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Input Devices Technology

New Keyboard Has Just 53 Keys 638

Enigma5O writes to tell us The Tech Zone is reporting on a new style of keyboard with just 53 keys. Departing from the normal QWERTY keyboard setup the 'New Standard Keyboard' designed by John Parkinson measures just 12.5 inches wide x 5 inches deep x 1 inch thick and is arranged in alphabetical order. The keyboard has been designed with ergonomics in mind keeping all keys within easy reach of the home position. The only question is, will everyone be willing to relearn how to type?
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New Keyboard Has Just 53 Keys

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:47AM (#14307935) Journal
    Ok, I looked at this keyboard and (aside from moving the keys to an abcd format) it seems to use more of shift-like functionality. Each key I see has 5 labelings and I hope to god that the ones I can't make out in white are the numbers because I can't seem to find them anywhere else on this freak of nature.

    I just counted on my own traditional 101-key keyboard 146 or so different values I could want to send to the computer. So let's use that number in a brief analysis of methods we could use to design a keyboard.

    On one hand, you could have a physical key for each and every character/signal you want to send. Yes, even upper case letters would be a key different from lower case.

    On the other hand, you could say that combinations of keys count for sending signals. This assumes the user can depressed keys instantly but this means that for each key, we've doubled the amount of signals we can send. So, the smallest power of 2 above 146 is 256 or 2^8. And this is fine because we have 10 fingers which is more then enough to hit 8, if required.

    However, we don't want a keyboard with a key for every signal and we don't want to have to memorize combinations and press down on keys instantly to obtain the desired signal.

    What we do want is a happy medium.

    Both the 101 and 53 key methods provide that medium, I guess it's just a case of who came first (similar to the problem with Dvorak simplified keyboard [] Which many people have contended is better than QWERTY yet has not taken off like it should have.

    Unless this new keyboard poses some amazing qualities that set it far and above the old design, it's probably not going to take ...

    ... and I'm not seeing these innovative designs, just a need for me to memorize a new key pattern.
    • by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:54AM (#14307969)
      While we're at it, we should all convert to a more sensible language like Spanish. English is just too difficult to master.
      • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @11:08AM (#14308975) Journal
        That's true, spanish is easy to use. Just like mac. French is even easier, and they have a bureau to stamp out unfrench words, keeping it closed and proprietary - windows. English is a bit more open-source. As a result, it seems to have incorporated just about every word under the sun, so really it should only be used by hardcore language hobbyists.
      • Esperanto? (Score:3, Insightful)

        Isn't this what Esperanto [] was invented for?

        It's an engineered language, in the Klingon [] tradition [], but lots easier to learn and pronounce.

        Then again, we could all just learn Klingon and wear lots of leather.
    • by Crayon Kid ( 700279 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:55AM (#14307970)
      The Dvorak layout had a lot of theoretical goodness going for it and still couldn't take over QWERTY. How can this one?
      • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) <> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:42AM (#14308273) Journal
        Yea, I think we're stuck with the keyboards we have, rather than the keyboards everyone thinks we should want. And just from my own perspective, 53 keys isn't anywhere near enough...I get the shakes if I don't have a number pad at least.
        • by happyemoticon ( 543015 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @03:02PM (#14311032) Homepage

          Reforming keyboard design is like trying to reform orthography: noble, logical, and in the words of one of my professors, "Quixotic." QWERTY is at least as stupid and weird in its configuration as words like "through," which has almost twice the letters that it needs, vowels that can have any number of actual sounds (A: ash, calm, able). But as long as we keep writing like this, even though I, a Californian, only understand people in Yorkshire half the time (and that's if they want me to), can read the menus and signs, and I can read texts from 500 years ago even though the language has changed quite a bit. Likewise, I can type on any keyboard without feeling like a boob because it's ABC or Dvorak. Like with Windows and X86, it's all about backwards compatibility and portability.

      • by forgoil ( 104808 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @11:33AM (#14309209) Homepage
        Not to mention that everyone isn't using A-Z either. Here we got å,ä,ö as well, and some languages need even more extra keys. How about creating _one_ keyboard that works for more languages, so we don't actually have to have different keyboards depending on which, fairly similar, alphabet we use?

        And a, b, c, d, e, f is just as random as q, w, e, r, t, y. What we need is an international dvorak that is optimized for a common alphabet for a large number of languages. That probably will be so incredibly good it won't sell more than 2 keyboards. After all, the dumber I find an idea, the better it sells :/
    • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:21AM (#14308119) Homepage
      80-20 rule: not all of those 146 different values you could send are used that often. A good keyboard design would be based on an analysis of what letters and keys are pressed most often (assuming we want to keep the principle of one key per letter, one key for Enter and so on) and have a kind of Huffman coding so that the most commonly used characters are quickest to type.

      Programmers type characters like { } $ ( ) = + more often than the general population. It would be an awesome geek-toy to have a keyboard which promoted these characters to their own keys and relegated those useless squiggles like vowels to Shift-Ctrl combinations ;-).
      • Isn't that what keyboard remapping is for?
      • Ergonomic? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @11:18AM (#14309055)
        "and have a kind of Huffman coding so that the most commonly used characters are quickest to type.

        Exactly. So this guy claiming it's ergonomic is full of crap. Alphabetical layouts are terrible for getting common keys under the home row because they have to use that fixed (arbitrary actually) order. I think QWERTY is bad too, but if we're going to change, lets at least put some letter frequency information into the design.

      • Programmers type characters like { } $ ( ) = + more often than the general population. It would be an awesome geek-toy to have a keyboard which promoted these characters to their own keys and relegated those useless squiggles like vowels to Shift-Ctrl combinations ;-).

        Your awesome geek-toy already exists! It is the French "azerty" keyboard! :-) Check the layout: azerty.png []

        {, (, $, etc are accessible by single key-presses, but to type numbers you have to use shift (who uses numbers anyway)

    • by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:26AM (#14308158) Journal
      Another way to provide a medium would be to say that each letter is composed of exactly two keys pressed at the same time. That is, if you press just one key, nothing happens. This relieves you from having to press all keys at exactly the same time, and gives you n(n-1)/2 values for n keys. So for your 146 values, you'd need 18 keys (17 keys would only provide 136 values, 18 keys provide 153 values). With a keyboard of 3 rows of 6 keys each, I could even imagine that to be useable for one-handed typing. Or maybe a 4x4 pad with two larger keys below. Of course the disadvantage of that approach is that there's no easy way to label the keys, so if you don't remember a certain key combination, you cannot just look at the keyboard to find it.
    • At this point we don't even particularly want a happy medium. I can type pretty effectively on split and non-split keyboards, but it still takes me a minute or two to switch between them. I'd hate to think about getting used to a totally different layout and then having to go and type effectively on somebody else's computer, especially if I only did it occasionally. And no, I'm not going to carry my keyboard around with me. Besides, what if I wanted to let someone else type on mine for whatever reason?
    • On the other hand, you could say that combinations of keys count for sending signals. This assumes the user can depressed keys instantly but this means that for each key, we've doubled the amount of signals we can send. So, the smallest power of 2 above 146 is 256 or 2^8.

      Why are we stuck with binary keys only? There's also:
      • Speed of key press
      • Depth of key press
      • Duration key is held

      Right now most people use duration for repeat, but using it to map a key to shifted form might be ok...i also rather like the ide

  • by Krast0r ( 843081 )
    As many of you will know, QWERTY was actually made to slow typists down (to most Slashdot readers however, it seems to have been ineffective) so an alphabetic arrangement, which was the original arrangement of letters on a typewriter AFAIK, would probably speed typing were anyone to learn it. However, some of you will have heard of the Dvorak keyboard layoyut, this was designed with speed in mind locating the most-used keys in the easiest to reach positions. (More about Dvorak: []
    • I wonder how difficult it would be to figure out a way to take the keyboard I use right now, pop off the keys, put them in the DVORAK position, and just change the programming so it works that way.

      • Not hard at all. []
        • That doesn't help. It leads nowhere when I try doing the Windows XP settings. I can't find that part.
          • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:39AM (#14308255)
            1. Go to Control Panel
            2. Click on 'Regional and language Options'
            3. Click on the 'Languages' tab in 'Regional and Language Options'
            4. Click on the 'Details' button in the 'Languages' tab in 'Regional and Language Options'

            5. Click on the 'Add' button in the 'Settings' tab in 'Text Services and Input Languages'
            6. In the 'Add Input Language' dialog box, check the box labeled 'Keyboard layout/IME:'
            7. The drop-down box below the checkbox will activate. Find and select 'United States-Dvorak', and click OK.
            8. Click 'OK'
            9. Click 'OK'
            10. In the taskbar, find the little keyboard icon near the right side. Click on it
            11. You'll see that you can now toggle between 'English (United States)' and 'United States-Dvorak'.

            That's about as clear as I can make it without screenies. Let me know how it goes.
      • It's easy, that's how I did it. The current keyboard I'm using is actually QWERTY, but I've changed the locations of keys to match DVORAK and then I simply changed my keyboard type in X11 config file. Now I have a fully working DVORAK keyboard :)

        So yeah, just use some tool, like a screwdriver, to pop up all the keys and then replace them to match dvorak.
        Here's some tutorial on how to do it (with nice photos): []

        -- dbg
      • by 47F0 ( 523453 )
        Exchanging the keycaps is trivial on some keyboards. For example, No Big Deal on my IBM Model M - the last good keyboard made. Other keyboards have the keys contoured differently depending on the row they are on, and even if you switch the keycaps around, the different contours feel really uneven.

        Why re-arrange anyway? Presumably if you bothered to learn Dvorak, you learned to touchtype anyway. I'm typing this in Dvorak, on my laptop, and my fingers really can't tell the difference as far as what's painted

    • The theory that the QWERTY keyboard was designed specifically to slow typists down is a myth []...the real reason was mechanical....commonly used keys needed to be placed far away from each other to prevent the levers from jamming.
      • The jams where caused when you typed over a certain speed (albeit a slow speed) so the "myth" does hold some truth.
        • The jams where caused when you typed over a certain speed (albeit a slow speed) so the "myth" does hold some truth.

          Yes, but the changes increased the speed that could be typed without jamming the typewriter, rather than reducing the speed that people typed normally (this would be a temporary effect, at best).

        • by Tim C ( 15259 )
          You can jam a mechanical typewriter simply by hitting the correct keys at the same time to make two adjacent "hammers" strike the paper at the same time. You can do it by typing at essentially zero speed.

          The faster you type the more likely this is for a given keyboard/hammer layout, it's true, but QWERTY most definitely was not designed to slow typists down; quite the reverse.

        • The jams where caused when you typed over a certain speed (albeit a slow speed) so the "myth" does hold some truth.

          The jams were caused by fast typers. Solution #1 would have been to tell them to go slower. The solution they chose was to change the design, so typists could type faster without clogging the keys. Of course, it takes time to learn to type fast in this layout, but it isn't designed to slow typists, and is doesn't do it.
          The myth holds no truth.

      • Let us not forget the real scientific research that went into making QWERTY, such as putting all the letters for the word TYPEWRITER together on the top row so salesmen didn't have to learn much.
  • One word anwser (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZiakII ( 829432 ) * on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:47AM (#14307937)
    The only question is, will everyone be willing to relearn how to type?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:55AM (#14307973)
      The only question is, will everyone be willing to relearn how to type?

      I hdva bewn psink thns ntw k3ybderd fgr tge lezt twd wqeks, snd I cvn hqnfstly sny twat ft hdz grwbhly omprpved py twpvng spwed mnd ackuraly.
    • Re:One word anwser (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grumbel ( 592662 )
      ### The only question is, will everyone be willing to relearn how to type?

      Typing text via mobile phones and 0-9 Numpads seems to be pretty popular, PDAs often use different text input as well, so people don't seem to have that much throuble with relearning. The throuble is that with desktop computers you simply don't have enough force to push them to relearn it, Dvorak or other new layouts might be better than Qwerty, but they are not that much better and neither do they provide any other significant benefi
  • Space Key (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Freexe ( 717562 ) <serrkr@tznvy.pbz> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:47AM (#14307938) Homepage
    They seem to have forgotten the space key?

    Any keyboard without a big bar that either thumb can use to space will never take off in my book. But maybe the PDA market will like it
    • There's a "SpFn" key directly in the bottom-center of the keyboard. I assume that means a combination of the SpaceBar and Function buttons.

      Of course, if they can get away with a keyboard design like this, my keyboard design should rule the world! Just images, all your keys arranged in a circular fashion on a lazy suzan. As you type, you spin the keyboard to move the buttons into position for striking. I'll be rich, rich I tell you!

      Or maybe this Fisher Price keyboard isn't going anywhere. (Except out the doo
      • Re:Space Key (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RevMike ( 632002 ) < minus math_god> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @11:56AM (#14309412) Journal

        I think that key is "Special Function". There are a pair of dark blue/black keys on the bottom row with a right arrow symbol on them. My guess is that these are the space keys. BTW, there are two other keys in the same dark blue/black. The one on the left has two right arrows - I'm guessing tab. The one on the right has a down arrow - I'm guessing enter/return.

        On either side of the "space" keys are keys labeled Num and Cap. These are in convenient thumb locations as well, and probably access numbers and capital letters. There is no obvious caps lock, which is no great loss. There is also a pair of Sym keys on in the alphabet area which probably access puntuation.

        Finally, Ctrl, Alt, and some keys that I can't make out in the picture but are probably the windows keys in the bottom-most "control" row. They are at the most inconvenient positions - probably a reasonable move for the average user.

        I need hjkl together though. :)

    • by C10H14N2 ( 640033 )
      They also forgot the solenoid to bang the side of the casing with every keypress like the IBM 5251. Now _that_ was ergonomics. [shudder]
    • Re:Space Key (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RedBear ( 207369 ) < minus punct> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @11:40AM (#14309283) Homepage
      Space key is bottom-center, labeled SpFn. Tap it without hitting another key and it's a space. Hold it down to activate function keys. Seems fairly obvious.

      Unfortunately this keyboard does fail to solve one major usability problem which is that Control-key combinations are a real pain. You will still have to remove your hand from the home keys or bend your pinky around into a really awkward position. In comparison, the "Command" key used in most Mac keyboard shortcuts is right next to the spacebar like the Alt key on PC keyboards. On a Mac, one only has to move one's thumb slightly off the spacebar to be able to quickly type a couple dozen keyboard shortcuts without vacating the home keys. When I used the BeOS I got used to using the Alt key in a similar way since they imitated a lot of Mac conventions, and to this day I am still amazed at the comparitive awkwardness of using the Control key for most keyboard shortcuts on Windows and Linux. This keyboard does nothing to solve that problem for me. Too bad, because otherwise it looks interesting.
    • Re:Space Key (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Myopic ( 18616 )
      counterpoint: because human thumbs are so radically much more dextrous than human fingers, it is actually a gargantuan waste to relegate BOTH thumbs to ONE key entry.

      on my keybaord, the delete (backspace) key is under my left thumb, which is an awesome improvement (to use two thumbs for two of the most common keys), but still, i feel like the best keyboards would give each thumb four or five modifiers to select from. some keyboards already do this.
  • I doubt it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sucker_muts ( 776572 ) <`moc.liamtoh' `ta' `nvp_rekcus'> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:48AM (#14307944) Homepage Journal
    This keyboard will be equally succesfull as the dvorak keyboard []. People are so accustomed to their 'native 'keyboard (I have azerty but can type fairly well on qwerty) they won't change unless this new keyboard really is so much better.
    As for gamers, why would I want to give up the luxury of binding each and every key I want from the standard 101-key design to a special function, or why would I want to reset my movement/jump/whatever keys?

    Unless they give away bars of gold with each one I don't see why the general public might need this keyboard.

    From the article: Alphabetical letters are easier to find and keys are color-coded on the NSK535R to aid hunt & peck typists
    So people who are new to computers need to 'find' keys on their keyboard? After a while you know where they are, I guess. I don't think new computer users would like to be treated as children with such a nice colorful slimmed down keyboard. I expect people want the whole deal, even if it's only for later on...
  • QWERTY (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pingular ( 670773 )
    is bad enough, but alphabetical? If I was ever going to change typing style, I'd change to dvorak []
  • Handy (Score:2, Funny)

    by Ironballs ( 915117 )
    But if they implement a key for CTRL+ALT+DEL, the sales will go high as the sky
  • by Galston ( 895804 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:50AM (#14307951)
    s ajfds jfd skxloq fjdksl;oncds!!!! s)
  • Pictures (Score:5, Informative)

    by BarryNorton ( 778694 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:54AM (#14307968)
    Here []
  • by ezpei ( 461814 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:56AM (#14307976)
    You'd need two hands just to reach A, W, S, and D and god forbid you have to strafe
  • No Numbers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TexTex ( 323298 ) * on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @08:56AM (#14307981)
    Well, I can appreciate the space-saving design in theory, but I doubt anything good will come from a keyboard in which you need to use a Function key to type a number. Laptops may have this feature, but they also have a regular number row.

    A side note: The article uses "There are only half as many keys to learn" as an advantage. Not quite. I still need to learn all the keys, but there's only half as many spaces in which to put them. So I'm learning at least two key positions for every button...if not more.

  • I just invented a language to replace English. English is clunky and antiquated. My new language uses less words and extensive color coding. Aside from needed to relearn how to read, write, and speak... it's way better.
  • While I can't see the keyboard because the site is slashdotted, why did they stop at 53 keys? If you wanted to go for a truly minimalist design, why not go with something like the frogpad [] instead. I've heard from people that it's very efficient and easy to use, although its price prevents me from casually "trying one out." I think the idea of one-handed typing is pretty seductive. If I'm going to completely re-learn how to type, it's going to be with purpose, not just so I can cut down on slightly less than
  • The article states:
    Keys are aligned with natural movements of fingers to insure proper posture when typing
    This is a good thing.

    Alphabetical letters are easier to find and keys are color-coded on the NSK535R to aid hunt & peck typists
    Easier to find if you have never typed before, otherwise they will be just as hard to find.

    All keys can be easily reached from the home position
    This is true if you have small hands.

    Shift keys are centralized and shift characters can be typed one-handed f
  • What...? Are CTRL, ALT and DEL placed next to each other?
  • threshold limits (Score:2, Insightful)

    by seldrick ( 917594 )
    While it does piss me off that I'm relatively efficient at a system designed to cap efficincy rather than maximize it, a) I'm not sure that I could retrain my fingers easily enough to warrant the switch to a different device, and more importantly b) I'm not sure it would make me much faster, as my fingers already tend to get ahead of my brain. What's really improved my efficiency is the backspace (delete) key that saves me from having to pull the paper out, hit it with an eraser or liquid paper, then line i
  • Coral Cache URL (Score:2, Informative)

    by thijs_w ( 876018 )
    The URL seems to be very slow, try the Coral cache instead: d=469 []
  • the article says things like colour coding (and probably the ABCDEF arrangement too, though it doesn't say) are to aid "hunt-and-peck" typists. It nowhere talks about increased speed, unlike dvorak.

    The problem is nobody's likely to stay hunt-and-peck forever. And nobody's likely to use the same computer forever. I wouldn't recommend it even to newbies.

    As for the claim that qwerty was meant to slow you down: that was a myth. What it was meant to do was to place frequently typed letters far apart so th

  • ...but I wonder just what it is they have patented? According to the article:

    New Standard Keyboards (NSK) of Santa Maria, California will introduce a new line of patented USB-interface computer keyboards at CES, which have just 53-keys and offer several advances over standard keyboard designs for businesses, home users, gamers and assistive technology users.

    Now certainly even the USPTO wouldn't allow a patent on alphabetical arrangement, so I'm guessing it must be with the USB interface. Anybody have any in
  • They built a "hexagonal wheel", we all make mistakes.
  • Albeit 53 keys are too little, I like the idea of less keys on my keyboard.

    I don't want a windows key. Nor do I need an email key. Or a key to open my browser. Or a volume slider.

    My old metal IBM keyboard is still the best I've ever seen.

  • Here's another story about this keyboard from almost a year ago... []
  • Ergonomic? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ccweigle ( 25237 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:07AM (#14308042)
    Um, is the "ergonomic rule" about putting commonly used keys under strong fingers only one of these "everybody knows it's true" and not a real truth? 'Cause this sucker has 4 vowels under pinkies (a, e, i under the left pinky at that). Wouldn't that be bad ergonomic design, if the finger-strength rule is real?
  • by Ingolfke ( 515826 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:07AM (#14308043) Journal
    This article [], written in JANUARY, provides a better overview of the product.

    A few interesting quotes...

    That's because the QWERTY layout was never intended to slow down typists - a common accusation from Dvorak supporters - but to allow them to type quickly without jamming the keys in their typewriters. In other words, QWERTY was designed to be efficient, too.

    The New Standard Keyboard addresses the issue of key layout by subsuming ergonomics and typing efficiency for the sake of the hunt-and-peck typist.

    Meaning it targets the lowest common denominator... another quote I read said that it was target at (or atleast could appeal to) senior citizens and those who don't know how to type. I can see that... but figure the market for people who are going to die before it makes sense to learn how to type is probably not that large or sustainable. Could be wrong.

    Anyways the website for the product is here [], and appears to under reconstruction. Lame... like the color scheme of this keyboard.

    Old news... lame news... next please.
  • by hedleyroos ( 817147 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:08AM (#14308047)
    It has only a gas pedal. You have to pull the door handle and hit gas simultaneously to brake.

    I switched the gearlever from the traditional five to a more ergonomical two gears and second gear is the default. Studies have proven that more motorists pull away in second.

    We expect this new model to replace traditional models around the same time DVORAK replaces QWERTY.
  • Sold! (Score:2, Informative)

    by EBFoxbat ( 897297 )
    12.5 x 5 x 1 ???? Sold! Perfect for my carputer and other small-footprint applications.
  • by dickwolf ( 882711 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:16AM (#14308088)

    May I recommend the Kinesis Ergo keyboard? []

    This device helped my wrists recover from severe tendonitis; I have had no relapses. The keys are arranged in vertical columns, which is something the "New Standard" got right, but it looks as if it forces your hands to remain unnaturally close together. Also, "chording" (pressing more than one key simultaneously) just creates superfluous keystrokes.

  • Its a joke? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DunderXIII ( 866418 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @09:26AM (#14308161)
    Someone calls a 53-key ABCD keyboard a "new standard keyboard" and suddenly people start to think that it will replace keyboards? ABCD keyboards have been around for a while and aren't any good for typing. As far as layout goes ABCD is as bad as QWERTY in terms of random placement of the keys. The theory that it will "help kids learns" is bull. It might help grandma learn, but a normal kid will pickup any keyboard layout. This might as well be the DVORAK layout then, it's truly much better in terms of key placement.
  • by critical_v ( 878418 ) < minus punct> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @10:01AM (#14308438) Homepage
    i just designed a guitar with 6 frets and 24 strings...of course, now the tuning pattern is completely different, so i'll call it..uhh..."new standard tuning"! i wonder if it'll catch on.
  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @10:08AM (#14308487)
    While the one show is yet another rehash of the alphabetical layout - which others have built before and in a better way - our current keyboards need a solid redesign.

    Alignment in rows and columns for instance is much more effective and less strainfull. Shifted allignment is a herritage from 1895 or something (pure technical constraints back then). Caps Lock is really bad the way it is. Even for the countries that need it a lot for alternate Glyphsets (russian f.e.). It need to be moved away. Far away at a special position. Much to big too. In a way simular to Escape - the only key in a position and size that can stay the way it is. How often have we *all* pressed it by accident.

    Then there's the asymetry. It sucks. To quote Edison: "There's a better way to do it. Find it."
    The important alternation keys like Caps, Ctrl, Alt, Command and the extra ones like Enter, Backspace and tab need a redo aswell. Symetry in size, amount and position all the way through and Enter moved to a super-prominent position in the center just the way space is now. Keyblock needs to be standardised, one way or the other. Either telephone or ancient-electrical-start-at-the-bottom. I prefer telephone since the other was only implemented due to technical constraints on the first calculators. Bottom-to-top keyblocks suck. Period.

    While navigation keys are a must, F-Keys, Print, Help and such are nice extras. Maybe those could be spread about in an even fashion. F-Keys to the left, Navi and Fixed Funktions to the right. Mayybe a few extra keys in Mac style (volume+, volume-, mute, on/off, eject). Curiously enough I'm sitting at a current-state white mac kb just now. The Multimedia keys adside this kb has all the suckage I critized above. It actually expect Apple to sumon the guts to change all this. Maybe someday when all the Win people have switched to a unix variant. :-)
  • by ahodgkinson ( 662233 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @10:15AM (#14308542) Homepage Journal
    There have been numerous attempts at producing 'better' keyboards.

    Here are two that I am familiar with:


    I remember seeing advertisements in the back of Byte magazine in the late 80s for a device called the Microwriter. It was a one-handed keyboard with only five keys and you 'played' chords in order to enter the desired character.

    It's no longer manufactured, but here [] are some pictures and an image of the chords for the characters a to z.

    A successor to the Microwriter exists and is called the CYKEY []. The web site claims compatibility with some PDAs.


    The DataHand consisted of two banks of multi-switches (for want of a better word) one for each hand. The multi-switches were essentially little cups in which you rested your fingers. Each multi-switch could be activated in five directions: down, north, south, east, west. Down was a 'normal' key press, and the compass directions involved pressing a switch to the side of your finger tip. Basically your fingers remained still and you merely moved you finger tips. I believe you could also get pedals to act as shift keys.

    Have a look here [] to learn more about it.

    I friend of mine actually had one of these, he was a translator and had to do massive amounts of typing. He claimed it was 'somewhat' more efficient but rather difficult to get used to. I think he gave it up in the end.

  • Insanity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thebdj ( 768618 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @10:38AM (#14308738) Journal
    I mean isn't this beginning to start a move towards the point where we are typing like we do on our cell phones? Seriously, I don't think these great advantages he talks about are really that advantageous. The fewer keys to learn is nice, but you have to remember twice a many shift options. I have a hard enough times remembering some of the symbols on the number row.

    Who is to say this keyboard is easier for the hunt and peck typist? What if the person thinks keys should be arranged ABCD EFGH instead of ABCD NOPQ? Also why make the space bar so small? It has to be one of the most used keys on a keyboard and very easy to find. The keys on the bottom is also a bit disturbing to me. I have a tendancy to user the lower portion of a keyboard and/or the desk for "lowering" my hands while typing and my thumb often rests there or on the space bar (as is evident by the wearing of the plastic wear my thumb constantly rubs and presses).

    And who made this guy the delete nazi? Where is my damn delete key or insert for that matter? There are times for using both. Two caps and num lock buttons? What a waste of space! Those are buttons you either turn on and leave on or you never turn on. The lack of the 10-key numpad also means this keyboard will find a lack of acceptance with people who type a lot of numbers. When I worked doing order entry, it was faster entering product numbers and credit card numbers with the 10-digit pad. The same is true for people working on accounting spreadsheets and programs, I am sure. If you are not typing text it is easier to move over to there, but if you have to type a balanced mix of both having it is also nice and anyone with a laptop can tell you how annoying it can be to have the number pad as part of the regular keypad.

    This is a great idea if the mentality of people really is to get reduced size keyboards at the expensive of having to learn a ton of shift inputs. Work on improving the exist model to a point where people would like and still use it for a smaller size. I mean with a bit of effort you can probably make a very functional keyboard with about the same size (look at laptops). I don't think re-inventing the wheel is really necessary.
  • by dduck ( 10970 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @10:55AM (#14308872) Homepage
    will everyone be willing to relearn how to type?

    Probably not.

    You can read my Ph.D-dissertation [] (PDF, big) (abstract []) (PDF, small) for more information, but frankly it is very hard to beat the QWERTY keyboard, as it is very very efficient at the task it is used for. Please note that the dissertation does not focus on QWERTY per se, but rather on various alternatives to QWERTY, and the factors involved in attaining good usability, ergonomics and performance in diverse text input scenarios.

  • by Ranger ( 1783 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @10:57AM (#14308888) Homepage
    if it came with the 'Any' key.
  • Fewer Keys (Score:4, Interesting)

    by olddotter ( 638430 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @11:05AM (#14308949) Homepage
    Ok the article appears to be slashdotted. Perhaps later I can get a look at this keyboard.

    I would welcome a trend to smaller keyboards with fewer keys. The growth of specialized keys on keyboards has really gotten out of hand in my opinion. What reason is there for 100+ keys on the keyboard?

    How about a new survey question of "How many keys does your keyboard have that you have NEVER used?"
  • Dupe (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2005 @11:37AM (#14309256) Homepage
    It's good to know that Tech Zone is on the leading edge of reviewing year old news.

    And that Slashdot editors continue to not bother checking for dupes [].

    Nothing new to see here. Move along.

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.