2/3. Keyboard improvement: for human hands

I ended the last post with a keyboard that looked like this:


The rows of the keyboard are staggered so that the hands can approach it from a natural angle. But most keyboards do not have a uniform stagger. Notice that the M key in the picture above is horizontally exactly in between the J and K key, while the U key is only a quarter of the way towards the H key from the J key. The reason for this non-uniformity is historical, irrelevant and adds to inaccuracy, so it should be done away with.

Further, I think that even uniform staggering makes it more difficult to remember the position of the keys, and it should be done away with altogether.

1. Remove stagger


I think this makes it much easier to find keys by feel alone. There are companies that exclusively sell such boards. But, if you use it in a way that makes it easier to find keys i.e approach with the hands parallel to the board, you will have to do it at an uncomfortable angle. This can result in an injury called ulnar deviation.


2. Angle the 2 ‘halves’


Now we get the benefit of keys that are easy to find while having your hands approach the board at a comfortable angle.

However, not all fingers are of the same size. Also, our thumbs naturally extend in an arc outward from the palm rather than inward under it.

3. Mimic anatomy


The board is should be much easier to use now. The keys positions are easy to find, the individual keys lie beneath the fingers in a natural arc, and we are making much better use of our thumbs. Notice that it is very natural to hold down ‘Nav’ or ‘Num’ with your left thumb while hitting pretty much any key (or combinations of them) on the left side. We shall make extensive use of such combinations for accessing characters such as numbers that we don’t have dedicated keys for.

The thumb keys arc could be moved further towards the centre of the board so make easy to hit even more same hand combos.

We don’t have to stop here. Our hands are 3 dimensional and we have opposable thumbs. Designs like this ( Dactyl-Manuform) could increase comfort. But it would definitely sacrifice portability.


In my next post I will explain how layers can be designed so as to minimise re-learning key placements and simplify common key combinations (including the dreaded Ctrl-Alt-Del)


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