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New Standard Keyboard 973

Posted by samzenpus
from the learn-to-type-again dept.
An anonymous reader writes "There are two keyboard standards today - QWERTY and DVORAK. QWERTY, the one we usually have, was used on the first commercially produced typewriter in 1873. Ironically, QWERTY was actually designed to slow down the typist to prevent jamming the keys, and we've been stuck with that layout since. New Standard Keyboards offers new "alphabetical" keyboard. This keyboard has just 53-keys (instead of 101) and offers user-friendly benefits and quick data entry."
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New Standard Keyboard

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:07PM (#11464620)
    Stop [] perpetuating [] myths [].

    Dvorak made up that story as marketing for the keyboard design he hoped to profit from. And, could they have made that new keyboard any uglier?
    • No, it's just a half-truth. The keys were placed such that the hammers were statistically less likely to jam, even if the monks typed at the same speed.

      Nobody really denies that Qwerty is an inefficient layout. At least nobody who has done their homework. There are many studies comparing wpm speeds of people proficient in both Qwerty and Dvorak that show the clear advantage of the latter. I'll leave finding them as an exercise to the reader (read: I'm too lazy to look them up right now).

      So let's use a
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:28PM (#11464811)
        Trogre could have all the energy and ambition in the world, and he STILL wouldn't find any studies showing a "clear advantage" to the Dvorak keyboard. That's because such studies do not exist, despite the urban legends to the contrary. The work of Liebowitz and Margolis, cited above, makes this abundantly clear. The two economists thoroughly researched the entire Dvorak saga, and discovered that all of the things people like Trogre have heard about the Dvorak keyboard simply are not true. Most, in fact, have their origins in propaganda from Dvorak himself. No serious objective tests of the two keyboards found any substantial difference between them.
        • by Wavicle (181176) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @02:19AM (#11465706)
          The work of Liebowitz and Margolis, cited above, makes this abundantly clear.

          The study by Liebowitz and Margolis depend heavily on two assumptions:

          1) Dvorak's studies were self-serving and therefore suspicious.
          2) Strong's studies were well controlled.

          The first is kind of hard to argue, as the studies were self-serving. However, Strong's studies were NOT well controlled.

          Don't believe me? Try getting the original material of Strong's research to verify his claims. You can't. Know why? Strong destroyed the material. If Strong's studies were well controlled, why did he shred his research when people started asking about it?

          So in "researching the entire Dvorak saga", the two economists failed to even mention that Strong's research, which they use as the fundamental support of their argument, may be seriously flawed. At the very least we cannot take it at face value since we cannot analyze the data ourselves. In fact, Strong was not objective at all, from the very beginning he intended to show that any speed up with Dvorak is sufficiently small that retraining the Navy's typists would be impractical. So why did these economists overlook this fact? Well, they were themselves trying to argue that the market always picks the best solution.

          Keep this in mind when you think about window's dominance in the market, or any other product that rose to the top through whatever questionable means. The paper in which these two economists wrote about Dvorak not being better than Qwerty was actually a paper in which they were saying "The market always chooses the best option." The keyboards were just the whipping boy they chose to use.

          So which serious objective tests between the two keyboards have there been?
          • Liebowitz and Margolis's articles mention other studies (by Western Electric and Oregon State University) that are in line with Strong's results but not with Dvorak's results. They mention a study by two people at the IBM Research Laboratory (and several other unidentified studies) that found no keyboard with clear advantage over QWERTY. The named studies do not appear to be online.

            The reports that Strong was biased and refused to provide his raw data come from another Dvorak disciple (Hisao Yamada), who
            • Complaining that Windows (or QWERTY) won the market instead of your favorite is petty: free markets are pretty efficient, and if the benefits were as significant as you seem to think, somebody would have switched and saved a bundle in the long run.

              True enough: for what it did at the price it cost, Windows was the better choice for most people for a long time (the Macintosh was a far better machine with a far better OS, but it cost far too much at the time). And now the free market is choosing another OS:

          • by cliffyqs (773401) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @09:31AM (#11467794)
            I say:
            I switched because less finger travel made my hands less tired at the same typing speed. I still use both layouts, but if I am typing a lot, I will use dvorak.

            When I first thought about switching, I created an Excel macro to count finger reaches in QWERTY phrases and one for Dvorak. I also started making a list of common words that can be typed on the home row in each. In both of these endeavors, Dvorak won. roughly 25-30% less finger travel, more in some phrases. Many more common words on the home row.

            Here [] is a company that makes ergo keyboards with vertical rows, QWERTY, Dvorak, or both.

            History says:
            The slant of the columns on the keyboard is an artifact left over from mechanical typewriters.
            For those not acquainted with the story of the keyboards, here's a short version:

        • There is a clearn advantage to a Dvorak keyboard. I have one on my box at home. It has a clutch, making it switchable between Qwerty and Dvorak. My wife, an outstanding typist, refuses to even think about using it, thus keeping people away. Advantage: Dvorak
          • You can troll all you want for qewrty or dvorak layout. You all seem to be missing a fundamental piece of the picture though.

            When discussing what layout recquires least handmovement and so on, you all seem to assume everyone in the world types in english, or that all other languages in the world has the same basic construction of words with the same sounds.

            Let me inform you, as I'm not even from a country where english is native language and am somewhat capable in at least three other languages, that

        • The work of Liebowitz and Margolis, cited above, makes this abundantly clear. The two economists thoroughly researched the entire Dvorak saga, and discovered that all of the things people like Trogre have heard about the Dvorak keyboard simply are not true.

          I would argue that both sides of the argument (Dvarok vs Liebowitz and Margolis) had something to gain by proving their point - Liebowitz and Margolis needed to debunk the idea that economic factors lead to random take-up of technologies regardless of q

      • wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bani (467531) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:31PM (#11464829)
        studies show neither dvorak nor qwerty have an advantage. in fact they show almost any random arrangement of keys appears to work equally well.
        • Re:wrong (Score:4, Informative)

          by iocat (572367) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:41PM (#11464894) Homepage Journal
          Most of the "Dvork is better than Qwerty" studies were done during World War II by - wait for it - Dvorak.

          Speaking of which, y'all should check out my new IOCATB keyboard layout. It takes a little while to get used to, but once you do, it feels faster than anything else.

          • I'd have to reconfigure all of my first person shooters!
          • Re:wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jonadab (583620) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @10:05AM (#11468167) Homepage Journal
            The problem with Dvorak is that it makes the same mistakes as QWERTY.

            Fundamentally, how you arrange the letters -- assuming you use some logical
            arrangement that makes a bit of sense -- is not the only thing that matters.
            QWERTY (in order to keep typewriters from jamming) arranges them so that it's
            statistically less likely for adjascent letters to occur on the same finger
            and more likely for them to occur on opposite hands. This does speed up
            typing somewhat over, say, an alphabetical layout (once you are comfortably
            familiar with the layout you are using, of course). Dvorak instead goes out
            of its way to put the letters that are most frequently used in English on
            the keys that are easiest to hit. This too speeds up typing somewhat over
            an alphabetical layout.

            But they both have serious flaws, and it's not in how they lay out the letters.
            It's in how they handle the other keys, which they do virtually the same way.
            The numbers across the top are okay, and the spacebar is okay -- well, the
            spacebar would be okay if it didn't waste one whole thumb. The thumb is
            unique among the hand's fingers in that it can easily operate independently
            from the other fingers. This makes it ideal for the spacebar, because space
            is statistically more likely than any other character to be typed right
            before or right after any other character. However, the thumb is *also*
            ideal for a bucky key, the most important being shift, for a similar reason:
            you can hold a key down with the thumb, and all your other fingers can still
            hit any key they could hit before. Try that with the shift key where it is
            now: it doesn't work, which is the main reason we have two shift keys,
            which is wasteful and makes the layout larger than it needs to be. A second
            thumb bar for shift would be much more efficient, in terms of typing speed,
            and as an added bonus it reduces by one the number of keys needed. *Plus*,
            it substantially reduces the frequency with which you hyperextend your pinky.
            If your pinkies hurt after a long bout of typing, this is the answer.

            There are other mistakes both layouts make. Ctrl is similarly poorly
            positioned and should definitely be put where it's easier to hit. On the
            other hand, the window key is in a bad place. It's effect is much more
            drastic than ctrl, in that it takes keyboard focus completely away from the
            application or window that had it and thoroughly disrupts whatever was being
            done, so it should be out of the way more. Where the traditional layouts
            have put it, it gets hit mostly by mistake and becomes an annoyance -- quite
            needlessly, because there are plenty of out of the way places where it could
            be put such that it would not be hit by mistake while the user is typing.
            Right next to Print Screen, for example, would be a great place for it.

            I could go on and on, but basically it comes down to this: QWERTY and Dvorak
            both took great care when arranging the letters, and it shows: they're both
            pretty decent arrangements for that (for different reasons). But they appear
            to have put no thought whatsoever into the arrangment of the other keys
            (except the spacebar), and that shows too: the arrangement of the other
            keys *sucks* on these layouts. That is where the next round of improvements
            needs to be made.

            I'd start by putting shift and ctrl below the spacebar, where they can be
            hit or held with the left and right thumb, respectively, with no impact on
            where the other fingers can be. (This makes *one* combination hard --
            Shift-Ctrl-Space -- but that's a rather unusual combination, and it makes
            every other shift and ctrl combination much faster and easier. Care would
            have to be taken so that normal hitting of the spacebar with either thumb
            would not hit these keys by mistake, but that's easily possible if a gap
            the size of a single key is left between them and the spacebar.) Then I'd
            proceed by putting as much thought into the placement of every other key
            as was put into the placement of the letters.
        • Re:wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

          by EnderWigginsXenocide (852478) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:51PM (#11464960) Homepage
          I beg to differ, ever try using shortcuts on anything other than a QWERTY? A BIG problem with switching to Dvorak is most common keyboard shortcuts aren't convenient. Imagine stretching your fingers over the keyboard to do a Ctrl-C Ctrl-V (or Cmd-C Cmd-V for those folks using MACs). Most shortcuts are not remapable and were coded with QWERTY in mind. They would not make sense on a keyboard layout that is radically different from QWERTY.
          • Re:wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Gob Blesh It (847837) <> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:38AM (#11465263)
            If you pick the Dvorak keyboard layout on Mac OS X, there's an option to preserve QWERTY keyboard shortcuts. Basically the effect is as if your Mac temporarily switched back to QWERTY for as long as you hold down the Command key.

            (BTW, it's called a "Mac.")
          • Re:wrong (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Quarem (143878) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @01:09AM (#11465429)
            Two years ago I became interested enough in DVORAK to actually learn the layout. It would have been very frustrating to have to relearn command key placements like you say, but at least in Mac OS X, the system I was using, there is a keyboard layout called "Dvorak - Qwerty Command". This feature implements the Dvorak keyboard layout, but when the command key is pressed it reverts to the Qwerty layout so that all the command keys are the same as you are used to in Qwerty.

            After using this layout for several months, the only programs that didn't accept it were Microsoft applications, which seemed to randomly decide if they would follow the Qwerty or Dvorak layout for command keys. If you are on Mac OS X there really isn't a lot of disadvantages to trying Dvorak out if you are free from MS applications (I haven't tried Mac Office 2004 to see if this problem persists).

            The only bad thing about learning Dvorak is that when you go back to a regular keyboard you are basically back to hunt and peck. I found it really difficult to be able to switch between the two and maintain typing speed; I can type at over 100 wpm on either layout after sufficient time is given for me to adjust. That said I would way rather use Dvorak it just feels nicer on your hands, you can type faster, and I found I made less typos.
          • Re:wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @02:01AM (#11465638) Journal
            Actually, you know, I got used to the older shortcuts, which is to say CTRL-INS, SHIFT-INS and CTRL-DEL. And ALT-BACKSPACE for undo. They work just as well, if that's what you're used to. (Incidentally, they'd also be in the same position on a Dvorak keyboard)

            Or I pretty much grew up on WordStar. To do the equivalent of the CTRL-C CTRL-V you mention, you'd have to use block commands, which were prefixed with CTRL-K. But an even more fun command group were those starting with CTRL-O. Don't even try doing that with the left hand only, it's not comfortable. Again, it worked well enough and people were typing whole books in WordStar. (And I stuck to Borland IDEs for programming until 2001 or so, because they let me use the WordStar key mappings.)

            Or here's an bit of fun about German keyboards. The CUA Undo is CTRL-Z, and German keyboards are QWERTZ. I.e., CTRL-Z is where CTRL-Y would be on the USA keyboards. People use it with no problem, though. More fun for programming is that the square brackets have been moved on RIGHT_ALT-8 and RIGHT_ALT-9, instead of being a single keystroke, to make way for the national characters. And "@" (as used in emails) is RIGHT_ALT+Q. Again, seems to work OK, if that's what you got used to.

            Basically as was said, _any_ keyboard arrangement works just as well, if that's what you're used to. Including, I'd add, any arrangement of the shortcuts on the keyboard.

            However, the reverse is also true. Switching to a new arrangement just brings a long learning curve before you get back to speed. So buying Dvorak keyboards for the whole company to "improve their productivity" might have the opposite effect, as well as needlessly annoying everyone.
        • Re:wrong (Score:5, Informative)

          by j1m+5n0w (749199) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @01:32AM (#11465551) Homepage Journal

          I would tend to be suspicious of studies comparing qwerty to dvorak, since most people who learn dvorak learned qwerty first, whereas most qwerty users know only qwerty. Because of qwerty's ubiquity, it's very difficult to make an objective comparison.

          I use qwerty and dvorak interchangeably, and am probably slower in both than if I had stuck with qwerty alone, but I find dvorak much more comfortable (and that's something that's much harder to quantify).

          According to a quick google search, Barbara Blackburn [] is the fastest typist in the world and she uses dvorak. That carries more weight than questionable studies in my book, though I would prefer a better reference than a random web link.

          Does anyone have data comparing the fastest known dvorak typists to the fastest known qwerty typists?

      • by PaulBu (473180) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:08AM (#11465075) Homepage
        There are many studies comparing wpm speeds of people proficient in both Qwerty and Dvorak that show the clear advantage of the latter.

        Sorry, did not have time to read through all three linked articles, but did read the Reason one (due to the fact that I do trust the sourse) and one of its main punches was the UN-SCIENTIFIC ways those studies were conducted. And, unfortunately, in your comment you do show the same attitude of referencing "numerous studies" without considering what could go wrong with them.

        Think about it in programmer's terms: ok, there is
        this language called, say, "BigBigSea" which noone spends proper time to learn, but most everyone knows a bit and can handle (some can get really good at it). And then there is this new language called "Tea", and you did learn it, one of the early adopters... Would not you swear that since you've learned it your productivity increased 10-fold? Even when people would try to put a bit of a study together, you would sub-consciously give your old skill a disadvantage to provide advantage to your new skill, which can move you up in the food chain?

        Paul B.
      • False (Score:3, Informative)

        by monk (1958)
        That's a much repeated falsehood [].
        Besides, everyone knows that all real [] geeks [] chord. []

      • by orzetto (545509) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @01:32AM (#11465547)
        No, it's just a half-truth.

        I think that it is simply unclear how they projected it. It was the nineteenth century after all, and some weird ideas were followed: eg, you can type typewriter with just keys on the top row (I read this was intended, for what reasons I'm not sure). Probably it was some trial and error, and they came with an half-baked design.

        Oh, the exercise to the reader, yes: here is a Guinness record [].

        • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @07:11AM (#11466566) Journal
          Typing "TYPEWRITER" fast was simply a sales gimmick, so the salesmen could tell clueless PHBs "see! It doesn't slow typists down! I can type TYPEWRITER quickly!" And unsurprisingly, clueless PHBs existed in 1870 just as well, long before computers, and corporate purchases were made based on some rigged non-representative demo.

          But there were real mechanical considerations there too.

          Typewriters used to be purely mechanical things. Hitting a key physically pressed a lever, which swung a small hammer at the paper. Actually, at the ink ribbon. And on the hammer a letter or digit was embossed. (Actually, two. SHIFT would physically raise the carriage, so the second letter on the hammer hit.)

          Because it was purely mechanical and involved densely packed thin levers, it was jam-prone. If you hit two keys at the same time, two hammers would try to occupy the same space at the same time. If they were coming from opposite ends, not much would happen: 99% of the time one would just hit on top of the other. But if they were adjacent (or almost adjacent) levers, the machine would jam.

          That was the problem they tried to solve: keeping the machine from jamming. Which involved moving the hammers for most common letter combinations further apart from each other. Which, since it was a purely mechanical contraption, involved moving the keys too. (It wasn't as simple as defining a new mapping table, like on computers.)

          And whatever effect it had on typists and typing speed, was side-effect rather than considered in the design. Whether it sped them up or slowed them down, it still ended up faster if it didn't require unjamming twice a minute.

          However, here's another fun fact: the typewriter for which that layout was designed was very different even from typewriters manufactured after 1900. After 1900 the hammers were arranged in an arc in front of the paper. Before that, they were arranged in a circle or bucket shape.

          That bucket shape is what the QWERTY layout was designed for. Which meant that moving the hammers had some weirder effects on where the keys moved. E.g., near the middle of rows, two adjacent keys would swing hammers from opposite sides of the bucket. Hence the "TY" in "TYPEWRITER" would not jam that machine, which is why they're still near each other.

          It would, however jam a post-1900 typewriter.

          So basically the short story is: QWERTY was never supposed to be ergonomic, it was supposed to just prevent jams. And even that was a quick mechanical hack, which missed a lot of fairly commong combinations. _And_ even for the purpose of preventing jams it wasn't that useful any more, for any post-1900 typewriter.

          Yet, more than 100 years even after the new typewriter design, and half a century after keyboards being used in computers (which don't jam) we're still stuck with the QWERTY idiocy.

          Its saving grace, though, is that basically on a computer keyboard _any_ layout works just as well. Neither jams nor alternating hands (which made sense back when you had to hit the keys HARD on a typewriter) are relevant any more. You just type faster on whatever layout you're the most used to. For most people that means QWERTY.

          Which means there's little real incentive to switch to a new layout.
      • I can type at about 100wpm on a qwerty (well, with relatively spotty accuracy). This is because my mother forced me to do Mavis Beacon, as her father had forced her to memorize the layout of a qwerty and play-type even before they had enough money to buy a typewriter for the children to use. Also, I think EFNet owns some of the blame in this case.

        The problem is, nobody can think at 100 words per minute. The only person who would ever need to type that fast would probably be a professional stenographer. Tra

  • favorite keyboard (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ch-chuck (9622) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:08PM (#11464623) Homepage
    is this one []
  • by fname (199759) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:08PM (#11464626) Journal
    This story needs some more details. The website is a re-hash of the press release and appears to be a naked grab to get some adsense revenue. Not to mention that details on the product itself is scarce, and it takes a lot of digging to figure out that this keyboard doesn't even have dedicated number keys. Nice idea, no story yet.

    Here's a close-up picture [].
  • The QWERTY Rumor (Score:5, Informative)

    by ewithrow (409712) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:09PM (#11464635) Homepage
    From --

    A long-lived rumor is that typewriter inventor Christopher Sholes arranged the letters in the QWERTY layout to slow down the typist.

    If this were true, he would have located popular letters such as "A" and "S" at the far corners of the keyboard and located unpopular letters like "Q", "Z", and "X" under your fingertips, right where you don't need them. Looking at the PC (QWERTY) keyboard shows us that, in fact, the opposite is true.

    What really happened was Mr. Sholes varied from his original alphabetic layout* when he placed commonly used pairs of letters such as "sh", "ck", "th", "pr", etc. on alternating sides of the keyboard to reduce jamming of the typewriter's swing-arms.

    This design change actually had the bonus effect of speeding up typing by letting the user alternate hands more often - think drum roll.

    A 1953 U.S. General Services Administration study of the QWERTY keyboard and it's only serious challenger, the DVORAK keyboard, found no appreciable typing speed difference between the two keyboards. Fingers travel less distance on the DVORAK layout, but additional alternating-hand keystrokes speed up the QWERTY layout. The result - a draw.

    The fact is, QWERTY works and it works quite well.

    * You can see remnants of Mr. Sholes original alphabetic layout in the QWERTY layout, namely the keys "FGHJKL".
    • Re: The QWERTY Rumor (Score:2, Interesting)

      by alaivfc (823276)
      Why is it then that the world's fastest typists' use DVORAK? For instance: tml []

      Plus, this post misses one of the key advantages of DVORAK: It reduces the various hand/arm injuries typing causes because you don't have to move your fingers as far.

      Have you ever tried typing DVORAK? You'll quickly realize that its much, much easier on the hands.
      • Re: The QWERTY Rumor (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GlenRaphael (8539)
        Have you ever tried typing DVORAK? You'll quickly realize that its much, much easier on the hands.

        I tried typing Dvorak. Used a typing tutor, remapped my keyboard at work and home, the whole works. After a few months, I was still slower and making more errors on dvorak than I had been on qwerty. And I couldn't use vi productively. I gave up and went back to qwerty.

        The main way dvorak was "easier on the hands" for me was that it forced me to type slower. Other than that, I didn't really notice a differe

    • Re: The QWERTY Rumor (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IO ERROR (128968) *
      QWERTY is also the cause of these pains in my left hand.

      And here is some nice debunking of other myths about Dvorak [], including that GSA study you cited.

    • Re: The QWERTY Rumor (Score:2, Interesting)

      by trh (20778)
      Read this article (specifically, looking at the graphs) before you say anything. Then, determine if "... additional alternating-hand keystrokes speed up the QWERTY layout." I think you'll find that this is simply not the case. Once I show people this article and specifically, the charts, they know why I use Dvorak... ht ml
    • by pHatidic (163975)
      Yes the submitter definetly fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down. Not only is what what he said about QWERTY wrong, but he gives no reason for why to use the new keyboard over Dvorak. I have been using Dvorak for years now and would never go back, let alone try some shitty patented keyboard designed for hunt-n-peck folks.
    • Re: The QWERTY Rumor (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jerf (17166) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:00AM (#11465029) Journal
      The fact is, QWERTY works and it works quite well.

      Yes it does.

      That would be its primary problem.

      There is nothing like trying to get people out of a local opitma, even if it is sending them towards disaster. It's like trying to quit smoking; you know it will lead to a better life, but the current cost of a cigarette is so minimal, and the current pleasure of it so high.

      QWERTY won't kill your hand in ten minutes or ten days. More like ten years. For some people, maybe even never. But for others, much sooner. I for one would prefer to never get RSI, and I decided after I experienced what turned out to be a false alarm that I never wanted to experience the real thing. Unfortunately, no science has been done in this domain to my knowledge so we are on our own with anecdotes. I note, however, that while I have heard many "I switched from QWERTY to DVORAK and my pain got better" stories, I have never heard an "I switched to DVORAK and my pain got worse until I went back to QWERTY". (People with that story are invited to comment and tell it, please!)

      DVORAK probably isn't an answer to all the problems, but it helps a lot. You really do move your hands a lot less. As a secondary result, you will also find yourself actually touchtyping; all my life my hands were always wandering with QWERTY, now they don't, because they don't have to; wandering hands always "wander" into sub-optimal positions, which if you think about it ought to be a characteristic of a properly designed keyboard layout.

      It's also about the only ergonomic thing you can do to a laptop.

      For most of us non-competitive typer types, i.e., probably all but maybe one person reading this post, speed isn't a reason to move to Dvorak. But comfort is. This is so much nicer; the gain-per-minute is small, but I still plan to put a lot more minutes in front of a keyboard.
  • by Indy Media Watch (823624) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:09PM (#11464636) Homepage
    The new keyboard layout was designed such that computer salesmen of poor typing skills could type TUBGIRL with one hand, all along the same row of letters.

    Unfortunately this did not stop the keys getting sticky.
  • Difficulty of change (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Staplerh (806722) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:09PM (#11464637) Homepage
    The problem with new keyboards is the pervasiveness of the QWERTY system. One has to run a cost/benefit analysis of replacing QWERTY keyboards - be it with the DVORAK or this new alphabetical version. Many computer users are experts with the QWERTY layout, and can have a high amount of wpm (words per minute). Perhaps, if one switches, the benefit will result in a higher wpm achieved - but there will be quite the learning curve.

    You'd have to institute it with people starting to use computers, because it'd be organizational suicide to replace QWERTY w/ DVORAK/alphabetical due to the steep learning curve and the resistance to change.

    Personally, I'm great with a QWERTY keyboard, even knowing that it is designed to be an inefficient system and would never change to an alphanumerical keyboard, despite the ultimate benefits. Shortsighted perhaps, but I don't see the benefit to the steep learning curve. I'm willing to bet that many organizations won't be willing to make that step either.
    • It takes about a month [] to retrain, and employers can easily recoup this cost in fewer workers compensation and health insurance claims.
      • I tried switching to Dvorak a few years ago to help with my carpal tunnel. It just gave me headaches to have to keep on remapping my brain (particularly when using other peoples' keyboards), and as soon as I got up to 35WPM or so my wrist pains just came back anyway.
    • Actually, in the 1940's, the US Navy studied the cost of switching to Dvorak and found that it could be made up quite quickly. I use Dvorak myself, and it only took me about two weeks to switch from Qwerty to Dvorak and get mystelf up to decent typing speed. It really does not take long to learn a new layout. You should try it.
    • by cgenman (325138) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:25PM (#11464778) Homepage
      To replace the QWERTY keyboard, one must offer something not only substantially better, but substantially better by an order of magnitude. Voice input might be it, once it's faster and all of the bugs are ironed out. Thought input might be faster still. You could also just moniter the nerves in a particular complex, like the inpulses through the arms to the fingers, and register that. All of these would be an order of magnitude faster, and perhaps more intuitive.

      Just another keyboard layout, however, won't cut it. I learned Dvorak in college, and actually got as good typing Dvorak as I had been typing Qwerty. However, no matter where I went I was constantly running into Qwerty keyboards, and while I was learning Dvorak my Qwerty speeds went down significantly. Even if I could master Dvorak, it would bring my overall average typing speed down because everyone has a Qwerty. I switched back, and my typing speeds went back up.

      Offer a truly revolutionary interface paradigm, or give up your illusions about changing the world.

      • Have you ever heard of "Put That There?" It was a project at the Media Lab back in, I guess, the 80s that combined voice recognition with a gestural interface. The origin of the name should be obvious: The system's killer demo involved a guy sitting in front of a screen, pointing to a thing, saying "Put that," then pointing somewhere else and saying "there."

        At the time, the system was slow and primitive, but more importantly it was big. It had a big-ass projection screen and multiple cameras, and I think t
      • Thought input might be faster still.

        Dear sir, after our recent discussion I am writing to you to tell you that you are a complete moron wait no that's not what I meant wait stop it suptid machine stop it now sob why am I not a train driver mommy mommy sob

  • by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:10PM (#11464639)
    Have you seen this thing? Since when did FisherPrice start making keyboards?

    And where's the space bar?!
  • by bdesham (533897) < minus math_god> on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:11PM (#11464651) Journal
    After 130 years of typing the same way the keyboard has finally grown up.
    Which is why it looks like it was designed by Fisher-Price []?
  • keyboard "standards" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mschaffer (97223) * on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:11PM (#11464652)
    There is only one "standard" keyboard (QWERTY) and everything else.

    And until there is something that is easy enough to learn without any practice, I doubt that anything will replace QWERTY.
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:11PM (#11464660)

    Why does the "Tech-Blog" have no author and read exactly like a corporate press release, trying to cram down my throat why I NEED this keyboard?

    It's probably some of the most blatant advertising copy I've read in quite a while. At least have some subtlety to get your product "reviewed" by one of the tech magazines or something...

  • ...for a month. Unfortunately, at the time, I was working on a lot of different systems, not all of which permitted me to change keyboard settings. Switching back and forth drove me crazy and removed all the gains of using D.

    Now I'm working on fewer systems on a given day; perhaps it might be worth trying something new again. Oh, whoops... one of my main computers is a laptop. Unless I'm thinking of carting this thing around, there go those gains again!

  • No thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skidge (316075) * on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:12PM (#11464671) Homepage
    From the article: After 130 years of typing the same way the keyboard has finally grown up.

    Alphabetizing the keys and giving it a garish Fisher-Price color scheme does not make a keyboard grown up. One of the benefits of a QWERTY keyboard is that a good deal of typing is done with keystrokes alternating between the hands, speeding things up quite a bit. Alphabetical keys may make it easier for "hunt and peck typists as well as senior citizens who have never had a computer because they are challenged by the difficult basic keyboard," but it is far from becoming a standard, since the layout is very inefficient for a touch typist.

    This article really reads like a marketing press release.
    • Re:No thanks (Score:3, Informative)

      by La Camiseta (59684)
      Maybe because it is [].
    • Re:No thanks (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jdreed1024 (443938)
      This article really reads like a marketing press release.

      And a stupid one, at that. Particularly the bit about senior citizens. I've worked with quite a few senior citizens - getting them to "learn computers" (ie: word processing). The hardest part is familiarizing them with the mouse (particularly double-clicking, right-clicking, and dragging), and with concepts such as cutting and pasting. The keyboard was the easiest part, since it was the most familiar to them -- aside from some extra keys, it was

  • by shitdrummer (523404) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:12PM (#11464673)
    I find it's not the keyboard layout that slows me down, but rather the speed of my fingers. I can type pretty fast, but until someone comes up with a keyboard layout that includes multiple letter keys (e.g. qu, the, to etc) then I can't see how I would be able to type any faster.

    Even number entry is very quick and easy. I just can't see how a new keyboard layout would change typing speed dramatically.


  • by Trogre (513942) * on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:13PM (#11464680) Homepage
    Current keyboards do have problems, but this *ahem* example just throws out the baby with the bathwater.

    One of the biggest problems with the current AT-keyboard layout is the ordering
    of digits on the numeric keypad.

    I mean, damn near every other keypad in existance begins with 1 at the top left and works its way down to 9 at the bottom right (think telephone, ATM, eftpos terminal, security keypad).

    But for some unfathomable reason the AT keyboard standard has transposed the top and bottom rows, so you get 1 at the bottom left and 9 at the top right, making it much more difficult to master data entry.

    Which of these looks more familiar:

    1 2 3 7 8 9
    4 5 6 4 5 6
    7 8 9 1 2 3
    0 . 0 .

    I'm betting most will pick the former, since the pattern in the latter is much less recognizable if it's not shown in the context of a computer keyboard.

    • by Skidge (316075) * on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:20PM (#11464725) Homepage
      Heh, I had a problem one day where I had to type in my ATM PIN using an AT-keyboard style number pad that was on a card swiper. I could not for the life of me remember what the PIN was, because the number pad was upside down compared to the one on the ATM. My PIN seemed to be stored in muscle memory rather than brain memory. My friends were disappointed when I came out of the liquor store empty handed. :)
      • I had a problem one day where I had to type in my ATM PIN using an AT-keyboard style number pad that was on a card swiper. I could not for the life of me remember what the PIN was, because the number pad was upside down..... My friends were disappointed when I came out of the liquor store empty handed.

        Just have your buddies hold you upside down. It is a liquor store, so nobody will give such odd behavior a second thought.
    • by quacking duck (607555) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:26PM (#11464780)
      But for some unfathomable reason the AT keyboard standard has transposed the top and bottom rows...

      Unfathomable? Take one look at a calculator and it instantly becomes obvious. I can't say for certain since it predates my time, but I'll bet tape calculators used by accountants existed for some time before the numeric keypad was standard on keyboards.

      Once that happened, it was far more logical to model the keypad after the calculator pad, since you're more likely to be punching in numbers in a spreadsheet, than punching in phone numbers into the computer.

    • by Dun Malg (230075) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:56PM (#11464996) Homepage
      One of the biggest problems with the current AT-keyboard layout is the ordering of digits on the numeric keypad.

      I mean, damn near every other keypad in existance begins with 1 at the top left and works its way down to 9 at the bottom right (think telephone, ATM, eftpos terminal, security keypad).

      What it comes down to is that there are two original progenitors of keypad layouts. The ones you list all go back to Bell Labs design for the Touch-Tone(tm) phone keypad. They even spent a fairly good chunk of change testing for which was more efficient. The results were that for dialing phone numbers, the "123" pad was faster, even for people who were experienced 10-key ("789" keypad) users. The reason is actually quite simple. 10-key is generally used for financial data entry, so the most commonly entered digits (0 and 1) are placed close together where they are easier to hit without looking (some proprioception issue there-- the exact explaination why eludes me). As the 0 is under the thumb, that means the 1 has to be in the bottom row to be close to it. Thus the bottom-up layout.

      Dialing telephone numbers, however, isn't something that's done repeatedly. Almost nobody dials a phone by touch*; rather, they look at the dial pad to guide their fingers. The "123" layout is better suited to visual navigation because we're already trained to read from left to right, top to bottom.

      Computer keyboards still use the 10-key style layout because the primary use for the keypad is still the same as its ancestors, the calculator and adding machine. Changing it to the telephone-style layout makes no sense as there's already an even easier to use "visual navigation" set of number keys above the letters.

      * after 10 years of programming names and numbers into phone systems via the keypad, I actually no longer look at the phone keypad as I use it; but I've only ever noticed that skill in phone techs who install systems.

  • More info (Score:5, Informative)

    by IO ERROR (128968) * <error&ioerror,us> on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:13PM (#11464687) Homepage Journal
    More info about this keyboard:

    Original press release []
    Engadget reivew []
    From the CES show []

    My problem with this so far is that the alphabetical layout is about as bad for your wrists as QWERTY. And I type too many numbers and symbols to seriously consider this type of keyboard.

    Not to mention it has a Windows XP ^W^W Fisher Price theme.

  • And there's.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by sepluv (641107) <> on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:15PM (#11464693)
    the PLUM keyboard [] (similar idea).
  • by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:15PM (#11464696)
    For many, including me, having to use a keyboard with fewer keys would actually be a step backwards. I like to have a lot of extra keys that I can map to do interesting things and special function keys, these are great timesavers. I often look for keyboards that have more keys, not less, Ive had a keyboard from Gateway 2000 from years ago which allowed you to remap the keys on the keyboard and had several extra keys which I found quite useful. Often it is nice to be able to map macros to certian keys so when they are pressed they can reproduce several characters These can actually save time.
  • The colors look stupid. The world is used to QWERTY. You'll keep pressing the caps/numlock everytime you go to type.

    This is a dumb concept, a dumb implementation and a dumb product. Someone must have been bribed to allow this into production.
  • The Dvorak Layout (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sirex (819182)
    Regarding the content of the post, dvorak is far from a standard. I say this primarily from my own experience of having been denied a data entry job because I used the dvorak layout and they didn't want to accommodate me. Even in the modern day, qwerty is the accepted standard in America. I suspect that being able to use any other keymap will be difficult for a while since: 1. The majority of computers that one would use while not at home are probably windows. 2. If I recall correctly, all windows platform
  • by IanBevan (213109) *
    this article brought to you by the server 'too slow' and the letters K-A-B-O-O-M.
  • by gkuz (706134) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:24PM (#11464768)
    we should be able to mod articles as well as comments. Start with a half-true myth about QWERTY, then lead right into a naked press release. Puh-leez. What a piece of crap, just like the stupid keyboard that "anonymous" (no wonder) is shilling for.
  • Maybe I'm typing slower on a QWERTY keyboard, but I still manage to type my /. replies in less than 20 seconds ... and get hit by Malda's spamtrap.
  • Crap! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by erikharrison (633719) on Monday January 24, 2005 @11:50PM (#11464953)
    I can't get to the article, but an alphabetic keyboard is just plain dumb.

    1) The QWERTY keyboard is established tech
    2) I see no empirical evidence that alphabetic is easier to learn or use
    3) Alphabetic keyboards overwork one area of the keyboard
    4) It would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange keys to allow alternating of hands, which speeds typing.

    Can anyone list any real reason that this is better? Other than the reduced number of keys, of course.
  • by Sean Clifford (322444) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:14AM (#11465112) Journal
    During the period when I was working on my undergrad thesis I had my my typing speed tested via both software and good ole fasioned professor with a stopwatch. My speed averaged 120wpm on QWERTY, pretty blazing.

    I've slowed down since and now average about 80wpm and have learned not to strike the keys quite so hard. My hands don't ache as much and I've considered going with one of those whiz-bang carpal-friendly keyboards before I come down with CTS. Coding can be tough on the hands.

    Anyway, one semester my room-mate and I believed the Dvorak myth and decided to try out switching. We bought new keyboards that supported both standards and came with two sets of keycaps, then made the switch.

    It took us about a month to re-learn touch typing and it was a bitch. Neither one of us caught up to our previous speeds - we even played typing games to help - we got to maybe 2/3-3/4 of our previous typing speeds.

    While we were okay on our computers we both found it very frustrating to use others. Being geeks, we frequently needed to work on other machines and lugging a keyboard around wasn't really a solution. We decided to abandon Dvorak and went back to QWERTY. In a week or two we were back to ballpark of our old typing speeds, though it was a frustrating transition.

    The moral of the story is an old one: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  • by craXORjack (726120) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:15AM (#11465115)
    I only need 28. I use vi.
    • by chrysrobyn (106763)

      I only need 28. I use vi.

      I use vim almost exclusively. Most people use either vim [] or elvis symlinked from vi and don't know it, although vi [] is its own program. I can come up with 26 letters [a-z], 10 numbers [0-9], shift (gotta hit that "!" you know), escape and colon. Then we can't forget / for the searches and replaces, \ to be able to match special characters, and newbies will want the arrow keys instead of h, j, k and i.

      Your humor isn't lost on me, but a seasoned vi user will use at least 41 keys

      • by nyri (132206) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @07:20AM (#11466660)
        I use vim almost exclusively. Most people use either vim or elvis symlinked from vi and don't know it, although vi is its own program. I can come up with 26 letters [a-z], 10 numbers [0-9], shift (gotta hit that "!" you know), escape and colon. Then we can't forget / for the searches and replaces, \ to be able to match special characters, and newbies will want the arrow keys instead of h, j, k and i.

        Your humor isn't lost on me, but a seasoned vi user will use at least 41 keys, 45 for the inexperienced. The other 8 must be for Emacs.

        You must be one those perl monkeys. Otherwise you would need space and return keys.
  • Down with keyboards! (Score:4, Informative)

    by kiddailey (165202) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:20AM (#11465149) Homepage

    What we really need are alternatives to traditional typing -- ways to communicate with the computer in a more efficent manner.

    I'm personally waiting for the wireless implant in my head so I can just "think" the words onto the screen :)

    In the meantime, I've tried out the Twiddler2 chorded keyboard [], which is a combination key entry and mouse device. Although a bit slower, it is FAR more comfortable surfing and chording with it than using the traditional keyboard and mouse (though you can forget programming). And it plays nice with OS X and Windows.

    If you're interested, there are many other chorded "keyboards" [] as well as many more ergonomic variations to the standard keyboard []. A useful resource is the exhaustive Alternative Keyboard FAQ [] and this alternative keyboard gallery [].
  • Patented,huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trogre (513942) * on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:29AM (#11465202) Homepage
    This monstrosity had better not become a standard, what with the patent and all.

  • by utexaspunk (527541) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @12:31AM (#11465212)
    is the speak n' spell [] which was, of course, designed for 5 year olds entering one word every 15 seconds or so. This thing is retarded...
  • by trenton (53581) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (lnotnert)> on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @02:35AM (#11465765) Homepage
    53 keys? Still too many. What you need is the full featured pirate keyboard [] which has only 6 keys! Bad ass design, if you ask me.
  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Physics Dude (549061) on Tuesday January 25, 2005 @03:46AM (#11465998) Homepage
    Finally! A keyboard to match the Look-and-Feel of Windows XP! ;)

Business is a good game -- lots of competition and minimum of rules. You keep score with money. -- Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari