A New Keyboard

By Shamus
on Oct 22, 2007
Filed under:
Pictures

I write software for a living. Once in a while, my computer will do something infuriating, such as following my instructions with destructive precision instead of intuiting what I wanted it to do. The scale of the damage ranges from a crashed program to obliterated data, and the punishment for these failures is usually the same: A quick, chiding smack delivered with the palm of the hand to the right side of the keyboard area, usually falling somewhere near the bottom of the keypad. Some might point out that aiming my blow between the mouse and keyboard would be equally productive while sparing my keyboard considerable wear and tear. While I do not disagree in principle, this somewhat misses the point of the act, which is to punish an insolent computer. At any rate, I’ve been smacking keyboards for over a quarter century now and I don’t think the habit is likely to be broken anytime soon.

This is to say, I go through a lot of keyboards.

Normally, I change keyboards an average of twice a year. However, despite my raw, feral hatred for my HP Pavilion, the keyboard that came with it is nigh-invincible. That computer took a savage beating during its term (which it earned, and then some) and the keyboard never faltered. I replaced the computer, and six months later the new keyboard failed as all mortal keyboards do under my cruel and unforgiving ownership. I reverted to the battle-hardened HP keyboard, and the thing is still in working order today. I finally had to replace it because the thing was so old I couldn’t bear to hit it anymore. Anything that survives that long under those conditions deserves a little respect. (Plus, I found a Logitech wireless keyboard / mouse combo for so cheap that, even if I were to smash them tomorrow, I would still feel like I made out.)

But check out the arrangement of the keys on the new keyboard:

A Logitech wireless keyboard.  The name is somewhat misleading, as I’ll bet it has wires <i>inside</i>.
A Logitech wireless keyboard. The name is somewhat misleading, as I’ll bet it has wires inside.

Note the section above the arrow keys. The usual arrangement is the one you most likely have in front of you. Two rows, the first with with Insert, Home, Page Up and the second with Delete, End, Page Down.

Despite my voracious keyboard consumption, I’ve never seen this. I’ve been typing on the same layout for over a decade now, so I’m exceptionally resistant to change in this regard, but I have to admit that this is an improvement. It’s one of those things that seem obvious once you see it, and you wonder why it took this long for anyone to come up with it. I see several advantages:

  1. Home / End are arranged horizontally, with more closely reflects how they are used. Page Up / Down are still vertical, which matches how they are normally used.
  2. For clumsy typists like me, the Delete key is the most popular of the six. It is now double-sized, thus reducing the chance of making mistakes while correcting mistakes.
  3. Insert is eliminated. This is going to be a major drawback for people who actually used that key. I never did. On the rare occasions when I needed it, I used the one on the numpad.
  4. The old setup wasted a lot of space. There was usually a wasteland between these keys and the arrow keys below. That space is now put to use, and the keyboard can be made slightly narrower as well.

I don’t know if this new setup is a coming trend or if this is just a mutant. Still, I think I’ll try to pull my punches on this one until I’m sure I can replace it.

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202020363 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

From the Archives:

  1. Looks like “insert” is up next to “Print Screen”. Good thing, too; in my favorite graphics editor the “insert” key means “invert mask”.

  2. Shawn says:

    My keyboard has the same setup as the picture above.

    Microsoft ergonomic wireless keyboard fwiw.

  3. supermank17 says:

    Most keyboards have been like that for a while. Every keyboard I’ve been purchased in the last 3 years or so has had that alignment (although admittedly I only own logitech or Microsoft keyboards). Overall I’d say you’re pretty safe destroying this model ;-).

  4. Luke says:

    I’ve got the same layout on my Microsoft Multimedia Keyboard, which I’ve had for about 3 years now, maybe a bit longer (I’m not nearly as rough with my keyboards as you are).
    It is indeed quite handy, although it was a bit of a surprise to find it that way. Unfortunately the “F Lock” system that the Microsoft keyboard has is nowhere near as convenient. You can’t win them all, I suppose.

    There’s a picture of it here: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/images/gallery/hardware/MultiMedia-Keyboard.jpg

  5. mark says:

    mine has the new layout too. When i first saw them, i was highly against it, as home/end are sometimes used for zoom/camera tilt in games.

    After using it for about a year, i LOVE that i NEVER hit insert accidentally, and have a nice big delete key to mash.

    also, mine is a british one, so enter is double height, slighly narrower, but on the whole bigger. its just perfect for mashing! how can you americans live with an enter BAR? its horrible!

  6. Jeremiah says:

    Yeah, I’ve got that layout on my keyboard, too. It’s whatever came with the Alienware I bought a couple years ago, but I think it’s probably a Microsoft keyboard. It was strange at first getting used to the layout, but I do like it. It just sucks going back and forth between different computers — my desktop, my laptop, my work desktop, my work laptop; of course each one has a different layout.

  7. guy says:

    hmm, where did the capslock, numlock, ans scrolllock lights go?

  8. Dhauzimmer says:

    guy: There usually aren’t any lights on wireless keyboards – ostensibly to save power. The lights are usually on the receiver or presented using software (either in the system tray or popping up as an overlay when you actually push those keys).

  9. A different Dan says:

    Ugh.
    Yeah, the whole indicator light thing? Kind of infuriating. Mine is a Belkin wireless F8E830, and not having a caps lock indicator been a *huge* issue.

    I note that yours up-sized the “backspace” key in exchange for a smaller “enter.” I’d love to see the frequency analysis that led to that design.

  10. A different Dan says:

    But really, Shamus, I’ll bet what you really need is something to whip your writing into *shape*! Something that will mind-meld with you, Vulcan-like, due to astonishing feats of German precision engineering!
    Something like… Das Keyboard.
    http://daskeyboard.com/

  11. Adam says:

    Dan… I that Key board was not so expensive I would get it for work and leave it plugged in for the part timers that show up every night. It would be great.

  12. Rick Tacular says:

    Yessir, same with my Logitech wireless. It took me forever to get used to it. Now that I am, standard keyboards miff me. *sigh* We’ll never win, will we. ;-)

  13. Mari says:

    Oh the conundrum. To rush out and get a new keyboard with this awesome new configuration or to hold onto my old super-tank of a keyboard with highly tactile clickey-clack keys. It would be cool not to need an AT-to-PS2 adapter anymore (yes, my keyboard is that old. Because nobody will make keyboards with the feel of the old IBM keyboards where typing is a symphony of clicks and the keys resist my touch to the perfect degree)

    I do like the new layout, though. It’s clever. It moves that annoying insert key so that my pinky doesn’t accidentally hit it when I’m going for the delete key.

  14. Coogan says:

    Not to play the one-up game, but I have an NEC keyboard I got with a 386SX back in 1991. It’s the fastest, smoothest, most comfortable keyboard (I do a lot of writing, so it matters) I have ever used. And it plugs into my 2 year-old Dell.

    I still use it, and it works as perfectly as it did when I first got it. I would not even think of abusing this gem. Evar.

  15. Kilmor says:

    Have you ever considered using the good old IBM Model M?
    Sounds like Mari knows their greatness as well :)

  16. Edhering says:

    Saw the pic and thought, “Gee, that looks familiar…” I think I have the exact same one, bought extra-cheap at work on clearance with my discount. :D

    Hate that arrangement, though.

  17. Deoxy says:

    I have this strange mutant keyboard at work… never seen another one like it anywhere.

    The Function keys (F1, F2, etc) are in their normal place… AND in a vertical column 2-wide on the left hand-side.

    Also (and the reason I LOVE it), the normal 4-way arrow keys (as your new on has) are replaced by a 9-key square… yes, it has DIAGONAL arrow keys (that are interpreted as two key-strikes, to make it instantly compatible). The middle key is space (don’t know why). That means it is flush with the standard 6 key configuration of end/home, page-up/page-down, insert/delete (your new one does look highly superior on that point).

    Oddly enough, the only other difference I’ve noted (other than not having the little windows key, as it predates that by several years at least is an asterisk key between the control and alt buttons on the left-hand side (just an asterisk, no shift required) and an additional pipe-slash key between the alt and control buttons on the right-hand side.

    All of this leads me to believe that it was a keyboard designed for COBOL coding (easy * usage, diagonal keys, etc).

    Sadly, the ‘e’ key is giving out (leading to many ‘e’ related typos from me, sometimes missing it, sometimes it multi-strikes instead), and I am finally considering its replacement…

    Since I don’t code in COBOL anymore, I have much less use of the diagonal keys, but oh, have I loved them… and I doubt that I shall ever see their like again. :-(

  18. TB says:

    “I write software for a living. Once in a while, my computer will do something infuriating, such as following my instructions with destructive precision instead of intuiting what I wanted it to do. The scale of the damage ranges from a crashed program to obliterated data, and the punishment for these failures is usually the same…”

    That’s a very pleasant bit of prose there Shamus, bravo

  19. Belzi.ET says:

    This “new” style you write about isn’t really new.
    Microsoft uses it for a few years.

    One of the best keyboards I bought through the years is my current one: Logitech G15
    http://www.trustedreviews.com/images/article/inline/3789-1.jpg
    Truly a gamer-keyboard, or at least for those of us who love the bunch of extra-keys to bind programs or macros (G15 offers 3 sets with 18 bindings each =))

  20. Phlux says:

    I think retail keyboards are going this direction. I dont’ see very many OEM keyboards like this. If you want a sturdy keyboard, I recommend a really old (like pre-PS/2) IBM keyboard. Those things had metal springs in every key and they were built like tanks. You need pliers just to pull the keys off.

    They still work just fine with modern computers, provided you have an AT to PS/2 adapter. I guess some computers don’t have ps/2 ports anymore, but there are ps2 to usb adapters as well.

    The best description of what the keys sound like when you press them is to recall the sound of pulling the trigger on the original nintendo zapper. It’s just like that.

  21. Shandrunn says:

    Oh, I have the exact same key layout, including the fancy multimedia keys. If you didn’t say yours is wireless, I’d excitedly exclaim we have the same one.

    I don’t like wireless accessories. I got a wireless mouse/keyboard set with my new computer, but I faithfully stuck to the wired mouse I had and bought a new KB to go with it. I find the reliability of wires comforting, and that feeling is reinforced whenever I see a friend type something along the lines of “I ned to repace thebateries om m keyboad”.

  22. Locri says:

    Yeah… my Logitech Wireless keyboard/mouse combo has the same thing. It took awhile to get used to, but I don’t even really notice it anymore (and this includes switching between a regular keyboard and that one between home and work). The thing I notice most, though, is I LOVE it being wireless. It’s great being able to move things around and not worry about a cord tripping something up.

  23. roxysteve says:

    [Beating up on delicate hardware safely] I happened to discover a wonderful implement for pounding on stuff, completely by accident, a few days ago. It makes a really satisfying WHACK sound, reminiscent of a cricket bat hitting a ball, yet delivers only a very light blow.

    What is this wonderful device and where can you get it?

    Well, I could sell you one branded as an all-purpose computer whacker (fully cross-platform compatable), but you could also but them in packs of six or so from Home Despot or Blowes. You’re looking for the foam rubber insulation tubes you put over pipes.

    For computer equipment assault purposes you don’t open the split in the side, and you cut the tube to the most convenient length for your workspace.

    I used one on a Mac* on Friday. Well, it was that or my claw hammer, but this was the next best thing.

    Steve.

    * For the crime of being an overpriced piece of junk. It bricked two months ago and what it needs to fix it is basically a PC item with a few hundred dollars “Mac tax” tacked on.

  24. Sord says:

    Deoxy, I also have a keyboard with the same layout as yours (two sets of F1-12 keys, angled directionals, etc).

    My keyboard is proudly labeled as a Gateway2000 and the real reason I used it is because it also includes built-in macros. You can program any key on the keyboard to instead output a sequence of keys (I typically use the extra F1-12 keys). Makes many otherwise painful editing tasks a breeze.

    Downside is it occasionally crashes and I have to reboot my keyboard…

  25. Marauder says:

    Where is the Scroll Lock? I have a different Logitech wireless keyboard within view with a similar layout and the Scroll Lock was bundled with the insert key (with Function Lock) I don’t see that on there.

    I will however maintain that you’ll have to pry my collection of IBM Model M’s out of my cold dead hands, if you want a keyboard that will take a beating and come back begging more more, that’s the one…

    Mari: For those that are interested, the IBM/Lexmark Model M design is still produced by Unicomp and available for purchase at http://www.pckeyboard.com/ I have not purchased one since I have several original vintage Model M keyboards, but their “customizer” is supposed to be basically a Modem M with their logo and they also can provide parts for older models (I’ve gotten replacement parts from them before. You might be able to replace that AT cable with PS2, especially if yours is one of the models with the removable cable.)

    Vintage Model M’s can also sometimes be found for sale at http://www.clickykeyboards.com/

  26. bkw says:

    I’ve bought a few keyboards from clickykeyboards.com, and one from pckeyboard.com. The pckeyboard.com was distressingly cheap and poorly made.

    I do love the original M5 boards, and have a few stored away.

    I’m just glad they’ve mostly gone back to the inverted-T for the arrow keys, instead of that lousy 3/4 size cross formation that was all the rage for a couple years.

  27. Blackbird71 says:

    Hmm, interesting, I don’t think I’ve seen this layout before, or at least haven’t noticed it and payed it any attention. If it improves efficiency, great. Now, if only we could get a keyboard designer with enough guts to re-arrange the layout of the letters.

    For anyone who doesn’t know, the Qwerty layout was designed specifically to slow down the speed at which people could type. This was because the early typewriters broke when people typed too fast. Mechanical design at the time just wasn’t up to the speed of a skilled typist. So, the Qwerty was born, not out of convenience or efficiency, but just the opposite. You would think that now that the mechanical limtations are not a factor, we could get a redesign that would improve typing speed rather than hinder it. But of course, it will never happen, we’re too conditioned to the current layout, and people in general don’t like change.

    I hate it when tradition and convention impede progress for no reason other than “that’s the way it’s always been done.” If there’s a better way to do it, why not?

  28. Marauder says:

    bkw: thanks for sharing your experience with pckeyboard.com I had been thinking of checking one out but if they’re low quality then I won’t bother.

  29. Hal says:

    Nobody has mentioned my all-time FAVORITE keyboard yet.

    Back on my old Compaq Presario (133MHz Pentium MMX!), the keyboard had the spacebar split into two keys. The right half remained the traditional space bar, while the left half became a backspace key.

    I loved this thing so much. It made typing much, much easier, as access to the backspace key becomes much more natural, and you normally only use the right thumb when it comes to pressing space anyhow.

    Games were equal beneficiaries, as backspace key was now in reach and could be assigned a macro without it being inconvenient.

    Sadly, I have yet to find a USB keyboard with that design. I can’t believe they never became popular. Tragic.

  30. nilus says:

    You kids are your new fancy keyboards.

    I use an IBM PS/2 keyboard. I honestly think IBM manufactured several billion of these(many more then actual PCs) through out the 80s and 90s. They are big and bulky and anti-ergonomic. But they are also over 50% steel parts. The keys take a slight bit a of force to type with and give off an almost typewriter click. They wieght much more then a keyboard should but I have never in all my years seen one that was broken. They are nigh invulnerable.

    Go to any computer Resale shop or PC parts show and you will find any number of vendors selling these things for like 5 bucks. And its worth it.

  31. Jansolo says:

    I’ve got a Logitech Wireless keyboard/mouse combo too.

    I’m happy with teh layout of the mentioned keys, but…

    …I want capslock, numlock, ans scrolllock lights as guy does (how much power consumes three leds?)

    …I miss very much the right-click-mouse-key, the one between ALT GR and CTRL. Instead I’ve got a FN key, very useless for me.

    And there a lot of function keys: for calcultaor, explorer, word and so on. I never use them.

    The main problem for me is that my keyboard of my home is totally different from my keyboard of my office. I spend a lot of time adjusting my mind (and my fingers)

  32. Yet another interface stupidity foisted on us by Microsoft for no good reason, and blindly copied by everyone else. The MS keyboard I got at my office when I started here a year ago has that (stupid) arrangement. It takes me hours to adjust when I go back home and use my older Logitech keyboard.

    If Apple’s new keyboards turn out to be not stupid, I might bring one in to work. USB is USB…

    – chrish

  33. Don Monkey says:

    At home, I have a Logitech wireless with the same layout. I agree that it is very nice to have.

    At work, I have a Dell keyboard that has some similar changes… But not the SAME changes. At work, I have Home and Page Up on the top row, then End and Page Down, then Delete and Insert. (No double-sized Delete key here.)

    I got the two keyboards almost at the same time, so I was re-training my fingers both at home and at work, but with DIFFERENT RULES. It hasn’t happened much lately, but I used to frequently hit Page Up at work when I was looking for End.

    It REALLY sucked sometimes.

  34. Deoxy says:

    Sord,

    Yes, that’s it exactly! Gateway 200 logo proudly displayed in large font in the top left corner, and yes, I forgot to mention that it is programmable (I never use that functionality anymore). It has four extra buttons above the number pad for that (Program Macro, Suspend Macro, Repeat Rate, and Remap).

    Wow – never thought I’d talk to someone else that had one… any idea how old they are? It was already well-worn when I got it in late 1999…

  35. Zaghadka says:

    Blackbird71: Google the “Dvorak keyboard” and be amazed. This is an alternate keyboard layout optimized for touchtyping.

    Enjoy.

  36. John says:

    I have two solutions to my own versions of your original problem. Firstly, i have a case made of solid steel. The upside is if my computer fails to read my mind i can give it a good kicking (you want to buy shock-resistant components too). Secondly i have a Z-Board keyboard. Admittedly, the whole “switch your layout” thing is useless and gimmicky, but there is another feature that they omit. The keys and plastic are separated by a layer of plastic, which means that it has a lot more spill-resistance than most keyboards. The amount of beer/coke/water/….. mine has drunk is ridiculous, and apart from wiping away any stickiness from the sugar, it really is a shake-it-out-and-keep-going keyboard

  37. Oleyo says:

    Improvement?! Madness! How am I supposed to arrange all of my lesser healing/buff spells on the top row and all my greater healing/cooldown abilities on the bottom row depending on class, with a sick twisted arrangement like that!? Madness! ;)

  38. Sord says:

    Deoxy,

    Mine also had a bit of use on it when I got it back in ’95. There is a sticker on the bottom of mine that lists a date of 04-23-92, so I’d guess that is close to the manufacture date.

  39. Sord says:

    Huh, apparently there is an entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gateway_AnyKey on the Gateway keyboard…

  40. Plasma says:

    My keyboard has a setup halfway between that one and the standard. That is, it has two rows of three columns, with the first column being a double-sized Delete key, the second row Home and End, and the third row Page Up and Page Down. Now, I almost never actually use Home, End, Page Up, or Page down, so those I just ignore. The double-sized Delete is indeed convenient. But the most convenient thing about this arrangement is the lack of an insert key, because the only thing I ever used the insert key for was to DEactivate the insert function after I had accidentally hit the key. The key’s presence on the keyboard was actively annoying.

    Of course, with the new one I would occasionally activate insert without knowing how, which usually prompted me to restart. Until I discovered the insert key on the numpad. Somebody pointed it out to me, actually. I’m not very observant.

  41. Plasma says:

    Also, Blackbird71: You’re almost right about the QWERTY keyboard. But, according to my understanding, it was not designed to slow down typing (that’s a side-effect, and many sources assert that it doesn’t even slow down typing at all, and may even help to speed it up), but instead to make sure the most commonly-typed letters were as far apart as possible, to minimize collisions between the bars.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qwerty#History_and_purposes seems to have a good analysis.

  42. Turgid Bolk says:

    Re: qwerty and Dvorak layouts: you don’t have to wait for some designer and manufacturer to make a better layout. You can learn Dvorak and switch most any computer to use it instead. If you really want to switch your keyboard, either move your keys around by hand, or buy a Dvorak keyboard (though labeled keys tend to get used as a crutch in any layout). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dvorak_Simplified_Keyboard

    Of course that only goes so far, you can’t change the size of keys and stuff on your own, unless you want to manufacture one somehow. Sounds like a good weekend project!

    I also have a Logitech, but this one is exactly like a regular layout except the delete key occupies the insert’s space too. Only thing is, they didn’t put the insert key anywhere else, it’s just missing. Rather annoying in some games and programs. Oh well, one day I will find the optimal keyboard for me. Or I’ll just wait for Star Trek-like technology to make manufacturing a breeze.

  43. Namfoodle says:

    When my work PC acts up, I usually give a solic “b*tch slap” to the side of the CRT. This makes me feel better and has yet to do any damage to the ancient monitor. If I ever break it and they give my a flat screen, I will probably stay my hand.

    When I’m at home, I try to avoid coming to blows with inanimate objects that I’ve actually paid for with my own money.

  44. General Ghoul says:

    My keyboard died about 3 months ago, then a week later my mouse died. Both plugged into the back of my Dell in their own port. After switching out both with a similar model, they still didn’t work. Then I saw a USB KB and mouse combo at Walmart for $11, so I said hey why not. Both work great but the keyboard has a strange layout. The backspace is a little farther right than I’m used to, so I end up hitting \\\\ a lot. And the delete and insert keys are reversed with the delete key farther away from the enter key. Not that big a deal, but I type on a standard keyboard at work so my mind/fingers need some adjustment time while switching back and forth.

  45. ArchU says:

    There is a certain level of insanity in the sensibility of such a design. One of those things that is so logical that it stops making sense and nothing seems right anymore.

    Also, better open the keyboard to check if there are wires inside as suspected. Maybe Logitech has pulled a fast one!

  46. Panda says:

    The insert key can suck my big black strapon. Hates it we does.

  47. roxysteve says:

    Plasma:
    Also, Blackbird71: You’re almost right about the QWERTY keyboard. But, according to my understanding, it was not designed to slow down typing (that’s a side-effect, and many sources assert that it doesn’t even slow down typing at all, and may even help to speed it up), but instead to make sure the most commonly-typed letters were as far apart as possible, to minimize collisions between the bars.

    You have the right of it. The old non-electrics had heavy levers attached to the keys at one end via a second cantilever arrangement. This lever was between about 3.5 and 5 inches long on some models (like the ones you see in WWII-era movies about newspaper offices) depending on the letter and they were arranged in a semicircular array in the middle of the machine. The end of the lever had the type cast into it (one font to bring them all and in the darkness bind them?) and it worked by sheer physical action – very hard on the old fingers. gravity returned the levers to their parking place. Some of the outer levers had a very shallow trajectory and therefore took a long time to park. It made sense to make the middle type levers the letters most used because they would require less effort to use and would park quickly after use. the less used letters were relegated to the further reaches of the semicircular array.

    Azathoth, I’m old.

    As for Dvorak and the other arrangements, it still retains the clumsy, unergonimoic rectangular key array and only uses the fingers and thumbs to produce type. Some of the ergonomic keypunch keyboards that were tried in the 70s would make your eyes bug out. My fave, made by a swedish company if I remember right, had two hemispheric hollows that you rested your hands in. There were keys dotted all over the surface, and functions were allocated to movements of the whole hand, not just the fingers (space was achieved by rocking the right hand to one side if I remember rightly). A practised operator could easily outstrip a typist using a conventional keyboard.

    So much for the new millenium. You’ve got to start thinking outside the box again if you want to truly innovate in the keyboard biz.

    My current favourite device is a laser projectior that “paints” a keyboard onto any surface you want to use. Now that’s the sort of science we need if we’re ever going to have flying cars.

    As always, interesting reading. Thanks, lads’n’lassies.

    Steve.

  48. MaxEd says:

    I’ve received wireless Logitech keyboard and mouse as a birthday present from friends once. I hated the keyboard from the first sight. I find this layout stupid and maddening and tough I’ve tried to use this keyboard for about half of a year, I never got used to it. Wireless mouse also drove me mad, because it needed new batteries once a month and I’m just not used to it. So now I’m happily back to my 4-years old “standard” keyboard and my ol’ trusty Genius COM mouse with no scroll wheel.

  49. Andrew says:

    I may be the only person with this opinion, but I do not like the new layout and am dreading when my hardware breaks down and requires replacement with this.

    The layout I learned to use for FPS games is based around the arrow keys, rather than the numpad or aswd keys, because I can solidly and clearly feel the distinct location of the keys and still maintain a grip on the board, as I rarely have the benefit of a desk or proper fixed keyboard tray. The insert/delete block is what I’ve relied on for years when assigning my keys, and the new block has fewer options and a worse spacing for my purposes.

  50. Blackbird71 wrote: “For anyone who doesn’t know, the Qwerty layout was designed specifically to slow down the speed at which people could type.”

    This is what we politely refer to as an “urban legend”. It’s less politely referred to as “marketing bullshit propagated by Dvorak”.

    One of the design goals of the QWERTY layout is to reduce mechanical jams by separating commonly used letter pairs. But this was also done in order to increase typing speeds — not slow them down. Why? Because we type with two hands.

    The statistical models available to QWERTY designers were relatively crude, so it wouldn’t be surprising to discover that a superior layout might exist.

    But would it be a significant enough improvement to justify the costs in equipment, software development, and retraining necessary to implement it? Almost certainly not, according to every single independent study ever done on the matter. The difference in potential speed between a QWERTY layout and alternative layouts simply isn’t meaningful. It’s the type of slight difference that might matter if you were, for example, pursuing the world record for typing speeds. But largely irrelevant for any meaningful application.

    Justin Alexander
    http://www.thealexandrian.net

  51. Turgid Bolk says:

    @roxysteve: Yes indeed, there have been many cool text input devices over the years, but here’s the problem: do you see how many people can’t stand the Microsoft/Logitech layout? Now imagine handing them a chording keyboard, or that Swedish one you mentioned.

    Almost nobody goes for really different devices. I predict people will still be using old and busted QWERTY keyboards right up until direct brain/computer interfaces become standard. Oh well, at least some of them are ergonomic.

  52. Lil'German says:

    I don’t know if it’s the same with the US Layout, but in Germany all Microsoft “natural” ergonomically designed keyboards use this grouping of the keys (but our return button is formed like an L and inhabits all the space up to where your board does have it’s ´` key… so this keyboard would be challenging for me too :D)

  53. Deoxy says:

    “This is what we politely refer to as an “urban legend”. It’s less politely referred to as “marketing bullshit propagated by Dvorak”.”

    Whenever I hear that, I chuckle politely at ignorant people making fun of others’ ignorance.

    Having actually typed on a real type-writer (yes, really), I can assure you that you MUST slow down, or you will jam the hammers together. Their relative location matters only in determining whether they will hit each other and fall back again (one of them never having hit the paper) or stick together and have to be manually pulled apart again (with at most one of them having hit the paper).

    The difference isn’t too great, really, but it’s noticeable… I’ve watched people type on Dvorak (never bothered to learn it, myself), and they always type faster than I can, and many people comment that I’m a fairly fast typist.

  54. Deoxy says:

    Oh, and I don’t claim Dvorak to be the best at all, mind you… no idea, really. Just stating that, from my experience, it beats QWERTY hands down. I’d be surprised if there isn’t something better, still… or better for which keys we use more now, anyway.

    Personally, I’d like to try some of that “really outside the box” stuff…. but, barring that (and it doesn’t really seem likely), the laser-projected keyboard looks like a great start (cool part: you could, theoretically, completely change the layout quite easily, even the SHAPE of the keyboard, with the same hardware).

  55. Davesnot says:

    Hmm.. looks like mine.. I guess I can leave mine when I evacuate.. and if it burns up I won’t be bothered with a new setup.

  56. Miral says:

    My favourite keyboard was an old IBM PS/1 one (spring-loaded clicky keys), which had the interesting quirk of having an L-shaped Enter key and moving the backslash down to the right-hand-side of the right Shift key.

    I finally retired it (to a server computer instead of my main desktop) due to its lack of a Windows key, and my increasing love of using Win+R to do everything. (And Ctrl-Esc R, the other way to do that, is much slower and doesn’t work in Vista any more. Not that I’m using Vista at home.)

  57. Rason says:

    This is the exact same package deal I bought myself for my birthday barely 2 months ago. It died on me last week. I’d like to point out I am a very non violent person when it comes to computers and I never smacked my keyboard, the worst it took was an accidental dropping once while I held it in my lap. I really liked the setup tho. So heres to yours lasting longer, as I was pretty upset mine died with such little use, let alone abuse.

  58. Deoxy wrote: “Having actually typed on a real type-writer (yes, really), I can assure you that you MUST slow down, or you will jam the hammers together. Their relative location matters only in determining whether they will hit each other and fall back again (one of them never having hit the paper) or stick together and have to be manually pulled apart again (with at most one of them having hit the paper).”

    So you’re claiming that the QWERTY layout slows down typing speeds so jamming wouldn’t happened and also failed to slow them down? Or were you typing on a “real” Dvorak typewriter?

    No one disputes that, if you type too fast on a typewriter, the typewriter will jam. But that’s completely irrelevant to the actual subject being discussed.

  59. Glenn says:

    For want a DWIM* op-code, millions of keyboards have given their all.

    * Do What I Mean

  60. ryanlb says:

    Does anyone else think it’s kinda strange that there are 61 comments talking about keyboards? Then again, it is the primary input method for most computers. It just struck me as funny.

    Anyway, I haven’t much experience with the ‘new’ layout, but I have hated every second of it. However, now that I’ve been made to think about the redesign, it’s much better. I hate the insert key, and have no use for it. But then again, I run a program that maps bash (or emacs) keystrokes onto all windows apps, so I use Ctrl-D for delete, etc for the other keys in that block. I try to move my hands from the home position.

    I also hate oversized Enter keys. I MUST have the pipe/backslash above my enter key or I cannot program effectively, because I’m always hitting Enter instead of pipe.

  61. Tacoma says:

    I can’t stand Insert. Where it is on a standard keyboard I always accidently hit it with my pinkie and overwrite a bunch of text. I never need it and I see no reason to ever use it. It’s just ridiculous.

    I’ve also never used Scroll Lock or Pause Break. And I use Print Screen rarely enough that they could use a key combo for it.

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