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Input Devices Portables

Stop Trying To 'Innovate' Keyboards, You're Just Making Them Worse 459

FuzzNugget writes "Peter Bright brings the hammer down on the increasing absurdities of laptop keyboard design, from the frustrating to the downright asinine, like the 'adaptive keyboard' of the new Lenovo X1 Carbon. He says, 'The X1's Adaptive Keyboard may have a superior layout to a regular keyboard (I don't think that it does, but for the sake of argument, let's pretend that it does), but that doesn't matter. As long as I have to use regular keyboard layouts too, the Adaptive Keyboard will be at a huge disadvantage. Every time I use another computer, I'll have to switch to the conventional layout. The standard layout has tremendous momentum behind it, and unless purveyors of new designs are able to engineer widespread industry support—as Microsoft did with the Windows keys, for example—then their innovations are doomed to being annoyances rather than improvements.' When will laptop manufacturers focus on perfecting a standardized design rather than trying to reinvent the wheel with every new generation?"
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Stop Trying To 'Innovate' Keyboards, You're Just Making Them Worse

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  • by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @10:38AM (#45998029)
    The worst keyboard I ever used was the Logitech MX5500. Poor design all over - it was clear that whoever designed it was focussing on ideas that sounded nice, but were ergonomically unfeasible. Stupid things like putting keys underneath the keypad such that pressing them from a natural posture caused cramps, or removing the numlock key and replacing it with some calculator function integrated with the LCD display. Perhaps they forgot that computers powerful calculators in of themselves? The list went on - I wrote an eight page engineering design critique (I teach college mechatronic design) and sent it to them. The logitech PR person who answered it said they'd send it on to the design office. From what's come out of there since, I'm sure they just sent it straight to trash. :P
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Saturday January 18, 2014 @10:38AM (#45998033)

    Many Europeans are already used to using different keyboards at different times. As we speak I'm typing on a Danish-layout keyboard remapped to US-English. Which is... almost like US-English, except that the Enter key is vertical rather than horizontal, so \| is located to the left of enter rather than above it (can't remap the physical shape of the keys...). Oh, and `~ is to the left of Z. Sometimes I use a UK keyboard, which is somewhat different yet again.

  • by sideslash ( 1865434 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @10:42AM (#45998061)
    I would pay a lot of money for a backlit, Microsoft Natural style keyboard. Googling indicates I'm not alone. I don't care about gaming, but when I walk into my home office at night and sit down, I want to see where all the keys are. And I'm used to the Microsoft Natural keyboard shape from many years of exclusive use.

    You getting this, Microsoft / clone manufacturers?
  • Optimus keyboards (Score:4, Interesting)

    by abies ( 607076 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @10:54AM (#45998153)

    Take a look at
    http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus/concept/ [artlebedev.com]
    http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus/tactus/ [artlebedev.com]
    and other things from this family.

    This is an _adaptive keyboard_.

    Yes, it is plain horrible for coding or text editing, but idea behind it is to support some more niche programs for video/photo editing, 3d modelling etc, with keyboard changing icons on keys depending in which mode are.

  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @11:10AM (#45998273) Journal

    Many Europeans are already used to using different keyboards at different times. As we speak I'm typing on a Danish-layout keyboard remapped to US-English.

    As someone who touch-types Dvorak at home, and has to switch back to QWERTY at work, I think I can safely say my experience trumps your few symbol keys moving around...

    The thing that bothers me the most is poor visibility... I'd be fine with the CTRL and ALT keys moving all over the place with different laptop keyboards, IF the keyboard was backlit... Those with small, low-contrast ink labels in low-light are the WORST. Without a clear visual indicator to orient yourself to using a different keyboard than usual, it can be painful to switch... Lighting can make all the difference, and a smooth transition.

    Personally, I'd like laptops to standardize keyboard sizes and connectors so we can swap them after-market, as I previously said here: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=4683675&cid=45998205 [slashdot.org]
    But I prefer the current state of uselessness to laptop makers standardizing on lowest-common-denominator crap that is good for nobody.

  • by devphaeton ( 695736 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @11:19AM (#45998317)

    The only thing I would ever want from a laptop is a keyboard that's in the ergonomic 'split' style. Yes that would be butt-ugly and probably make the laptop itself the size of an elementary school desk, but with RSI issues I can't type on a standard keyboard for very long. Yes you can plug a standard ergo USB keyboard into a laptop, but that setup requires a desk as it is too big for my lap. Since I'm desk bound with that, I just use the desktop computer I already have.

    Meanwhile, I'm noticing that decent ergo kbs are getting scarce for desktops too. Back 10 or 15 years ago there were dozens of brands and all of them cheap and good, now there are only 2 or 3 to chose from with crappy key layouts and they last about a year or so.

  • by Raumkraut ( 518382 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @11:41AM (#45998439)

    As someone who touch-types Dvorak at home, and has to switch back to QWERTY at work, I think I can safely say my experience trumps your few symbol keys moving around...

    I'd argue that no, it actually doesn't trump it.
    IME it is *far* easier to switch between two completely different systems, than to switch between two systems which are exactly the same, except for one or two minor parameters.

    Consider a Brit, who fluently speak both English and Russian, conversing with two people; one of whom speaks Russian, and only Russian; the other speaks US English, and only US English. When speaking with the Russian, the Brit's brain need switch to and maintain Russian only once. When speaking to the USian, the Brit can speak in their native tongue - except when certain words come up, which the brain must anticipate, and engage to translate those to US English.

  • Re:Get off my lawn? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dokebi ( 624663 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @11:59AM (#45998559)

    I have been remapping caps lock to ctrl for years, and it's really nice. Having it (capslock/ctrl) be replaced by home/end would be a disaster for me.

  • Re:Windows keys? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by honestmonkey ( 819408 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @12:20PM (#45998731) Journal
    Does anyone actually use the damn Windows Key? I have a Microsoft keyboard (the "split-in-half" one, tilted and all). It has a "Windows" key and another one on the right the is for - menus or something? I never touch either one. Hell, I rarely even hit any of the function keys. The only non-standard key I use is the one that brings up a calculator because at least that's useful.
  • by hendrips ( 2722525 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @01:41PM (#45999269)

    Maybe this is the problem with keyboard design. I absolutely love that keyboard. When I got a new computer at work, I specifically requested that keyboard model, and I use a similar model at home. The actual office drones like me who have to use these keyboards seem to have different needs in practice than what your theoretical expertise claims. I certainly use the LCD calculator constantly, and I have no idea how I'm supposed to be giving myself hand cramps with it. As far as I can tell, Logitech has discontinued this model, so I'll be clinging to desperately to the one I have. But, to echo one of the other replies, I don't teach "mechatronic design," I'm just a lowly actuary who has to use the damn thing every day, so what do I know?

  • Truly Ergonomic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @02:07PM (#45999433)

    I've been using the Truly Ergonomic ( https://www.trulyergonomic.com/ [trulyergonomic.com] ) keyborad for well over a year now. It's totally different from a normal keyboard. I'm also using a blank-keycap one, in dvorak mode, with some personal key-changes.

    I love it being different. I love the way that it's different -- columnar arrangement, tab, backspace, enter down the middle, home-row shifts, delete mirroring escape.

    It took a whopping two weeks to get used to the new layout. Much like it took me two weeks to switch from qwerty to dvorak fifteen years ago. And I've no trouble bouncing back and forth to "normal" keyboards when necessary.

    More important that how I feel, is how I feel. My fingers move a lot less, I type much more fluidly, I'm much more comfortable, and long days feel the same as short days.

    I welcome new designs and layouts. You're not forced to use the ones that you don't like. Which is good, because otherwise I'd be forced to use a qwerty keyboard -- you know, the one designed to be horrible to use. The author might want to focus on that problem first.

  • Re: Oh yes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hankwang ( 413283 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @02:34PM (#45999643) Homepage

    For someone who has touch-typed for years, it would take years to get up to speed with Dvorak

    As someone who moved to Dvorak after 5 years of touch-typing Qwerty, I can tell you that this is not the case. A lot of the effort of learning to touch-type is in the motor/coordination skills in the fingers, not in memorizing which letter goes where. I think it took me about a month to get up to speed in Dvorak; it didn't help that I was recovering from a rather painful RSI at the time. I ended up being faster on Dvorak than I ever was on Qwerty.

How long does it take a DEC field service engineer to change a lightbulb? It depends on how many bad ones he brought with him.