Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Redefining the keyboard.
August 12, 2002 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Redefining the keyboard. CPUs have gotten smaller, monitors have gotten wider, chairs have gotten ergonomic. Technology has resized our machines to fit our lifestyles, business needs, and personal comfort. But for the past 128 years, the mechanics by which we input text into machines has been dictated not by technology, but by the limitations of our hands. Soon, this era may be over if retired engineer John McKown gets his way. McKown has invented a palm-size one-handed wearable keyboard. Should we embrace this giant leap into mobile computing? Or are we not able to part with a century of QWERTY? (Via NYTimes. Similar ideas have also been discussed here previously.)
posted by PrinceValium (19 comments total)

 
This guys have had one hand keyboards for a long time now, though has a learning curve to it but shows that you can type 4 times faster then a regular keyboard.
posted by pyr at 5:29 PM on August 12, 2002


At work, I'm not always on the computer. I'm sometimes writing things down, sometimes on the phone, etc. I can't hold my keyboard constantly, and picking it up and putting it down it just going to slow me down.
posted by benjh at 5:36 PM on August 12, 2002


How to build your own handheld septambic chording keyboard.
posted by mfli at 5:41 PM on August 12, 2002


McKown has invented a palm-size one-handed wearable keyboard. He manages 256 characters by creating what he calls "chords." Douglas Engelbart demonstrated the first computer mouse at the Fall Joint Computer Expo in San Francisco on December 9, 1968. Engelbart also demoed the chord keyset.
posted by michaelonfs at 5:42 PM on August 12, 2002


You'd think with all the pr0n on the internet that there would be more of a demand for the one handed keyboard. That way you could use the other to take notes.
posted by eyeballkid at 6:21 PM on August 12, 2002


You don't need the keyboard to use pr0n, only the mouse...err...so I've been told...
posted by HTuttle at 6:27 PM on August 12, 2002


My God.

We live in the fucking future.
posted by tweebiscuit at 6:46 PM on August 12, 2002


I think we should just bypass the keyboard completely and install a bluetooth interface from our brain direct to the CPU. Then, having established a data path, we wouldn't need the monitor either, as we could just project the images direct to the area of the brain that processes vision. Then we could build the whole thing so small that it could be implanted ...


Sorry, got carried away for a minute there. Do we really need a computer so portable?
posted by dg at 6:54 PM on August 12, 2002


Well, how bout keyboards grafted into our clothes, a la Deus Ex's Alex Jacobson?
posted by LexRockhard at 7:03 PM on August 12, 2002


Tweebiscuit - remember what William Gibson said? "The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed".

I'm pretty sure always-on (meaning always available, always usable) computers won't be viable until the tech that dg describes above is available. And many people will object to the surgery or injections of nano-goo that will be required to have that.
posted by GriffX at 7:11 PM on August 12, 2002


A wearable computer, eh? After the novelty of the idea has worn off, it really loses its appeal. I want a computer I can get away from after I've spent enough time with it. If I could take it everywhere, I'd spend to much time computering and not enough time, well, being a normal person.
posted by katieinshoes at 7:17 PM on August 12, 2002


Define "normal person".
posted by ook at 7:21 PM on August 12, 2002


I've been jonesing for a twiddler for a very long time now, but have been reluctant to spend that much. I'd love to see it become a mass-produced input device.

As a USB device (which handkey offers) would easily move from home to work to pda to wearable.

I'm pretty sure always-on (meaning always available, always usable) computers won't be viable until the tech that dg describes above is available

I don't know. With tablet computers approaching the mainstream, and handwriting recognition and wireless networks having the potential to become ubiquitous in urban areas, we could have truly ubiquitous computing in a very short time without the need for wetware.
posted by cCranium at 7:24 PM on August 12, 2002


Who decided to put the "o" right next to the "0"? That is not what I would have done.
posted by jonah at 7:45 PM on August 12, 2002


Professor Vaughn Pratt at Stanford has been doing similar work in the field of wearable computing— check out his paper on Thumbcode and the matchbox-sized server and PC on the Stanford Wearable Computing Laboratory page. (Also, if you've got a spare thousand or so dollars lying around in your couch cushions, Pratt's company Tiqit offers a commercial version of the matchbox PC.)
posted by monosyllabic at 7:48 PM on August 12, 2002


I remember first seeing the Twiddler in the early 90's (1992?). I bought one. My geek friends were interested but, thought it was lot more fun to tease me about it. I never got the hang of it and it found it's way to the graveyard. I still have it here somewhere.

The only reason they teased me about it was because of the "Thumbelina" mouse I ordered. A friend of mine was managing a RadioShack at the time, he overheard me talking about it and wanting one for my laptop. He insisted that Tandy not only made their own but, that he could order it for me. I paid him for it and waited patiently. Weeks later a large "crate" arrived from Tandy. Instead of a thumbelina, they sent me a huge trackball monstrosity that must have weighed 15 lbs. The damn thing had two foot pedals! The trackball was the size of a grapefruit. I had visions of ducktaping the thing to the side of my laptop and it tipping over... I took it to the "computer club" meeting just for the irony... I never (and still haven't) heard the end of it. Sorry for the left-field journey there...

Anyway, I prefer the good old days.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 7:48 PM on August 12, 2002


I'm looking forward to using a gestural interface someday, like Anderton uses in Minority Report. It's being researched at MIT.
posted by josephtate at 7:49 PM on August 12, 2002


You might be interested in this guy who determined the optimal placement of keys on a keyboard via a genetic algorithm running on a huge population of text (literary works, etc). It ain't QWERTY, and it ain't DVORAK, but I'm still tempted to give it a try. After all, it's optimal!
posted by Succa at 8:12 PM on August 12, 2002


If I could take it everywhere, I'd spend to much time computering and not enough time, well, being a normal person.

In the 21st century, "computering" all the time will be what makes you a normal person.
posted by kindall at 11:53 PM on August 12, 2002


« Older Why Are The English-Speaking Nations Crap At Forei...  |  Trash homes a.k.a. earthships ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments