Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Keyboards To Love And Hate

In the days B.C. (Before Computers), people loved their typewriters. I hear Woody Allen has used the same machine all his life. How did those machines create such attachment? More than a familiar feel, they were an extension of the mind: thoughts moved fingers and words flowed onto paper. They still do, but now onto a computer screen.

Since 1985, I loved my special, heavy-duty computer keyboard. Recently, there was an accident and I have yet to resurrect it. I’m making do with (what I hope is) a temporary keyboard. Minimally acceptable, but there was one problem.

This new keyboard came with a “power” key! I didn’t know because a) I wasn’t looking for it, and b) I can’t see that well (it’s a low-vision keyboard!). I guess it’s useful for a quick Windows shutdown. Unfortunately, I found it the hard way. Sitting next to the F12 key (used to save my writing), I hit it by mistake. No extra separation from its neighbors. No distinguishing marks or coloring or lettering. The keycap said “power,” but now it’s gone. No more accidentally shutting down the computer.

That’s one small problem for one average-sized person. But there’s a bigger keyboard problem for far more people. We use all sizes of keyboards (e.g., phones), but fewer people today are touch-typists. Regardless, everyone shares the worst possible arrangement of keys.

The standard keyboard layout is left-hand-centric. This standard QWERTY keyboard layout dates from the earliest days of typewriters, It was designed to slow typists—to keep keys from jamming. That’s why the most used letters are typed by the left hand.

Touch-typing is pointless on the teeny-tiny keyboards of smart phones. Yet, the makers stick to the QWERTY layout, which only touch-typists have memorized. Hint: I imagine everyone knows their ABCs.

In reality, all computer keyboards are virtual. They can have any sequence you want. It’s a computer; it can do anything.


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One thought on “Keyboards To Love And Hate

  1. Keyboarder in Jax on said:

    My old keyboards have keys missing that I yanked out because they were not only worthless to me but raised horrific calamities if I hit them by accident like what the “Insert” key does in Word. I had to switch to a Dell keyboard recently and it has a different configuration, subtle but a big deal if you’re used to the END key being in a certain place. I haven’t ripped any keys out yet but maybe soon…

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