The hardware

Since I have settled on keyboard functionality on a standard keyboard (described in my previous post), the logical next step is to tinker with the hardware layout. This should be my last post on keyboards in a while, since I don’t see myself actually building this in the next couple of years.

However, 3D printing costs have come crashing down to expensive hobby levels in the last few years, so, you never know…

Principles:

1. Break up the space bar: most of the space taken up by the gigantic space bar is rarely used but very accessible. Look at the smudges on your spacebar, you’ll find heavily smudged areas right under the m and c keys, and the rest of it would be quite pristine. The new keys can be used for commonly used modifiers instead. I would set the new keys in an arc to mimic the natural movement of the thumb.

2. Key stagger and angle: while keys on a standard keyboard are staggered for purely historical reasons, they do serve the purpose of accommodating the angle at which our hands approach the keyboard. However, there is absolutely no benefit of the non-uniform stagger found on the sheer majority of keyboards. This was originally meant simplify the mechanics of manual typewriters, but have overstayed their function by a few decades. Instead, I would go for non staggered keys in separate right and left clusters, independently set at an angle suitable for the corresponding hand.

3. Pinky Modifiers: I would do away with them entirely. They are the weakest fingers and the layout doesn’t need them. The few pinky-modifiers described in my previous blog post have been moved to the broken up space bar and can be accessible by the thumb, which happens to be the strongest finger.

The keyboard uses only 48 keys of standard size. Most compact keyboards use around 80 keys in 3 or more sizes. Full size keyboards use around 105 keys in 3 or more sizes. I believe this should bring the cost down while increasing repairability.

On a laptop keyboard, this arrangement would leave a good amount of space between the 2 key-clusters for a touch pad. The angled clusters would also reduce accidental touches from the wrists. Many touchpads today use wrist-detection software to solve for this. External keyboards could be made in separate left and right hand halves for greater flexibility.

Useful links:

on keyboard stagger

https://ux.stackexchange.com/questions/40390/why-are-keyboard-keys-staggered

another split keyboard. The link explains the benefits of a split layout.

https://ergodox-ez.com/

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