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Input Devices Hardware

10 Strange Computer Keyboards 181

DirectedImpact noted an amusing little compilation of 10 strange keyboards. Some of them you've probably seen before (the laser keyboard, the optimus OLED keyboard) and others are quite real (I actually had one of those split keyboards for awhile) and others are pretty out there: like the keyboard built into the lacy doily placemat thingee.
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10 Strange Computer Keyboards

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  • No ErgoDex DX1? (Score:5, Informative)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:33AM (#22034244)
    My personal fav weird keyboard is the ErgoDex DX1 [] Keyboard. Completely moveable keys, macros, etc. Recognfigure it however you like. Runs about $150.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What about this one? []
      • Re:No ErgoDex DX1? (Score:4, Informative)

        by God'sDuck ( 837829 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @12:06PM (#22035348)
        The Maltron is supposed to be great. I have the Kinesis version -- the key "wells" are great for reducing finger travel, and the long stroke distance takes away the impact of the the key bottoming out. Very nice, and dramatically extends (more than doubles) the hours per day I can work before my fingers start burning. Took about a day to adjust, and a week to get back up to full speed.

        I have nasty RSI or something like it, and the Kinesis just seemed the best balance of bang for the buck -- the Safetype was more for wrist than finger problems, split keyboards and basic ergonomics didn't do enough, and the Datahand (mentioned below) was too spendy for me to try unless the Kinesis wasn't good enough.

        Seriously young geeks -- if your fingers start hurting, do something before you do permanent harm. Switch mice (vertical mouse, trackball or tablet), switch keyboards, try Dvorak or Colemak, talk to your doctor -- it just gets worse over time if you don't.
    • by Alzheimers ( 467217 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:19AM (#22034788)
      The DX1 Input System includes a Pad, a removable Tray, 25 numbered Keys with a storage tray, preprinted labels, an installation CD and a Quick Start Guide.

      So with only 25 keys, which of the 26 letters of the alphabet do you like least? You could go Roman and use "V" for "U"'s, or drop F and use "PH" instead.

      Or, you can be really revolutionary and go with the Decabet [], which will even leave you enough keys for all 0-9 numerals and some punctuation too!
    • DataHand (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Agenor ( 1136719 )

      I have to grant you that the DX1 is pretty neat, however my personal favorite is the DataHand []. The idea is to place each finger in a little well with buttons in four directions and one at the bottom so your fingers never move more than a half inch in any direction. Using the mouse is handled by switching modes which then enables each index finger to control the mouse, one finger controls slow movement and the other fast movement. One of my coworkers picked it up to help deal with his Carpal Tunnel and swe

      • I do own a DataHand Pro-II keyboard (8 years now) and I can tell you it's worth every penny (and that's a lot to put together :-)) When I started looking for a solution I was just a few months away from having a painful surgery for my carpal tunnel problem. Now I hardly feel any discomfort even after long typing sessions (granted that I stretch a lot too).

        The keyboard sits very comfortably on my lap, allowing my elbows and shoulders to relax, and I can kinda twist it so that it will fit better to my natural
    • Or rather, the latest space-saver Model M with Windows keys and USB connector.... []
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:37AM (#22034286) Homepage []

    the twiddler, I even still have one in the basement somewhere from 1993 when I was into Wearable computing. when you got used to it you could type really fast, it was fun writing C code when you were walking from the bust stop to your EE classes while looking in the LED alphanumeric hud.

    Cool part it was a mouse as well.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      it was fun writing C code when you were walking from the bust stop to your EE classes

      Hmmm, I don't recall ever visiting that club...
    • Cool part

      Not possible.

  • by sticks_us ( 150624 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:44AM (#22034390) Homepage
    A similar article, with a couple of other--even weirder, IMHO--classics can be found here [].

    The Orbitouch FTW!

  • The Happy Hacker. Most people who see it think it is strange. I have had IT people unable to log in as admin, becayse they were unable to figure out you needed 4 fingers for the three finger salute.
    • This sorta ties in with my new years' resolution, to learn to touch type after 20+ years as a professional programmer!

      I have a couple of the HHKII one for home one for work. But this and every other normal keyboard is too small for my hands and requires me to move my hands when typing.

      So I'm looking to change, my new standard keyboard [] should arrive today and then I'm looking to change it to dvorak layout. Big keys plenty of space and most importantly the keys are all staggered the way my hands lay o
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Ragzouken ( 943900 )
        I've got a BAT keyboard, I've found it's totally useless unless you don't mind fiddling about with rebooting and unplugging/replugging until the keyboard actually works correctly each time you want to use it.
        • I was just going to play around with it a bit, I've used the CyKey before and liked that but the bat is just a backup. If I get serious I'll rip out the electronics and put my own keyboard logic and usb/bluetooth hardware.

          I seriously doubt I'll use it more than a handful of times before selling it on.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by God'sDuck ( 837829 )
        If you switch to Dvorak, I would recommend keeping an index next to your monitor rather than switching your keylabels -- that way you learn proper touchtyping while switching, which speeds you up and helps your posture. And when a friend wants to type, you can just switch the OS back to Qwerty and let them go.
        • by thegnu ( 557446 )

          And when a friend wants to type, you can just switch the OS back to Qwerty and let them go.

          I didn't know it was possible to type in Dvorak AND have friends.
  • Twiddler? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AltGrendel ( 175092 ) <> on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:49AM (#22034446) Homepage
    If you're going to include the Alpha-Grip, shouldn't the Twiddler? []

    I have one and it's great.

  • Rubber (Score:5, Informative)

    by HappyHead ( 11389 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:52AM (#22034482)
    There's also the Flexible Rubber Keyboard [], which is not only easy to roll up and carry around with you, but is also waterproof (for shallow depths, anyways) and resistant to strong acid and alkaline environments. (But disintegrates fast with organic solvents like acetone, potentially leaving nothing but a few strands of copper wiring and gooey sludge.) I've never tried using mine underwater, but at least one of the reviews I've seen of them mentions using them in the bath. They're more resistant to being smashed by heavy-handed typists, and it's impossible to get crap-buildup underneath the keys since it's a sealed silicon unit.

    They also come in a variety of colors and styles. My sister wants the pink one. she needs it considering how much pop my niece has dumped on their old keyboards, and the fact that they both type like they're trying to leave finger-shaped dents in the floor underneath the desk.
    • Wouldn't it just be easier to just not allow pop near the computer. Kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Decrease likelihood of diabetes and save a few dollars on keyboards.
      • Re:Rubber (Score:4, Insightful)

        by HappyHead ( 11389 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:09AM (#22034650)
        Wouldn't it just be easier to just not allow pop near the computer

        With the computer in the kitchen (so she can make sure that my 12 year old niece isn't doing anything inappropriate on the internet - she's one of those rare people who believe in parental supervision instead of using the computer as a babysitter) most of the pop spills (that my niece admits to anyway) have been while bringing things to the table for dinner. Not allowing pop near the computer would probably be better for both of them health-wise, but it's not likely to happen.
        • Maybe it's just me, but the kitchen sounds like a terrible place for a computer. First, it seems like the place where most families would spend the least amount of time. Also, all the airbourne grease and steam couldn't bode well for most computers. Plus there's bound to be tons of food in the kitchen, waiting to get spilled. Does anybody actually spend that much time cooking that the computer actually should be placed in the kitchen for surveillance reasons?
          • First, it seems like the place where most families would spend the least amount of time.

            Huh? The kitchen is generally considered (when doing renovations, etc.) to be one of the rooms where people spend most of their waking time in a house. In many modern houses the kitchens are built specifically to serve as large, multipurpose 'family spaces' rather than as small, specialized food-prep areas.

            As I kid, I and my siblings did most of my homework at the kitchen counter while one of my parents made dinner. I
            • Huh? The kitchen is generally considered (when doing renovations, etc.) to be one of the rooms where people spend most of their waking time in a house. In many modern houses the kitchens are built specifically to serve as large, multipurpose 'family spaces' rather than as small, specialized food-prep areas.

              Okay, I don't remember if this was in some remodeling magazine or one of those "when we have the money I want to design this!" things but I remember seeing plans for a computer built into a kitchen islan

    • Re:Rubber (Score:5, Interesting)

      by techpawn ( 969834 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:15AM (#22034720) Journal

      There's also the Flexible Rubber Keyboard, which is not only easy to roll up and carry around with you
      Actually, we found a use for them on a factory shop floor because of all the dust and junk that flies in the air kills a normal keyboard in no time flat. We found that the solvent thing was true but it's pretty true with ANY chemical/keyboard combination. They are not the best for gaming because their response time sucks and they have to be on a hard flat surface... Then again, maybe someone has fixed the response time issue because they'd make a wonderful LAN party keyboard because of portability. But the sheer unbreakability and ease to clean them sold us for the factory.
      • by huge ( 52607 )
        They have my vote as well. Those things are perfect for warehouses, no problems with dust and they can take much more beating than regular keyboards.
    • heh. they use those things at my dentist's office for the computers in each exam room.
  • by Thanshin ( 1188877 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:54AM (#22034506)
    "You rolled out in front of me a keyboard of millions of keys, millions and billions of keys that never end. And that's the truth Max, that they never end. That keyboard is infinite... and if that keyboard is infinite, then on that keyboard there is no music you can play. You're sitting on the wrong bench... That is God's piano." La Leggenda del Pianista sull'Oceano
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:02AM (#22034588) Homepage Journal

    This keyboard is meant to put the keyboard in as comfortable of a position as possible. You can move the different sections to different angles, as well as take them apart and put them on your lab.

    ROVER! Come back here! I was typing, darn you!
  • by wikinerd ( 809585 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:05AM (#22034620) Journal

    I use TypeMatrix [] keyboards with Dvorak skins and I love them! I also have Plum keyboards [] but I don't really like them much. I also have laser projection virtual keyboards (their error rate isn't low though). From the article I liked the wearable keyboard, though. I will probably buy it, because I think it will be useful for as I use laptops while standing or walking. I have also seen AlphaGrip at shops and they are also interesting. Another company with interesting products is Maltron []. Data hands look nice too. However, I have found my TypeMatrix a very good choice and I like it for its small size and a design which is comfortable while maintaining compatibility with Qwerty. This is important for me as I know to type fast in Dvorak only in English. For other languages I am still stuck with Qwerty for fast typing as I didn't bother to learn Dvorak for non-English languages. TypeMatrix has built-in Qwerty and Dvorak modes so I don't need any changes in software to make it switch between the two depending on which language I type.

  • is any of these... [] Andrew
  • by binaryspiral ( 784263 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:11AM (#22034680)
    This one should have made the list... it was one of the first adjustable ergonomic keyboards to come from a computer manufacturer. It also came with a disclaimer about RSI that was almost as heavy as the keyboard itself. []

    What the wikipedia article's photo fails to show you are the giant wrist rests that are attached to the main keyboard and number keyboard. A small ADB cable attached the external number keyboard to the main qwerty board and could be arranged on either side. It also provided audio controls and a full compliment of F keys.

    I miss that keyboard... I had one and enjoyed it up until the point I no longer could use an ADB keyboard.
    • by dissy ( 172727 )
      I've used (and still have) one of these keyboards. It lives teathered to an old Mac lcIII.
      A long while ago I found an ADB->USB adaptor, for using it on newer systems, which runs about $40 from []

      Unfortunatly due to the nature of ADB, the response time will be quite low, and although there may have been some improvements in the driver software since then, at the time it was very hard to map all of the keys correctly to use with windows.

      • Unfortunatly due to the nature of ADB, the response time will be quite low, and although there may have been some improvements in the driver software since then, at the time it was very hard to map all of the keys correctly to use with windows.

        You had me excited until you mentioned response time. So much for fragging UT players with my AAK. :(
      • I'm using a Griffin iMate right now, and I don't think the response is in any way noticeably slower than a typical USB keyboard. I type about 70-90WPM and have never had lag problems. I'm not a heavy FPSer, but I've played my share of Quake and UT with it, and can't really fault it (I am quite dreadful at virtually all games, but that's not really my equipment's problem).

        I use the iMate with an Apple Extended Keyboard II (which itself has been in daily use since 1994 or so); I got the iMate in 2001 or th
  • Kinesis Contour (Score:3, Informative)

    by danberlyoung ( 560513 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:13AM (#22034704)
    You can't forget about Kinesis's Contour. The weirdest yet most comfortable keyboard I've ever used. (Looked weird enough that MIB used it as Zed's keyboard at the office.) Saved me from carpel tunnel surgery about 5 years ago and I"m pain free to this day. [] A little pricy ($300) but much cheaper than surgery.
  • Misleading article (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dsmitchell1 ( 720633 )
    The article claims that the keyboards are or will soon be on the market. However, the last keyboard is made by a now-defunct company called Fingerworks. The article claims that the keyboard is available on the Internet for $350, but I would be amazed if you could find one for under $600. How many other keyboards in the list are no longer available?
    • How many other keyboards in the list are no longer available?

      Given that the "Wearable Keyboard" looks as though it's a cross between the NES Power Glove (1989) and the original Commodore PET keyboard (1977), I would HOPE that it's not being sold as a contemporary device in 2008...
  • As time goes on (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DeeQ ( 1194763 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:22AM (#22034826)
    People will keep on trying to reinvent the wheel.
  • by kahei ( 466208 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:23AM (#22034830) Homepage

    I've tried most of the keyboards shown (I like input devices). I'd rate them as follows, where '10' is a regular keyboard.

    Combimouse -- 0/10. This is the one I haven't tried, but I simply don't see how it can possibly work.
    Evolution -- 11/10. This was intended to be used in conjunction with an entire ergonomic environment. It's like a regular keyboard but with touchpads. Yay.
    Wearable -- 1/10. This is nothing like as good as a chording keyboard such as the Twiddler.
    Optimus Maximus -- 12/10. I've only ever used it very briefly and since it's exactly like having a regular keyboard (except that you can put pictures on the function keys) I'd say it has mainly coolness value. But a *lot* of coolness value.
    Virtual Keyboard -- 3/10. Lack of tactile feedback renders this horrible to use.
    SafeType -- 6/10. This is one of the many easy-to-make, hard-to-use ergonomic keyboards that came out around the time RSI got to be big news. It's a pain. I think it used to come with little mirrors so you could see what you were doing.
    Tidy Tippist -- 1/10. I've never seen this before but *look* at it.
    AlphaGrip -- 9/10. It's nice to use, but there are two problems; first, it's fussier and slower than the Twiddler. Second, the keys can't be remapped or assigned macros at all.
    ElekTex -- 3/10. No tactile feedback, and easy to rumple it up inadvertently.
    TouchStream -- 16/10. This is fascinating to use. As a keyboard, it sucks because you can't tell what key you pressed (if any). However, the gesture system is fascinating, intuitive, and extendable. The small version of the TouchStream, used in conjunction with a regulare keyboard, is fun; but if you do that you can't type and gesture in the same place which takes away most of the fluidity of the full sized TouchStream.

    I'd say people have had a lot of trouble coming up with designs that really improve on the IBM-style keyboard. The Kinesis Advantage I'm using is the only unusual keyboard I've ever had that I thought it was worth switching to, and it must be about 12 years old by now; since then almost every 'advance' has involved either not having keys (no tactile feedback, impossible to know where your hands are and whether you pressed a key) or else cutting a keyboard up and bolting junk to it (a la Evolution and Combimouse).

    The Kinesis Advantage is remappable, programmable, pedal-compatible for those who just have to be like that, it saves my fingers a few miles of movement a day and it lets me use the cursor keys and backspace without having to drag my whole hand off the home row and over to some other part of the keyboard. But I note that the Evolution (also from Kinesis) outsells the Advantage, because it's got gadgets and rounded edges and looks space-agey when bolted to your executive chair. That's the trouble with keyboards as a market -- since flat keyboards are pretty much good enough, any extra money that gets spent tends to go on bells and whistles rather than on advancing the basic design.

    The Kinesis Advantage [] is the king of keyboards, by the way.

    • The laser keyboard isn't meant to replace your computer keyboard, thus comparing it to a normal keyboard is beyond the point.

      It's a Bluetooth, battery powered device that allows you use a keyboard to enter data into your PDA (or phone I suppose). Relevant comparisons would be folding keyboards, but then you would need to judge on portability and convenience.
    • by 26199 ( 577806 ) *

      I completely agree about the TouchStream being a wonderful device.

      It's so configurable that you can chuck out the standard keyboard layout and build your own; I've been using a TouchStream with my own system for nearly three years now. As an example of what's possible, I use two-finger combinations for punctuation and four-finger chords for modifier keys ... with the result that I never have to reach more than one key width from the home keys.

      And in fact I've moved the rows closer together, so the maxim

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:32AM (#22034944)
    They also missed the Goldtouch adjustable keyboard: []

    Been happily using one since 2004 and it's the best investment ever. For some pretty horrible time I thought I was going to have to leave IT in search of some other profession - not particularly comforting as I'd only graduated two years earlier.

    It's expensive, but a lot cheaper than learning a new job - particularly when the NHS's attitude was "Oh, your wrists hurt. That's a shame. Spend the rest of your life taking ibuprofen and give us a shout if you develop a stomach ulcer."
    • by cruff ( 171569 )
      I second the Goldtouch. I've been using one for a couple of years now at work. I like that it is easy to adjust when needed.
  • Maybe slashdot will run an article on the top 10 used cars and I could sell that too ;)
  • I'll post a follow-up from work, once I can check exactly what it's called (and maybe find a link), but maybe someone can beat me to it...

    It's a keyboard which places the keys surrounding your fingers. Each finger will have a home-row key under it, and then a vertical key placed directly to the left, right, forward, and back.

    I can't see myself actually learning it, but it's got to be the most ergonomic keyboard that still lets you type as fast as a standard 108-key. The way he describes it, when you start m
    • As I said somewhere else in this thread, I do own a DataHand. You cannot type as fast as with a regular keyboard, but since you are less error prone (not moving your hands around helps a lot in hitting the right key), the speed of the DataHand is comparable to that of a regular keyboard.

      The only thing that's really slow when compared to its counterpart is the mouse. You can't really draw with it and it moves without much precision (or too slow).
  • Not five days ago we had an article on the 10 worst keyboards of all time []. I'm beginning to think CmdrTaco has an affinity for lists of ten keyboards.
  • I'm typing this with one of the ultimate weird keyboards [].
  • A couple of other people mentioned it... the best keyboard design (for me) is the Kinesis contoured (bowl-shaped) keyboard.

    Of course, I double the weirdness by typing Dvorak on mine. What's really weird, though, is the mental programming. I simply cannot type QWERTY on a Kinesis. I can, with a little zenning-out, type in Dvorak on a flat or laptop keyboard, though I type in QWERTY just fine on those.

    The only problem with the Kinesis is the little rubber keys for F1-F12 and Escape. I really hated the Esc
    • It'd be a much better keyboard if it was broken in two parts, to be adjusted at will. The contour expects you to type with your arms parallel to each other, and doesn't account for different shoulder sizes. Say goodbye to carpal tunnel syndrome, say hello to upper back pain!
  • How can a list of odd keyboards not include the Datahand? Yes, it's been out for a while (years, actually) but all but one of these keyboards attempts to be very close to Bob-standard keyboards, whereas the Datahand is really very different -- Still qwerty, but not the same sort of finger-motions at all.

    I don't think they sell many of these things, and they cost too much, but people with RSIs swear by them.

    Here's their webpage. []

  • Not all "strange" computer keyboards need to be innovative technologies.

    The MacBook Pro keyboard [] is weird enough to qualify. Backspace is called delete, there's two enter keys, and no delete key. Less odd, but still strange, are the eject button, missing print screen, and swapped "apple/windows" and alt keys. And this isn't an anti-mac rant or anything (since I am typing on my Macbook Pro now) but this keyboard is neither Macintosh "standard" or Windows "standard" - It's just odd.
  • I remember on an episode of SeaQuest DSV these hacker kids had a keyboard that can only be described as having been punctured inward. Imagine 2 bowls next to each other, and the keys are on the bottom surface. Supposedly this was more ergonomic, but I can't see how. Anyone know what I'm talking about? Naturally, it wasn't listed in TFA.
  • TFA doesn't do the TouchStream justice. It's essentially the predecessor to multi-touch. In fact, TouchStream was acquired by Apple quite a while ago...

    The TouchStream wasn't just a "keyboard plus mouse". It didn't have mouse buttons, instead recognizing up to 3 mouse buttons by tapping (different number of fingers). It could also do mouse-gestures, again with multiple fingers.

    Very nifty device. Only disadvantage: If you can't touch-type, it's hard to use.
    • Do you know of a company or product similar to the Touchstream but is JUST a large trackpad?

      I love my MacBookPro trackpad but at work I can't stand not being able to stroll, move, double click etc. I'd hate to buy a touchstream just for this feature but I'd love to have a 4x4 'trackpad' that I could plug into my workstation at work and use.
  • From Acer []

    And they SOLD these, man. Yeah!

    Acer! Harrr....!
  • ... from a guy who fitted two keyboards to make A $14 "ergo" keyboard from surplus parts [].

    Quote from his site (including pictures of the process): "Part of my symptoms were pains in my elbows from being constantly bent, and pains in my wrists from being held rotated, in the plane of the keyboard. I wanted a keyboard which allowed my wrists and arms to be in their relaxed positions, i.e. at my sides. What I imagined was, basically, a saddle-bag keyboard."

  • I, for one, would just like to thank the poster and the article author for making TFA one nice, shiny page, instead of 10 separate pages filled with ads, crap, and only a few lines of real text. I hope this is a trend that continues.
  • []

    This suppose to allow for one hand typing. If you need a letter that's on the other side of the keyboard, hold down the space key and press the corresponding finger placement. For example /Space-Q/ for "P" and /Space-G/ for "H".
  • ..combo with the left/right buttons above the touchpad, just below the space bar. That way I can move the cursor with one thumb and click with the other, without my fingers ever leaving the keyboard.

    Instead, virtually all laptops with touchpads have the mouse buttons below the touchpad, making it very awkward and error prone (like accidentally hitting the touchpad itself) if I try to stretch my thumb down to press them, unless my hand leaves the keyboard thus interrupting my flow.

    Does anyone know the

    • You want this. []

      A trackpoint is infinitely better than a touch pad (but it still has one if you want it). I wish they made a full size keyboard (with numkeys) with this style of keys and mouse input, but you can always add a 10 key to the right of it via usb.
  • Useless (Score:2, Funny)

    by tlmii ( 864631 )
    A useless top 10 list... I must be on
  • I think frogpad ( should be on this list. It is weird, but interesting.
  • []

    I'm surprised this was not mentioned, yet a full-qwerty layout on-wrist keyboard was.

    And the Twiddler has a TrackPoint, which is IMHO better than a trackball in a mobileesque application (a hit on the game pad chording 'keyboard').
  • The TouchStream is both a mouse and keyboard in one. The keyboard splits in half to try to provide extra comfort. The keys are all flat, which can make them feel strange to type on. It retails on the internet for about $350.

    They don't retail anymore. Fingerworks went out of business a couple years ago. (The creators apparently got hired by apple to make the iphone touch interface.)

    Typing normal text with zero force is indeed a bit awkward and having the ability mouse without moving hands away from positi

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