Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Input Devices Hardware

The Evolution of the Computer Keyboard 201

Lucas123 writes "As anyone who's typed on a virtual keyboard — or yelled at a voice-control app like Siri — can attest, no current text input holds a candle to a traditional computer keyboard. From the reed switch keyboards of the early '70s to the buckling spring key mechanism that drove IBM's popular PC keyboards for years to ThinTouch technology that will have about half the travel of a MacBook Air's keys, the technology that drove data entry for decades isn't likely to go anywhere anytime soon. This article takes a look back on five decades of keyboard development and where it's likely to go in the future."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Evolution of the Computer Keyboard

Comments Filter:
  • Re:Down with QWERTY! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:12PM (#41854785)

    Switched 11 years ago and haven't regretted it once.

  • Re:qwerty (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:25PM (#41854923)
    Only if you stop reading before the author tells you that he was corrected by someone who had better information. The article ends like this:

    Baloney, say the authors of the article you enclose, S.J. Liebowitz and Stephen Margolis. They point out that (1) the research demonstrating the superiority of the Dvorak keyboard is sparse and methodologically suspect; (2) a sizable body of work suggests that in fact the Dvorak offers little practical advantage over the QWERTY; (3) at least one study indicates that placing commonly used keys far apart, as with the QWERTY, actually speeds typing, since you frequently alternate hands; and (4) the QWERTY keyboard did not become a standard overnight but beat out several competing keyboards over a period of years. Thus it may be fairly said to represent the considered choice of the marketplace. It saddens me to know I helped to perpetuate the myth of Dvorak superiority, but I will sleep better at night knowing I have rectified matters at last.

  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:25PM (#41854929) Journal

    The biggest reason I have not returned to the iPhone is the lack of a swipe style keyboard. After adapting to it, I refuse to go back to pecking words out with my thumbs, so no iPhones until I can get swype. It has several advantages:
    - Word entry without looking
    - one-handed text entry (single thumb swipes out a word in the same time two could tap it, while being held in the same hand.)

    Swype's implementation isn't flawless though. They haven't figured out it is about word shape. The biggest problem is the limited character set. On a phone in landscape, or anything bigger than a phone you should have a keyboard on one side and an alternate (numberic pad) on the other. Since we don't need to hit specific keys anymore, we can reduce the overall area dedicated to displaying the keyboard and just show one for reference (aiming) and determine the word by the shape traced out. Have a button for enlarging it for the odd word that isn't in the dictionary and you're done.

    Once swype (or any other keyboard (swift key?) realizes that, we'll have the best touch keyboard we can have without a fill-size button board.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:39PM (#41855105) Homepage

    It's a useful article on keyboard mechanisms, and it's a good discussion of the tradeoffs between thin keyboards and ergonomics. The history is weak.

    There's no mention of key rollover, or "can you push a key before releasing the previous key"? Modern keyboards report a key down and key up event for each key, so rollover can be unlimited. Early keyboards struggled with this. The Selectric, and Teletype machines, were mechanically interlocked against multiple key-presses. Some early keyboards wouldn't handle two keys down at the same time at all.

    The feedback issue was a big one. Some keyboards clicked, some had a "clicker" inside to create the illusion that they clicked, and some beeped, an annoyance which has returned with some touch screens.

    It's amusing that iPad-like devices have reverted to a 3-row keyboard with multiple shifts. That's where Teletype machines were a century ago. The keyboard layout of an iPad [] is very similar to that of a 1930s Teletype. []

  • Re:qwerty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cinder6 ( 894572 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @01:46PM (#41855193)

    That isn't to say that Dvorak doesn't force you to alternate hands--it just does in the opposite direction. QWERTY is ~53% left-oriented, while Dvorak is ~54% right-oriented.

    For myself, I type faster and more accurately on Dvorak (111 wpm vs 90 wpm), but that's probably due to spending most of my time in that layout. The main benefit I notice is less tangible, and that is that I suffer less fatigue if I decide to write for hours on end without a break.

  • stop already (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:09PM (#41855591)
    Enough of the QWERTY Dvorak partisan bickering! We can all use a twiddler: []
  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @02:32PM (#41856027)

    You do realize that this would make an awesome article for us keyboard nerds.

    Especially if you videotaped it.


In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle