[EMS Discuss] Keyboard Ideas

Mark Danburg-Wyld EMAIL HIDDEN
Thu Dec 20 09:20:28 PST 2012

Hi Dan,

I assume you're already aware of the Dvorak keyboard (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dvorak_Simplified_Keyboard), which doesn't go
quite as far as you're suggesting for a full keyboard replacement. The
problem with widespread replacement is that it has to be widespread before
it is feasible... that is, even if you have a better design of a full
keyboard, most people will need to be able to use both it and qwerty before
the new standard could take off, as people do spend a lot of time on their
company's machine, etc.

I've seen but not tried some interesting different concepts for cell phones
- see for example http://www.8pen.com/.

Back when I was spending a lot of time running, I thought that a one key,
hand-held, Morse code style input device would be useful. Of course, then
you also have to learn Morse code. I've heard claims that fluent Morse code
is faster than cell phone keyboarding, only there's not many fluent Morse
coders out there.

Some kind of bluetooth enabled "minority report" glove has potential.
Easily transportable, large percentage of machines could interface with it,
etc. You might have to worry about it accidentally picking up signals from
you fidgeting, getting out your car keys, etc. Also, would need to be
pretty tough - hands take a lot of abuse. Google might be ahead of you on
this one: http://www.ubergizmo.com/2012/08/google-smart-glove-patent/ Seems
like a natural to go with their glasses, when those come out.


On Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 4:50 PM, Dan Robinson <EMAIL HIDDEN> wrote:

> Ideas for Better Keyboards
> Dan Robinson EMAIL HIDDEN
> I hope this isn't more than you're ready to handle in this mode, but I get
> it organized better this way than in speaking.
> Is anyone at EMS interested in and up to building and using alternative
> keyboards? This would include keyboard interpretors with special functions,
> or maybe expanding a minor capability. I made some limited versions of such
> keyboards 20 or so years ago, when we had discrete keyswitches instead of
> them being partly built into the circuit board. I even used one to the
> point of finding it hard to go back to a QWERTY keyboard, when a new
> interface was needed.
> This is probably not far enough along to get into the Popular Science
> competiton, but maybe worth looking at for later ones. It isn't about an
> invention yet, but Arthur C. Clarke didn't have a working model of
> communication sattelites when he patented the idea. It was just generally
> agreed that they'd work.
> Have you heard that the maximum diameter of most modern rockets is
> determined by the width of a horse? Two horses were often used to pull
> wagons, chariots and such. This determined the practical width of wagons,
> therefore roads, and especially tunnels, therefore trucks and things
> carried on trucks, then railroad tracks, trains and thing carried on
> trains, such as rockets.
> Similarly, you've more likely heard that the QWERTY keyboard was designed
> around limitiations of early mechanical typewriters. This is true in more
> ways than you may know, maybe more than I know. First, the keys are mainly
> in left-right rows. Also, have you noticed that the C-F-T-6 row is at a
> different angle to left-right rows than the M-J-U-7 row (with all character
> rows to the sides having the same difference)? Why would that be? It's
> because in mechanical typewriters, each key was on top of a bar that went
> into the body of the typewriter to push other levers. If the above angles
> were the same, "B" would be in line with "Y", for instance, and the bars
> would conflict. Electric contacts are much more adaptable.
> On my preferred keyboard, fingers would control only character keys,
> including Space and Enter. The thumbs would control "modifier keys", in
> chord keyboard fashion.
> The character keys should be mainly in rows parallel to the fingers, in
> line with the forearms as they come from the sides of the body. The square
> keycaps should be turned to match these rows, so that, for instance, index
> finger keys could be closer to the index home keys. This means basically a
> separate keypad for each hand, probably still mounted on one frame. Home
> keys would be placed consistent with the average relative length of each
> finger, and other keys adjusted accordingly.
> All keycaps should have more of a rubbery surface, not hard and polished,
> as I usually see today.
> Perhaps if special rings were worn on the tips of each finger, keycaps,
> therefore keyboards, could be much smaller.
> Besides standard placement of keys, key definitions could be easily
> progammable for each user, who could perhap carry a special flash drive
> that would work only to produce their own special key definitions, at least
> until a new standard is accepted.
> Each thumb would control two (or three) "modifier" keys, like Shift, Ctrl,
> Alt and Fn, which the two thumbs could push in 16 (or 25) combinations,
> chord keyboard fashion. This would give 16 (or 25) possible meanings, for
> each character key, assuming you can push two adjacent keys with one thumb.
> Pushing, Shift, for instance, twice in a row and releasing it would give
> Shift Lock, and the same with other modifier keys, and maybe combinations.
> Then, pushing any modifier key and releasing it releases the lock.
> Keycaps wouldn't have letters, but would have two electrods in each. This
> would mean, for learning, the keyboard could be displayed on the bottom of
> the screen, showing the positions of fingers. Also, for those willing,
> instead of having "snap action" for tactile feedback, a small electric
> shock could be adjusted to give much the same sensation when electrical
> contact was made. Therefore keyboards could probably be thinner. (Or, could
> fingers be the actual electrical contacts to send the signal? None of this
> for those who fear electricity.)
> A one-handed keyboards with a similar design might be as fast as
> conventional two-handed keyboards.
> At one time I thought that the separate keypads should be curved and
> slanted inward, maybe about like the top of a basketball, because when my
> fingers are relaxed, in curved position, the tips tend to point inward.
> This complicates matters, but is worth considering. Maybe even a vertical,
> two-sided keyboard, with fingers on the far side and thumbs on the near
> side.
> I'm mostly interested in writing. Back in CPM days, the 80's, MicroPro's
> Wordstar would first show a basic menu for all commands. There were no
> "Alt", "Fn", arrow keys or menu bar. When in "write" mode, pushing Ctrl and
> hesitating for a specified time would display a menu of possibilities. If I
> remember right, this occured on several levels. If this were still done,
> keyboard commands might become faster than a mouse for most commands. (Also
> there was no mouse or graphic interface, and for most things I liked it
> better that way. I like keyboard commands best, when available. The mouse
> is easier to learn, but maybe not, when taking a hand off the keyboard, to
> use.)
> Further explanations available as needed, and free.
> ----------
> Beyond that, consider possibilities of pure chord keyboards. The ultimate
> would be in the form of gloves, ,maybe beyond "The Minority Report"
> version. My design would have a three-position switch or sensor at each
> major knuckle, and three switches at the wrist for three dimensions of
> motion. I count thirteen for one hand, for 1,594,320 "instant" meanings.
> When used in combination with the other hand, square that number to get
> 2.5419E12. (One could also maybe add some two-position sensors for
> side-to-side digit motion). Obviously only the easiest of these would be
> used by most people. (A game-playing version of this was written about in
> Scientific American in the '90s, called a "Power Glove", while I was coming
> up with the idea. I only saw crude versions of it later. Has anyone else,
> maybe into games, seen more?)
> Especially the latter design might be used only by the "next" generations,
> who would start learning it almost from birth, and maybe run the world by
> age twenty. To what degree is this already on the way in some circles?
> Dan
> ______________________________**_________________
> Discuss mailing list
> http://eugenemakerspace.com/**mailman/listinfo/com.**
> eugenemakerspace.discuss<http://eugenemakerspace.com/mailman/listinfo/com.eugenemakerspace.discuss>
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://eugenemakerspace.com/pipermail/com.eugenemakerspace.discuss/attachments/20121220/c4547940/attachment.html>

More information about the Discuss mailing list