately for all of us, somebody still produces MS-free keyboards :)
  • At one time I was experiencing pretty severe wrist paint that would last for days or weeks at a time.

    I tried wrist rests, had ergonomic keyboards (which I still use) etc. etc. but to no avail.

    After experimenting for quite awhile I was talking to one of my coworkers who had had similar problems. She had went to her doctor who had suggested she try making sure she had a good chair and was sitting up straight rather than slouching.

    Worked like a charm for her and for me. I normally don't experience computer related wrist pain at all anymore unless I let myself start slouching - then within hours I'll notice the pain start up again.

    Just kind of figured I would throw it out there for everyone who slouches in their computer chair and experiences wrist pain..

  • by Zico ( 14255 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:06AM (#255988)

    It's not claustrophobia, but that's the way they make me feel having to keep my hands and arms in the same position all the time. I've got to switch up at times and put my feet up with the keyboard in my lap, or other things which vary it up every now and then. I do use the big one-piece split keyboards, like the Microsoft Natural keyboards, because the finger positioning is so comfortable, but when they're stuck in one place, it drives me nuts.


  • My room contains boxen with the following keyboard layouts:
    Sun Type 5c
    Old IBM XT/AT (F-keys on side, good ctrl key, etc)
    NeXT non-ADB
    Standard 101-key with big backspace and little \
    Standard 101-key with little backspace and big enter
    Old Mac (pre-PPC) PowerBook
    Oddball PC laptop
    Apple Extended II
    And you think -you- have problems? :P
  • by Pope ( 17780 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:46AM (#255990)
    (with apologies to Jack Burton)

    One of the biggest problems I've seen are people who type while resting the heels of their hands ON the damn wrist wrest things! That's the exact opposite of what you're supposed to do!
    While I miss my recently-departed Apple Ergonomic Keyboard, the two biggest things I've done to help prevent this sort of thing from happening are:
    a) get a Tensor bandage for my right wrist for mousing, and
    b) type correctly! Your hands should not be resting on anything while you type, but in a neutral position with the fingers bending down.

    You can spend a fortune on fancy keyboards and desks, but learning how to type properly is cheaper and more effective in the long run.
    Hell, take a typing class.


    Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Strength! Monopolies offer Choice!
  • by MsWillow ( 17812 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:37AM (#255991) Homepage Journal
    While the angled, split keyboard may be "ergonomic", that only works if you're a fully-functional typist. I never really did learn the "proper" way to type, and for me that turned out to be a good thing, too.

    After I came down with multiple sclerosis, my whole right side stopped working, and now I'm typing everything left-handed only. It's hard enough using a "normal" keyboard, but anything like this, especially with the mouse-equivalent touchpad on the right side, would be very hard for me to use, carpal tunnel or not.

    I rather suspect the unit would be equally annoying to anybody who is left-handed, too. *sigh* Until the designers start to realise that we're not all 6' tall, fully able-bodied right-handed people, we'll keep seeing these gadgets touted as "easy-to-use", when for quite a few people, they really are a step backwards on that front.
  • The Logitech trackman Marble FX was my favorite pointing device until the the Microsoft Optical trackball came out. It has more buttons, it's black, I have less wrist pain, and it's only $32 at It has better response than the Logitech one too, you can actually use it for Quake.

    Ever since I switched to the Microsoft one, my wrists have been pain free. Previously, after a day of work, it felt like someone smashed my wrist with a hammer.
  • by Levine ( 22596 ) <levine&goatse,cx> on Monday April 30, 2001 @01:49PM (#255996) Homepage
    I tried that keyboard awhile back - while it was still the chair-mounted version. Apart from the hushed oohs and aahs of my visiting friends, it was terrible. I was constantly rolling too far from the computer and snatching the cables out of the machine.

    Live and learn...
  • The problem with switching to dvorak is that you probably don't only use one machine, do you? I regularly have to sit at other people's machines. I'd hate for my qwerty typing to devolve into nothingness. Likewise, when people sit at my machine they're already confused (I have a Happy Hacking keyboard) which sometimes causes trouble (such as when the sysadmins need to sit at my terminal).

    My solution to wrist problems has been to get up and walk away every 15 minutes or so. I don't code at 10hrs at a stretch like I used to.

  • by SeanAhern ( 25764 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:28AM (#255998) Journal
    I've had one of these keyboards, the chair-mounted one, for about two years now on five different computers. I love this thing. In fact, I'm typing this comment using one.

    I had some pretty bad numbness in my left arm, culminating in shooting pain from my elbow all the way up to my shoulder. After going through an evaluation of my workspace by an engineer, I did some research on the net and decided I needed a better keyboard.

    This keyboard, while not perfect, has been the primary reason that I have not had any numbness or pain in my arm for about two years now, I believe.

    Yes, the mouse is kind of annoying. But I don't find that it has the lack of sensitivity that the original poster mentioned. The lack of a middle mouse button is very annoying. On a Linux box it's not so bad, since I can chord. But on an SGI it's just a royal pain. Luckily I can use a combination of tools to map a middle mouse button to the "Windows" key. Heck, with the right window manager, I even move the mouse around using VI keys plus a modifier!

    I haven't experienced the problem that the original poster did about the range of the chair. My experience has been that the cable is pretty darn long. I haven't had it constrain my chair at all when wheeling around my office. The two portions of the keyboard swing down next to the arms of the chair, and hitting the Scroll Lock key four times makes accidental hits of the keyboard not get sent to the computer.

    Hooked up to a KVM switch so I can run 2 or 3 computers makes this thing a blast to use.

    As for cost...a couple hundred dollars is chump change compared to the cost of physical therapy. If your employer is serious about ergonomics, he shouldn't even blink about getting you something like this. The seriousness of repetitive stress injuries and the shortage of computer scientists means that he should jump at the chance to keep you happy and healthy.


  • by bcaulf ( 30350 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @01:07AM (#256001)
    I have experienced some significant wrist and hand pain for about two years. My best finds so far:
    • 3M Renaissance Mouse []

      This joystick-shaped mouse is the most comfortable pointing device I've ever used—better than the Marble FX Trackball or the Wacom pen tablet. It was formerly sold as the Anir Mouse until 3M bought the rights. I hope they sell millions of them. They are about $45.

    • Repetitive Strain Injury : A Computer User's Guide []

      This book has useful things to say about workspace design, posture, stretching and breaks.

  • A few years ago my hands also started to hurt. It was about that time that this article [] (I believe that's the one) came out here. After reading a bunch about all the keyboards and looking into them I also picked up a kinesis ergo. It was the best money I've ever spent on my computer and close to some of the best money I've ever spent. I would glady pay again in an instant.

    I love it. I also started to use xwrits. I find that I don't need it anymore but if things start to hurt it comes back in a hurry. If you're hurting I'd recommend a kinesis without reservation.

    I actually got a qwerty/dvorak but haven't switched to dvorak. Unix seems to be just too optimized for qwerty. If I really started to hurt again I'm sure that I might try though.
  • by lushmore ( 41101 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:20AM (#256008)
    This keyboard is made by Kinesis Corporation [], maker of other excellent ergonomic products like the Maxim [] keyboard I'm using right now. I've coveted the Evolution [] for some time now, but as the reviewer says, the trackpad sucks, and because the keyboard is so wide, your mouse is far enough away to become an ergo issue in itself. My Maxim doesn't have a pesky numeric keypad, so my trackball can snug in close where I don't have to reach to far for it.
  • by tjackson ( 50499 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:05AM (#256011) Journal
    ErgoInterfaces didn't make that keyboard. Kinesis [] did. Give them the credit. Kinesis Made it, ErgoInterfaces is just distributing it. Kinesis is the King of countour keyboards. You shouldn't be surprised that they made this one.
  • long durations of time, usually when I have to go to the bathroom.

    That should clear up if you get more fiber in your diet.
  • by n8willis ( 54297 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:40AM (#256014) Homepage Journal

    For some reason, reading this article reminded me of the NewsRadio episode where Dave berates Bill for putting off work on his "Real Deal with Bill McNeil" commentaries until the last minute, whereupon he always ends up complaining about the inadequacies of various objects in the booth....

    Bill: Well, I for one thought last week's piece, "Microphones, Why Do They Have To Be So Close To Your Head?" helped a lot of people!

    I probably have that quote all wrong, though....


  • by theaphila ( 56090 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:13AM (#256015)
    i found that my qwerty typing did not seriously suffer after learning dvorak. there's about 1 min. of lots of backspacing when i first try to switch over, then i'm fine. I have a mouse binding on my background to switch maps for admins, and nt even has a button on the taskbar.
  • For anyone looking for GOOD wrist rests check out the 3M ones. Not the cheap ones you see in stores though. I have to order these and now have them at work and home, and have gotten many others to order them after using them.

    I know sells them. The part number for the keyboard rest is WR510 and the mouse is WR511. These are the gel type rests, but not the cheap feeling/looking ones you normally see. I've used the set at home for several years now, and only need to replace it because I busted the cover with a pen. :)

    I started getting dull wrist pains before using these and now I don't. Another good change I made was going to a good trackball. Yeah, they take a week or two to really get used to, but my wrists feel MUCH better now and I'm just as accurate and fast on the trackball as a mouse. I went with a good optical Logitech with the thumb roller.
  • by 0xA ( 71424 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:41AM (#256017)
    I started having some issues with wrist pain about a year ago. I did some reading on the different types of wrist problems you can get and came to the conclusion that my problems were mostly realated to muscle fatigue in the wrists.

    I went out and bought a Microsoft Natural Elite (USB without the extra idiot buttons) and started using it at work 100% of the time. My problem actually became worse for a couple weeks, I had to take more breaks in order to shake out my wrists and relax. After I got used to it though, wow. Not only do I rarely get sore from typing but my speed and acuracy has increased quite a bit as well.

    Anyone having trouble with this type of thing should really give one of the MS keyboards a try first. They're not for everyone but compared to the other stuff on the market they are really cheap.

    One thing you might want to keep in mind, once you get used to one of these keyboards you will absolutely hate anything else. I can't type on a standard keyboard at all anymore, it just doesn't feel right. I had to buy one for home and I also bought an extra one a little while ago because the the ones without the idiot buttons are getting harder to find.
  • by LynchMan ( 76200 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:09AM (#256019)
    When I started to get the mentioned wrist/hand pains, instead of buying a funky keyboard, I just switched layouts. DVORAK as worked wonders for me, typing is no longer painful and is actually easier....

    But then, the learning curve is greater than just buying a new keyboard. Hm.

  • by Miles ( 79172 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:20AM (#256022) Homepage
    My previous post seems to have been lost so:

    Here's a link that looks at some of the arguments
    against the Dvorak layout.

  • Look, this might not be news, but I think that if Hemos has a high enough interest in this sort of thing, then Hemos should be able to post whatever the fsck he wants.

    I, personally, found the article interesting, and having recently bought a (used) MS Natural Keyboard (only $10!) and seeing the benefit of proper ergonomics, I have to say I wish I had bought it sooner. Unfortunately, my workplace still uses the old style, and it's hurting my wrists as I speak...

    That's just the way it is

  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:12AM (#256024) Homepage Journal

    I'm not trying to sell you on either layout, but there's lots of misinformation out there on the QWERTY/DVORAK issue.

    One, QWERTY was not designed to slow you down. It was designed to alternate between areas of the striker array, so that it wouldn't jam. A well-oiled qwerty Underwood would allow typing speeds to exceed 100wpm. Of course, electronic keyboards have no striker swing time, so they can allow higher speeds, but that doesn't prove the qwerty was designed to slow you down.

    Two, it's an urban legend, unproven, whether the QWERTY layout intentionally put all the letters of the word 'typewriter' on the top row. The theory is that this was for untrained salesmen showing off the new device. This may just be a coincidence, same as the word 'stewardesses' can be typed using just the left hand.

    Three, the DVORAK layout won't save you from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Two things affect it: the constriction of the carpal tunnel itself, through flexion of the wrists to unnatural angles, and the force applied to carpal tendons by your typing strength. Keep your wrists straight and off the work surface (not resting on those dumb wrist rests!), type at a natural sustainable rate, and take 30-second breaks now and then to exercise your eye muscles and rest your hand tendons. Few jobs require you to type every moment of the day.

    Four, the DVORAK layout has no conclusive evidence of speed advantage. There are fast typists on either layout: whichever layout works for you is the one that's best for you. If you touch type less than 60wpm, you probably shouldn't look for a new layout to improve your accuracy.

    If you're looking to improve your typing speed, this is the training technique that works for almost any mental-physical activity: find a way to exercise the skill without thinking about it. Your medulla oblongata is easier trained when the cerebrum doesn't get involved. Learn to catch by socializing with Dad, not by watching the ball. Learn to type by typing in MUDs or chat-rooms; the need for speed to do or say something in a timely fashion will force your hands to train themselves, in a way that conscious effort never will.

  • all of the articles i've seen that dismiss claims of Dvorak keyboards are only dimissing the claimed speed benefits, and the legends of "puposeful inefficiencies" of the QWERTY. they say nothing of the benefits of Dvorak with regards to RSI, which is the topic of this article. the bottomline is that Dvorak is no faster than QWERTY, but it sure seems a lot better on the wrists.

    - j

  • My solution to wrist problems has been to get up and walk away every 15 minutes or so. I don't code at 10hrs at a stretch like I used to.

    that's what i've started to do. now i take a 45 minute break every 15 minutes. my wrists feel great and i'm a lot more relaxed ;).

    - j

  • by jackal! ( 88105 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:15AM (#256028) Homepage
    Anyone know any manufacturers making laptops with ergo keyboards?

    What about folding/portable/travel ergo keyboards?


  • do refurbished original IBM PC's - the ones with the satisfying klunkiness that a really nice keyboard has.

  • by Sc00ter ( 99550 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:22AM (#256031) Homepage
    What about security? I know the range is short but those logictech's use radio frequencies. No need for the key copy program, just pluck the keystrokes from the air!
  • by NearlyHeadless ( 110901 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:04AM (#256032)
    And if you were to investigate the options, you'd stop using a QWERTY keyboard immediately, because the RSI is caused by non-home-row stretching. I'm actually surprised that a lawyer hasn't won a large class-action using OSHA laws - since the DVORAK keyboard has been proven to be a safer keyboard to use over the long term.
    Is there any good evidence for either of these statements?
  • As someone who suffers on and off from RSI, I find that the pointing device is really the thing that causes my wrists, arms, and fingers to act up.

    That's why I use (and swear by) a trackball. I don't have to move my wrists at all while using it. I can spend hours at a computer, as long as I have a good quality wrist rest and a trackball. However, if I have to do any significant amount of work on a computer with a mouse and no wrist rest, guaranteed within an hour I'll be experiencing a fair amount of physical discomfort.

    BTW, the trackball I use is Microsoft's IntelliTrackball, and I swear by it. (Microsoft did something right for a change!)

    Another big thing is the movement from the keyboard to the pointing device... to minimize the movements, I force myself to use pointing devices with my left hand (I'm right handed - it doesn't take long to become proficient though - this might sound awkward, considering that the MS IntelliTrackball is specifically designed for right hand use, but I use my two outer fingers to move the ball, and my first finger to press the buttons).

    The problem with using the pointing device with your right hand is that to reach the pointing device, you're always forced to reach all the way across the numberpad, which is a considerable distance. By using the pointing device with my left hand, my hand has a much smaller distance to travel.

    Using emacs for many tasks is another thing which helps, especially on Windows running computers. I find that I can minimize, if not eliminate my interactions with a pointing device by using a tool with which I know all of the keyboard combinations for the actions I wish to perform.
  • Not necessarily. I started working with computers in 1981. In 1992, I tried a trackball out at home, and quickly developed RSI, and I've had it ever since. Reason being that moving the ball, for me anyway, involves more finger actuation than the mouse, since positioning the mouse can use arm motions in addition to finger motion. Using arm motion to move a trackball means your hands are then in a different position relative to the trackball, which could make using the buttons awkward.
  • That should clear up if you get more fiber in your diet.

    Sooo... If you light up your shit, do you get fiber-optics then?

  • by Isldeur ( 125133 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:24AM (#256041)

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    The "Wampom Band-dangle super-chute fruit dispenser" is one of today's most modern and efficient fruit cutters. I often wonder how I could have lived without it!!! I bought one for each of my friends! Buy your's today by calling 1-900-212-WAMP or by ordering with the toll-free service(*2) listed below. This offer is not availabile in stores!!! Act now!

    Prices may vary see actual store photo for details this has been a paid advertisement and actors involved may(*3) have been awarded monetary compensation.
  • After I came down with multiple sclerosis, my whole right side stopped working, and now I'm typing everything left-handed only.

    You might want to look at the Half Keyboard [], where the space bar doubles as a shift key to access the keys that would normally be on the other side.

  • Of course, if people were a little more aware of ergonomics, maybe we could prevent the injuries in the first place.

    Although spreading the keyboard helps, most folks could improve the situation by not cocking their wrists back. In the old days, when typing was taught on manual typewriters, there was something called proper 'technique' which involved arching the wrists. Same technique that pianists learn and concert pianists practice as many hours as many of us keyboard. They have the added advantage of a keyboard that is spread out so that they aren't stuck with their index fingers one inch apart all day.

  • by HerrGlock ( 141750 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:00AM (#256046) Homepage
    Takes a couple days/weeks to really get used to it, but once you do it's difficult to go back to the 'standard' keyboard. I would like one in the chair that is IR run instead of wire run, that would eliminate all of the stopppage due to cable running out at other side of room stuff.

    Now I'm going to have to try the Cpt Kirk chair with keyboard installed.

    Cav Pilot's Reference Page []
  • It's not the keyboard shape of style that is the problem, it is the fit!

    The main problem is the positioning of the keyboard, mouse, display, and chair. I became afflicted with tendinitis while use the MS Natural keyboard.

    Taking breaks and icing will help more than a $300 keyboard.

    BTW - I use Northgate and Avant Stellar keyboards.

  • by smack_attack ( 171144 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @07:58AM (#256052) Homepage
    No way I'm spending $300+ for a friggin keyboard, I'll hire someone to type for me first.

  • This is exactly what Bluetooth is for: standardized radio communication between small devices with the encryption built in to the standard. Wires that tie you to an unhealthy position should be removed.
  • That sounds good, but there are a lot of RSI injuries that the Dvorak keyboard can't prevent:

    1) 10-key number entry (done by accountants, office secretaries, etc. All day, every day.)

    2) Mouse control. An astounding number of mouse and trackball set-ups are horridly un-ergonomic, including most varieties of the beloved 3-button mouse. Many of the gadgets sold to help with this problem (like wrist rests) actually make it worse.

    3) Games. No matter what your keyboard layout, serious shooter masters know that you need some form of forward-back under your middle finger, and strafe left & right under your index and ring fingers.

    Personally, I don't think we will have the RSI problem solved entirely until the technolody for brain-operated data entry is developped. Experiments in this area are still in the primative stages, but I think the goal merits the occational grant to univerisities willing to do the needed biofeedback and brain-mapping research.

  • I'm not surprised to see good feedback about the Kinesis keyboards. I got my first (of three, all working still) about ten years ago when tendonitis spreading up my right arm threatened to keep me from working. It's never reappeared. But I did find (when I started using Windows extensively) that mousing could get quite painful. I switched to a trackball, but even the most comfortable for me, the original Logitech Marble, hurt after a while. After a little experimentation (and after reading the discussion of pronation in the Kinesis manual) I built a bracket that lifts my trackball about 30 degrees above the horizontal, tilting it clockwise as I face it. (The "marble" side is lifted about 5 cm.) Hold your hands in the air in front of you and you'll see that they settle at about that angle. The result is not perfect -- the "marble" still demands a fair amount of thumb movement and my fingers are a little more extended than I'd like -- but it's far better for me than any mouse. If my fingers do tire, I often find curling my hand a bit (cupping my hand around the trackball) helps. Of devices I've tried, only the more recent (and more radical) "Marble FX" is nearly as comfortable. I made my first bracket out of a few of the thin steel "knockouts" from computer drive bays, but wood or the odd piece of plastic works well too. Double-stick foam core tape or velcro holds the trackball in place. I've made my contraptions with the old three-button Marbles; they're great for Linux. I suspect the scroll-wheel middle button on the newer ones might be harder to press than the old kind, but I've never used the newer model for long. For me the most comfortable place for the trackball is well forward of the keyboard so I can rest my arm on the table, but I'm sure a little experimenting will show what's best for you.
  • by pemerson ( 179241 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:31AM (#256056)
    There is a wonderful FAQ at [] which has a lot of info about alternative keyboards [] and such. There are lots to choose from, including chording keyboards (a la Infogrip's BAT []) and split keyboards etc. One thing to keep in mid is that the keyboard alone is not a solution. You need to practice good overall ergonomics, and this includes a good desk and chair, as well as taking breaks and repositioning yourself.
  • I started using a kinesis [] contoured keyboard [] about 4 months ago. it was a little difficult to get used to the layout, and yes, it is kinda pricey. However, since I do so much typing, my wrists were starting to really bother me on the standard keyboard. Especially when I was writing non-stop for a couple of hours or so. This keyboard allows me to type incessantly for long durations of time, usually when I have to go to the bathroom. :-)

  • Surprisingly, on the same website for this keyboard, at top of the page, was an interesting link to a brief about Bush signing a law that repeals the OSHA ergonomics standards.

    Dumbya must never really get off his knees, probably why he also cancelled press conferences forever... I feel so good knowing he truly cares about people.

    Here is the blurb from the website:

    Bush Signs Repeal of Ergonomics Program Rule into Law

    March 21, 2001, marked the end of the present battle over ergonomics regulations as President Bush privately signed into law the repeal of OSHA's Ergonomics Program Standard. In a public statement the President wrote, "The safety and health of our nation's workforce is a priority for my administration. Together, we will pursue a comprehensive approach to ergonomics that addresses the concerns surrounding the ergonomics rule repealed today." The statement also said that Bush felt the rules imposed by his predecessor were "unduly burdensome and overly broad."

    Talk of a new set of rules, friendlier to business, immediately emerged. Elaine Choa, the new Secretary of Labor stated that she would consider drafting a new set of ergonomics rules.
    Many political observers believe that Bush must address this issue before the mid-term election cycle two years from now if he is going to gain the support of organized labor, a strong supporter of ergonomic workplace protections.

    Basically the debate is between labor and business groups, where business reports that it would cost $100 Billion to comply, and labor feels it would force business to focus on reducing musculoskeletal disorders.

  • by fantom_winter ( 194762 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:31AM (#256061)
    If you want to reduce your wrist pain, look into the dvorak keyboard. Your fingers will move alot less, and it will reduce the strain, as well as make you a faster typer in general. Here are some links. [] [] []

  • by testing this post []. Pretty impressive.

    My recent fave post, A Tribute to the Greats, [] saved 29m, also 38%. So the savings are pretty consistent!

    However, I must note that I don't truly touch-type, and most of the people I know don't - we look at the keyboard and frequently use the wrong fingers to type stuff. I don't use the "home" row at all! So I'm sure MMMV with Dvorak. Still, I will try it when I've got some time.

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @12:03PM (#256063) Journal
    It would be difficult. IBM tried a "Butterfly" keyboard a few years ago but it didn't sell well so they discontinued it.

    I use only laptops (one at work, one at home) since I'm one of those marketroids. For me the Apple PB G3 (Bronze) is super comfy; my Toshiba Portege is only okay; and my previous Toshiba Satellite was a disaster. I actually prefer the slightly smaller size of a laptop keyboard (I hate the MS Natural Keyboard and others that split the hands), but I really prefer the extra springiness and depth that the Apple has.

    (Not to turn this into a "Buy a Mac" post, but...)

  • keeping the keyboard low enough, so that when I sit up straight and let my arms hang down loosely, my elbows are still at >= 90 degree angle. I use the microsoft ergo keyboard (30$ or so), which I am quite happy with.

    See page in my .sig for lots of other things I did to conquer my repetitive strain injuries.

  • Whoa! I've never heard of a DVORAK keyboard. I've only ever used QWERTY (that was easy to type ;-) keyboard. So for others who don't kno what a DVORAK keyboard is like...

    The Dvorak keyboard was named for its inventor, Dr. August Dvorak.

    DVORAK []

    Pinky: "What are we going to do tomorrow night Brain?"
    But you need that menu key for when you finish building up that new computer only to find that windows with all its power and dedicated keyboard keys can't see the friggin mouse.

    But I'm not bitter.
  • by blamario ( 227479 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:07AM (#256077)
    Why, o why, must every keyboard have those annoying three keys I never use, and in the worst possible place too? I tend to use Alt keys a lot because I use Brief-compatible editors. My keyboard at home is (at least) 15 years old IBM, weighing about 4 kg. But whenever I'm forced to work on some other place and on a newer keyboard I lose half of my time struggling with those damn Microsoft-devised productivity killers.

    Does anybody produce MS-free keyboards any longer?

  • by helixblue ( 231601 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:36AM (#256080) Homepage
    In June of last year, I ran into a scary situation. After a long programming binge, I found myself unable to type for more then 20 minutes without having pain for the rest of the day. I had switched to a Natural Keyboard in 98 which let me off the hook for a while, but..

    The pain around my knuckles and center of the top part of my hand got bad enough that I had to have an intern read/write e-mails for me at work. And rather then being a senior systems admin, I did staff training for various technical topics. Yippy. I took two weeks off of typing, and did a lot of research. This is what I ended up doing:

    1) Kinesis Contour Keyboard [] . I was highly skeptical of this keyboard, being $250... but my hand pains were enough that I would try anything. I got it for home, the one with dual-dvorak/qwerty caps. I now swear by this keyboard so much that I would rather give up my Athlon and go back to a 486/33 if it was the only way to keep this keyboard. I then had work buy me one. It's hard to learn a new keyboard if it changes depending on where you are :) The primary advantage of this keyboard is no matter what keys you hit, your hands never move. Things that don't move, don't get stressed. I've also got some good photos [] of it's inards and some closeups.

    2) Dvorak Keyboard Layout [] . I took the dive when I bought my Kinesis and immediately began learning Dvorak. Having my keyboard labeled with dual-dvorak/qwerty keys helped me a lot. Un-learning 12 years of QWERTY was by no means easy, but worth it. It was very rough to learn (took about 3 weeks to get back to normal speed), but because your fingers don't have to move as much for english words, my fingers are under a lot less stress. Doesn't help much with perl though, but Ruby []'s nicer syntax means my hands contort less anyways. Oh, you don't lose your qwerty skills. Whenever I type on a normal keyboard, my hand things qwerty. It associated Dvorak with the Kinesis keyboard.

    3) Contour Systems Perfit Mouse [] . This was almost as important as the keyboard. It amazed me what a difference this made. These mice are custom to your hands. I got two 3-button mice for 7-inch hands, one lefty and one righty. I use the left handed mouse at home (my natural hand), and the right handed at work. It took some training on my right hand, but the balance makes it much less hurtful. I still get pains going to Microsoft mice or trackballs. I can't stress how excellently designed these are for your hands. Rather then pushing the end of your finger to click, you apply a very light pressure in the middle of your fingers. Less movement is less stress is less pain.

    4) xwrits [] . This is software to remind you to take keyboard breaks. You can install it straight from /usr/ports/deskutils/xwrits in FreeBSD. This is the .xsession command line I use:

    xwrits typetime=50 +finger=japanese +clock +mouse +beep +breakclock +multiply +top &

    I'm going to have to set it so that locks me out of my workstation soon. I often will type "killall xwrits". Anyways, that's what I ended up doing for my situation. I can now type again quite happily, though I still get pains on normal qwerty keyboards like the one I'm on ATM at a friends house. Hand damage really sucks, I miss being able to use laptops without pain. Now I have to drag this Kinesis around.

    IF YOU FEEL PAIN - STOP - TAKE BREAKS - FIX YOUR SITUATION! SEE A DOCTOR!. I cannot stress this enough. Not fixing this earlier has cost me.

  • Since i started using Dvorak (a few weeks ago) i have noticed a significant increase in comfort and a reduction in motion. I've been doing quite a bit of programming, too and it's really nice for that. (Good semi-colon placement!) Just something to think about if you feel that you're not getting all possible performance from your keyboard, or from your wrists and fingers for that matter.
  • by Kraft ( 253059 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:35AM (#256084) Homepage
    I happen to suffer from serious wrist pain [] and being an input freak I decided to take it all the way. Yes, I'm convinced that the Evolution keyboard is better than an old clickety-clack keyboard, but if you want to see some real damage reduction, you have to go extreme.

    I decided to go for a Datahand [], and at around 1500 bux I think it's the most expensive keyboard out there. I'm very happy about it, but I only type at max. 95% of my old typing speed. A little bit frustrating, but worth it. If I use a regular keyboard for more than 20 mins, it's hell. I have also tried the Kinesis Essential [] keyboard, which is much cheaper, but a very good ergonomic keyboard.

    For a while I used a Foot switch [], also from Kinesis, but this was a real waste of money. You have to always have your feet in the same place to use it, and it's waaaay too small - I kept hitting two buttons at the same time.

    Since I still have some problems with my arms, I decided to go for some armrests []. These are movable and kinda cool looking together with the datahand, and although the product is good quality, I don't really feel that they that much. They give a marginal improvement at best.

    Oh, the built-in mouse on the Datahand sux, so I ordered a head tracked mouse [] (after seeing it on /. []) from Eyecontrol, but it still hasn't arrived.

    I personally think that the mouse is the biggest culprit when it comes to wrist problems, but I am still considering using some kinda speech recognition software. Ok, I'm a bit geeky about this, but I'm 23, and I need these hands for many more years.


  • As a programmer, I find that split keyboards are worse than useless.
    I need to be able to type single handed whilst holding manual/magazine/printout in the other.

    insert joke about one-handed typing

  • FYI -- before flipping your desk over to install that heavy mounting hardware, take a good look at the slide rails. This heavy keyboard drawer I purchased looked like it was going to be a similar bitch to install -- until I discovered you could slide the rails completely out. Failing that, you might also try to unbolt the rails from the tray.

    I'd first held that heavy assembly up, but rather than try and drill, or even mark the holes, I only marked the corners for one side. Removing that rail, I then held it up and marked the drill holes, drilled, and installed that rail.

    I then slid the keyboard assembly onto that rail, and supported by the one side, I was easily able to mark the drill holes. I then removed the assembly from the side already installed (being careful not to let the weight bend the mounts on that side), removed the rail on the other side, drilled and installed the other side. The assembly finally slid onto both mounts.
  • Penguin computing's systems come with those lovely Tux Keys instead of Windows Keys. I've been hounding them to sell the damn things wholesale to ThinkGeek so we Windophobes can pry the damn MS Keys off for something more.... enjoyable.

    This has been another useless post from....
  • There's nothing in your post indicating you're a strict proponent of one layout over the other, but I get the idea you don't buy the idea of a supremely better layout in Dvorak.

    There are some studies that refute the benefits of the Dvorak keyboard, sure, but any substantial studies done to date are about as outdated and unscientific as could be. What's there to refute in the fact that less finger travel equals more comfort, equals higher sustainable speeds over longer periods of time, equals higher overall speeds?

    It should interest you to know that the highest ever clocked typist was tested on a Dvorak simplified keyboard. Guiness says so.

    Being educated on this matter, given that I've probably read every QWERTY versus Dvorak article, including the hotly debated Fable Of the Keys, I shouldn't lose sight of the true purpose of the Dvorak layout -- comfort, not speed. Chances are, speed is a direct result of being comfortable at a keyboard, but then again when we say "superiority," what exactly are we comparing? Being specific in this case is key to being objective.

    I was the one that posted the URL at the top of this sub-thread. The numbers that Java applet produce are clear; this is about as close to scientific as a test gets, despite the grey factor of individual human keyboarding potential. One can't help but see this.

  • by Icephreak1 ( 267199 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:57AM (#256096) Journal
    For those among you not easily convinced by simple Dvorak testimontials, here's a Java applet that hands out the breakdown for any sentence or paragraph pasted in, ml
  • by mbessey ( 304651 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:18AM (#256100) Homepage Journal
    As long as you learn to type/use the mouse correctly, you shouldn't need them.
    What a load of crap. The recent epidemic of wrist injuries isn't the fault of the people sitting at the keyboards.

    I mean, really. Some 90% of all the computer keyboards out there tilt in the wrong direction! That's unequivocably the manufacturer's fault.

    Employers have to share a lot of the blame, too. Why don't they buy ergonomic keyboards for everybody, instead of just for those that complain, when it's already too late? Is $200 too much to pay to ensure an employee's good health?

    Yes, it makes a difference how you use the things - sit up straight, take regular breaks, stretch your muscles from time to time. But don't overlook the importance of having the right equipment.

  • by mbessey ( 304651 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:03AM (#256101) Homepage Journal
    If you ever do get CTS or some other RSI, you'll gladly pay whatever someone asks for a device like that. Of course, if people were a little more aware of ergonomics, maybe we could prevent the injuries in the first place.

    Folks, if you spend any significant amount of your workday typing, you owe iut to yourself to investigate your options.
  • I figure this requires a response.

    Having got used to the HHKB, including changing the left meta key to another Fn key, I can get around the Alt-Fn-Ctrl issues just fine (one fingure manages the alt and left meta key together). As I say, I became quite comfortable with the keyboard, and especially liked the close proximity of the Esc key.

    The problems I had was moving to other machines (like going in to the server room and wiping a shutdown message by mistake using Caps-Lock d instead of Ctrl-D. Or getting a "`" when I want to hit escape. These things all become bugging. It simply was more inconvenient and productivity destroying to have to change my "mental state" when using keyboards on different machines, than to conform to the norm. I still maintain a trackball at my workstation though.

    In response to your last comment, I suggest that you re-read my original post. I am afraid that you got the situation reversed. I have Caps-D problems when I am NOT at the HHKB, thus, I was perfectly adjusted to the HHKB.
  • by gus goose ( 306978 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:23AM (#256103) Journal
    The best ergonomic upgrade which could be made is to convert from a mouse to a trackball. My two favourites are the Kingston "Expert Mouse" [] and the Logitech Trackman Marble FX [] (poor link really.).

    Regardless, Trackballs are always in the same place, require far less movement to get accross the screen, are much more precise and accurate, and never get "lost" on the desk. Further, there is no need for a mousepad, and there is less risk of injury. Problem with some trackballs, the same as mice, is that some are right/left hand incompatible.

  • by gus goose ( 306978 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:03AM (#256104) Journal
    I am thr proud owner of a Happy Hacker keyboard. I must admit that got used to it in a hurry, and my productivity in most activities increased.

    Unfortunately, not everyone has a HHKB, and moving from one machine to another introduced huge amounts of frustration. The unix commandline became a pain, vi is a nighmare with me regularly trying to hit ctrl-D to go down a page, but instead hit CAPS-LOCK then D and effectively delete to end of line. Issues like this are a serious drawback.

    Bottom line is that I have retired my HHKB, and endure the less ergonomic but more standard full keyboards.

    If you work in a closed system where you have only one computer, or all your computers have the same keyboard, then go for it. Otherwise, it may become too comfortable, and then yu will not be able to smoothly interface with other keyboards.

    A further example is that I have a laptop with a UK Layout keyboard, and my desktop has a US Layout. I have hat fo install a US keyboard on the laptop otherwise I go mad with @ instead of ".

  • I won't buy any of the so-called ergonomic keyboards until they fix the main problem with the standard keyboard: Based upon an obsolete mechanical need to offset the keys, it's taylored for the right hand but inhibits the left hand. No, I'm not left-handed! Try this simple experiment: Place your hands on the home row (with your left index finger on "F" and your right index finger on "J" -- the keys with the bumps or dimples that help you find the home row). Now press the "U" key with your right index finger without bumping it into the neighboring right-hand middle finger. Good. Now press the "R" key with your left index finger without bumping it into the neighboring left middle finger. Can you? I can't, and neither can anyone I know. That's because the keys are all lined up in diagonal rows from upper left to lower right. I'll buy the first ergonomic keyboard that slants the left-hand keys from the upper right down to the lower left, as they should be.

    What I'm waiting for is a keyboard where I can pull the keys off and place them back down wherever I want them. If I want "A" next to "P" that's my business! If I want the left and right halfs to mirror each other, that's my business, too, and it makes far more sense to me than any of the "ergonomic" layouts I've tried (or seen).

  • I agree! I type non-touch-type at about 60 wpm, which would probably improve if I learned touch-typing, but I code at about 15 cps, which I think would worsen if I switched to touch-typing. Touch-typing wasn't designed for coders.

    My hands have these programmed-in "macros" for coding, where my fingers naturally prepare themselves for some fast-action keypresses, so I can type words like "while" in 0.05 seconds and stuff like that :) Couldn't have those "macros" if I touch-typed.

    And no RSI here either (yet?) even though I've been coding since I wuz a youngin. I take frequent breaks, though.
  • Does anybody produce MS-free keyboards any longer?
    Ask and you shall receive. [] They're not ergonomic, but they seem to be well made descendents of the original ibm keyboards
  • by moronga ( 323123 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:15AM (#256115)
    Disclaimer: I've never use a dvorak keyboard. But there are some studies that refute the superiority of the dvorak keyboard. There's an entry about the dvorak at There are links at the bottom of the page to some articles. Also, for you Straight Dope fans, Cecil has handled the topic as well:
  • by janpod66 ( 323734 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:48AM (#256117)
    Since nobody really fully understands the mechanisms by which RSI happens, the best you can do is to use whatever works for you.

    However, I would distrust the ergonomic judgement of a company that puts a touchpad on a system designed for RSI sufferers; I think touchpads have many problems. It seems to me that a large mouse with foot pedals for buttons would be preferable: you'd get a regular break from typing (as you move your hand to the mouse), and you give your fingers a break (as you can use your arm to move the mouse and your feet for clicking).

    But if you suffer from RSI and have tried a variety of pointing devices, it would be interesting to hear your experience. It might help others avoid similar problems.

  • by Telek ( 410366 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:10AM (#256120) Homepage
    You think the UK keyboard is a hassle, try the French! I had to have my natural keyboard shipped here because I couldn't stand the French layout. To use the numbers you need to use the shift key as well, A,Q,Z,W, and M are in slightly different places, you can't use the right alt-key because it's used to give special characters, but yet it looks just like a normal keyboard so it's impossible to adjust! Why can't we just all get along with a standard? (yeah I know why, but it's more fun to rant)
  • by Telek ( 410366 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:05AM (#256121) Homepage
    as a solution to the cable problem, use wireless!

    and as a solution to the screw problem, use better screws!

    seriously though, I've been using a normal Logitech wireless "natural" keyboard for months, and I used to have hand problems, now I don't! It's great, I have a comfy chair and a lap-desk thing, so I can move all over the place, free of cables. I attached a gel pad to the front of the keyboard (it came with a ?! stupid hard plastic wrist wrest) and it's my saviour. Heck, I even brought it to France with me. Don't need $300USD either, this setup cost me just under $100.

    However, I'm still interested in getting a lazy boy setup! Hook me up with one of those, mounted dual keyboard, computer integrated into the base and a LCD screen that can be moved (via an arm of course) to anywhere in front of my view (i.e. so if I'm laying down I can move it to be in front of me), and I'd pay $$$$$$ for that!

    -- Telek

  • What you want is a Maltron [].

    They make one-handed keyboards just for people like you. They're a little pricey, but you have to admit that they can't exactly spread out their development costs the same way that other companies can with more popular models.

    Until the designers start to realise that we're not all 6' tall

    Actually, dude, I'm 6'3", and the world is not designed for me at all. Chairs, cars, desk height, door ways, door knobs, etc. I personally think the perfect height is 5'11": tall enough to be "tall" and short enough to fit everything well.

  • by (-)eretic ( 444633 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:28AM (#256131)
    Your QWERTY typing won't "devolve" if you learn a different style. You might learn to hate the extra work involved with typing QWERTY versus Dvorak, but I have found it very easy to switch between the two. I learned the Dvorak layout after 10 years of typing QWERTY. It really is easier, and makes more sense. I find that I do much less reaching and can even type some words faster, since there are something like 2,000 English words that can be typed using only the keys on the home row. QWERTY home row A S D F G H J K L ; ---- A O E U I D H T N S DVORAK home row I have had crippling RSI for several years now, so please save your hands and consider learning Dvorak -- and always take regular rest and stretch breaks!
  • by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Monday April 30, 2001 @07:56AM (#256134)
    Fit one to a bean bag? I wouldnt do my coding from anywhere else!
  • I also had RSI symptoms, and was fortunate enough to see several specialists in Silicon Valley who told me that keeping your arms and wrists in the same position is DETRIMENTAL to your condition. The key to healing repetitive stress injuries (especially tendonitis) is blood flow. Holding your arms out even slightly from your body causes your shoulder muscles to contract, which restricts blood flow down your arms, impeding any healing or your RSI. Most "ergonomic" devices involve wrist rests and arm holders that cause you to type by wiggling your fingers and not moving your arms and wrists freely. This also restricts blood flow, but more seriously, it makes your tendons work even harder by making you flex your fingers more than normal. The best way to type is by having relaxed shoulders and by moving your whole arm as you go from row to row on the keyboard. Adopting a piano-playing-like rhythm and movement greatly reduces risk of RSI as well.
  • Hi---I haven't had any problems with pain in my wrists, etc., but have had many friends who have developed RSIs over the years, some so bad that they had to consider changing jobs. I just bought an Interfaces keyboard (split, chair-mounted) and will install it on my Aeron tomorrow. Anyhow, one product which I can really recommend is a free-standing monitor/keyboard stand made by Ergotron (called the Mobile Workstand), It's pretty expensive (around $1000) but it holds both your LCD monitor (in my case a SGI 1600sw) and your keyboard on separate independently adjustable arms. These arms are themselves mounted on a steel pole which is on wheels, so the whole assembly moves around freely. I think that this is a big improvement over putting a monitor on a desk and mounting a keyboard tray underneath it; without the constraint of the desk, one can easily move the whole setup around one's body, etc. I find myself crouching over a lot less. If you need to work on a desk and your computer at the same time, you can wheel it around next to your desk however you please. The Ergotron stand is extremely solidly built (I think that it is designed to be wheeled through hospital corridors), easy to self-adjust, and in every way fun to use. Best, Michael Chwe

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.