Saturday, November 11, 2006

Get 'Hands-On' With Alternative Keyboards

A practical review of three keyboards ...

"Three types of keyboards are compared: one built for comfort, one built for touch-type training, and one with a radically different key layout

The computer keyboard is the weakest link in the entire user interface. The standard Qwerty keyboard—named for the keys in the top left row—is a legacy from the original invention of the typewriter nearly 150 years ago. Letters that are frequently typed (such as E, A, and I) were separated on the keyboard as a way to prevent the typewriter's keys from jamming. By the time fast typing was developed and made a requirement for clerical jobs, Qwerty's installed base was too huge to jettison. The invention of the PC in the '80s cemented Qwerty position.

For bold system builders and users, third-party keyboards now exist that can make up for Qwerty's drawbacks. Some condition the user to their improve touch-typing using Qwerty, while others dispense with the Qwerty layout altogether.

System builders who include such unique keyboards to their products and services catalog can offer increased value to customers, at least customers who are open to unconventional alternatives. One caveat, however: You will have to work personally with these alternative keyboards before you can proficiently offer advice about them. They're not intuitive—but then, neither is typing on a standard keyboard.

In this Recipe I review three representative examples of alternative keyboards: ergonomic, training, and a non-Qwerty.

Microsoft's Ergonomic Keyboard
Das Keyboard
NSK 535 S"    (Continued via Small Biz Resource)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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