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(Nearly) Zero-Force Keyboard 175

ahertz writes: "Just ran across another nifty keyboard, the FingerBoard from FingerWorks. It's like a giant touchpad (although the technology is a bit different), so you can type with virtually zero force. It also works as a mouse, and lets you perform guesture based commands. Would something like this be good for someone with RSI?" To me, this looks like the most unresponsive, most annoying possible keyboard, even if I'm a QUERTY typist rather than a shuffle-weird-disc-items typist, and trackpads always seem wibbly to me.
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(Nearly) Zero-Force Keyboard

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I"m usinmg one of these kkeybboards riigght nowq. This message tookk me 15 minutesa to type. I loove it!~
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:26AM (#95753)
    Er, QUERTY, eh? Didn't you notice that you weren't using the keys at the top-left of your keyboard?
  • by Sludge ( 1234 ) <slashdot.tossed@org> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @01:09AM (#95754) Homepage
    I've been a keyboard hoarder for too long now. Here's a list of things I think the perfect keyboard would have.
    • Boxed with a device that physically proxies between the port on your motherboard and the actual keyboard. This piece of hardware would remap all keyboard requests to dvorak, or perhaps other key mappings.
    • Tactile keys that don't resist key presses worth a damn, they just fall under the lightest touch and go click
    • A hardware option to override BIOS key repeating and have rapid fire like the old NES Advantage controller on the Nintendo - you hold down one button, and the system registers massive repeats. I would use this to up my key repeat rate from 30 to an inane number around 200. Rare few people might remember the TSR Hyperkey for DOS that had this same effect.
    • Macro recording and playback.
    • There are no damn windows keys, ever. Logitech bonus keys are out, too.
    • Function keys on the left, perhaps doubled with the ones on the top.
    • Bundled with one of those keyboard skins, because you can never buy any that fit your keyboard perfectly.
    • Scroll lock, num lock and caps lock rights in the upper right hand corner, so light flashing programs don't act stupi.
    • Big backwards 'L' shaped enter key.
    • Long wire
    • Phat plastic design that allows you to drum on the thing below the spacebar and have it sound like a wicked snare drum. I hate keyboards that are too solid sounding.
    • Can withstand a few punches.
    Given a few different circumstances, I may have gone into producing such a device years ago.

    \\\ SLUDGE
  • I would guess that anyone that touch types and has some sort of rsi would proabably hate this keyboard. I type > 100wpm and have minor rsi. I've used 'touch pad' like keyboards and they cause much soreness in my wrists. I guess it is because they don't give. Currently I use an old IBM clack keyboard and they do pretty well. Wrists haven't hurt in weeks.

  • I have said for years that Microsoft should just give up the software game and stick to what they do best - make computer input hardware.
    I never buy anything but Microsoft natural keyboards and the MS Intellimouse.
    I've had one of their Sidewinder joysticks too and it was great. I've got big hands, and most mice just don't fit right - the intellimouse feels like it has been made just for me.
    Pity they made the latest natural keyboards smaller and bunched up the arrow keys - if you can lay your hands on old stock of the first generation MS split-key sprawlers, buy it.
  • An RSI-free keyboard would have to take the opposite tactic from the 'no force' approach. Bring back the Big Iron. No one ever got RSI from an old Royal manual typewriter.
  • If there was any way you could ship one or two to Reno, NV, (or direct to the UK) I'd be happy to take them off your hands - mail me!
    the telephone rings / problem between screen and chair / thoughts of homocide
  • hear hear.

    My IBM PC/XT has a keyboard that weighs 12kgs (26 pounds), and has fantasic feel. If only it would work on newer PCs... apparently the 'PC-compatible' world is not actually compatible with the original PC anymore.

    The XT also has tank-like engineering throughout compared to newer machines. You get the impression that when IBM told the guys at Boca Raton to do it cheap, they didn't really get it.

    According to some correspondence I had this weekend, the IBM Model M [] is what to look for, although I'm not sure where - EBay I guess. Nearest I've gotten brandnew is the IBM 42H1292 from []
    the telephone rings / problem between screen and chair / thoughts of homocide
  • Apparently the newer ones (1992-94) have some sort of gutter/drain arrangement to stop exactly that. See the first link I posted for more on that...

    If you've written it off anyway, try the dishwasher - it rescued one of my MS Natural Keyboards that way, although it did change colour a bit :) Make sure it dries properly though - I guess with all that steel, rust would be an issue.
    the telephone rings / problem between screen and chair / thoughts of homocide
  • 'lo Stuii :)

    No - my brain was broken. It's 5.5 lbs (== 2.4 kg). Divide, not multiply, innit?

    Anyway, the point was, it's damn heavy. You could use it self-defence and then plug it back in and use it with a quick wipe down.
    the telephone rings / problem between screen and chair / thoughts of homocide
  • The previous model, the ZX80 (which recquired a small pot of frozen yoghurt carefully balanced to keep it from overheating) also had one.

    Nasty, but essential in keeping the price low enough that penniless scrotes like me could save up for one, and start honing the skills that now pay the bills.

    You always remember your first time...;)
  • Levenger's [] has one in cherry, they used to have a matching mouse too. Check it out under "More" -> "Personal Electronics" -> "Executive Suite II"
  • Here is where you can buy real keyboards []

    They bought the original IBM PC keyboard design/patents, and manufacture leaf-spring keyboards.

    We're talking "wing o' death" keyboards. And, as a bonus, they've redesigned the wing o' death and come up with some *great* new designs that are smaller and perhaps even better.

    Check 'em out!

  • Don't you know?!

    Timothy is the official keyboard fanatic / inquisitor []! He must know something we don't!

    /me wanders off in search of the elusive Querty beast.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • I concur that Microsoft peripherals are probably their highest quality product. But I still don't buy them. Why not?

    For every Microsoft peripheral I might want to buy, there is an equivalent Logitech one that is every bit as good, and similarly priced.

    And the logitech ones tend to be sexier - where's the MS cordless optical mouse? (here's where I find out they've released one in the meantime :)

    Logitech keyboards (I own three) are very nice. They're all similar enough in feel that I can switch between them without having to relearn the keyboard, they are very durable, the keys are sensibly spaced and positioned and they ooze quality. (Admittedly the same can be said for MS keyboards - call it personal preference).

    Never buy the $10 keyboard - it's always worth paying the extra for a decent Logitech/MS keyboard that'll last longer and be much more satisfying to use.


  • Yeah, I'd agree with this. I'm a programmer, so although I can do 80-90wpm with no errors, I rarely need to sustain it - type for a couple of minutes, think for a couple of minutes, repeat.

    But I have found that my unorthodox typing style means I can go long long periods of time (60 hours once) with few breaks and not get wrist/finger strain.

    I tend to leave my wrists (and usually my left forearm) flat on the desk and let my fingers curve up to the keys. While not typing I tend to rest my fingers on the keys lightly (this helps keep position and rests my hands) and I can keep up a pretty decent drum beat with my thumbs on the bottom of the keyboard below the space bar.

    I tend to avoid using the mouse, but I take the same approach - wrist resting on the table, minimal hand movements and letting my fingers do the work.

    I've tried using keyboard rests (those spongy things you put between you and your keyboard) and they really kill my wrists - because I am having to hold my forearms and wrists above the desk height there's much more strain on my arms, and pressing keys requires an intentional downwards push, rather than my usual approach of letting them just rest more heavily than normal on the keys.

    So yeah, I agree, this new keyboard sounds like an RSI nightmare - keeping your fingers hovering is immensely more expensive (physically) than being able to relax and rest on the keys.

  • Whatever. Imac keyboards are just as junky (if prettier) than generic PC keyboards.

    I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations ...

  • Timothy writes:

    > [...]and trackpads always seem wibbly to me.

    "I saw A.I. last weekend, and I thought it was simply shwark. A total tobble-fest."

    "The Diablo II expansion set is perfy, and certainly nittie-ho, but is it too moibly?"

    "The Jeep Liberty is pure thrangal to drive -- but boy does it look like umgah!"

    The is something charming about reviews with made-up words. Just not informative. Sort of like reading A Clockwork Orange without realizing that there is a glossary in the back.

  • So for /. editors, the paperclip will say "You do not seem to use the apostrophe, should I show it in the future?" :)l

  • Philips has a programmable remote control that does that. Very cool, real expensive too!
  • That's just so you can hit BACKSPACE and DELETE with the fifth finger of your right hand. That way, all those high-school typing classes weren't a waste of tuition.

  • You need to watch Next Generation some more. On the bridge and in engineering, they're ALWAYS typing fast onto their touch screens.
  • ... then think what artists could do with this starting from finger painting up to conducting. It does look like it's different from the usual touch-screen (no pizoelectric scanning) which makes you ask the question how can you program it to recognise distinctive gestures? Does the software have a learning component which is unique for each individual? Can you adapt this for a biometric device? What about its spatial resolution (they claim 50-200 Hz), is it high enough that you can use a stylus for very fine-grained work? If you put lego blocks and mapped them onto software components, can you create rapid layouts by shifting them around? What about multiple people, could it segment 3-4 different hands for multi-user input?

    There are some intriguing possibilities if you get away from the impression that it is a keybaord, and look at it as a generic input surface.

  • The "Big L shaped Enter Key" means that the \ backspace key is forced either to the top row on the right side of =, making the Backspace key smaller, or next to the right shift key, making it smaller. I use the right shift key exclusively, so that needs to be the size it is, and of course everybody uses backspace a fair deal, so that needs to be the size that it is.

    Therefore: Big Enter Key == devil.

    Q.E.D. And I can't believe someone as storied as you come off being in the history of computers would _prefer_ the big enter key to the smaller one.

  • by kipling ( 24579 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:27AM (#95776) Homepage
    As a touch-typist looking for a nice long-travel clickety-clack USB board, this looks abysmal. I can't see how the claimed RSI benefits will come about - try "typing" on your desktop (real, not virtual) for a bit to see what I mean.
  • I find the lack of pricing disturbing. They have all this 'whiz-bang' stuff on their page, various methods of contacting them, but no prices. Hrm... developmental problems? Someone forgot to update the web page? Who knows....

    From the bottom of the Tech Page []

    Price: $289

    Available: August 2001
    But this seems to be the only spot they mention it.

  • I think it may have been in Clarke's 2010: Odyssey Two. Something was mentioned about even in the world of touchscreens and pads, real buttons and switches were still used for critical things like engine activation. There is something to be said for the satisfying click of a good old-fashioned button.

  • "So yeah, I agree, this new keyboard sounds like an RSI nightmare - keeping your fingers hovering is immensely more expensive (physically) than being able to relax and rest on the keys."

    It's been awhile since my old high-school typing days (about 12 years), but your positioning sounds like an RSI nightmare waiting to happen. As I recall, you're NEVER supposed to type with your hands resting on the keyboard. You're supposed to have your elbows at a 90 degree angle, your forearms and wrists level, and hands should hover above the keyboard. My mother (a legal secretary) is a stickler for this, and she sustains over 100wpm easily for way more than a couple of minutes doing documents and transcriptions(been typing for as long as I can remember).

    It may seem physically taxing at first to hold your hands above the keys, but it is faster, and besides, doing 30 push-ups may be taxing, at first. But if you do it all the time, soon they are nothing at all.

  • by Polo ( 30659 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:28AM (#95780) Homepage
    Looking at the image [], I can't imagine why I would type with my hands crossed.

    The picture shows an image of a right hand on the left hand side of the keyboard.

  • Agreed. The latest gen split keyboards have the arrow/home-end buttons the old way. It feels better than the two previous versions too, and there's the 19 'interent' buttons which actually come in handy. I still miss the possibility to raise the keyboard at the spacesbar side from the first gen, instead of the function key side they use now, tough...
  • A solid flat surface keyboard [] -- it's Dillinger's keyboard from Tron! [] w00T!

    "You shouldn't have come back, Flynn"
  • I've got an old IBM AT keyboard that's stayed around through 17 different computers. Those were TANKS! The body is sheet metal. When you type there is that huge satisfying 50 decibel CLICK! In the event of an emergency it can double as a device to batter down a door. I've never had a key stick. The ctrl button is like a yard wide. No stupid flying windows button. No "one touch internet" stupidity. I don't think I could come near to finding a comporable keyboard if it went down.
  • Mod the parent up. I think one of the values of a good keyboard is that the keys 'cave in' to the movement of your finger _but_ do no require you to forcefully reach the end. That therefore reduces the force on your fingertips. I don't know about you but my I got a pair of sensitive fingers.

    When I type (ya know, this rattling sound of 200 chars/minute) my fingers move towards the keyboard and my fingers have to be stopped. Maybe I would like a touchkeyboard with foam in in :-)
  • dude, you can customize emacs to your keyboard (I never look at my keyboard if you meant that). With vi you'd be right.
  • I've seen too much of those 'oh so comphy' natural keyboard die. Much too early... Usually a keyboard should _outlive_ the computer.
  • Well if you looked at the technical page *cough*not*cough* you would find a price of:

    Price: $289

    Available: August 2001

    If you would like to have a FingerBoard you can, with no obligation on your part, reserve an order slot.

  • by CBravo ( 35450 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @04:04AM (#95788)
    Wat I would also like is a choice in material. I think plastic is a little uncomphy when you are sweating. I think I would really like wood.

  • personally - i find a little sensor-feedback to the skin very valuable
    in being able to type without having to look at where the keys are - a
    zero-force keyboard would be a disadvantage because you'd always have
    to LOOK in order to do your touch-typing.

    if you want to avoid RSI, the biggest difference is between keyboards
    that have SPRINGS in each key vs the RUBBER keyboards. when i use a
    spring keyboard, i can type all day without wrist pain. when i switch
    to a rubber-keyboard, i get pain in my wrists (waking up at night with
    pain shooting through your wrists is no fun!).

    it used to be that all manufacturers would supply spring keyboards --
    IBM, Apple, SGI, etc. but unhealthy competition in the clone business
    has ensured that all of these manufacturers now ship rubber-keyboards
    in order to remain 'price competitive' with how much their systems
    cost. why?

    because when people look at keyboards, they just see two keyboards in
    front of them - one for $19.95, and another for $79.95 - and say 'who
    cares - they both work' - but one is a rubber keyboard, and the other
    costs more, because they took the trouble to put actual springs in
    each of the keyswitches...

    that's more work, and its a hidden cost, so when people evaluate their
    buying decision based on 'lowest price is the law' -> it is
    short-sighted, and they will pay for it later - because the el-cheapo
    rubber-keyboard is going to cost them money when they've got to get
    surgergy done on their wrists...


  • There's also something fundamentally wrong with having backspace, delete, enter, AND space all in the same general area that space used to be in. Maybe i just don't like having to relearn where all the miscellaneous keys are (where are they all anyway?)

    Obviously, this wasn't designed with windows in mind despite what the sales pitch says. There are no ctrl+alt+del keys! Ohhh, wait, theres a gesture for that: Simply make a fist, and lay the back of your hand against the surface. Then extend the middle finger until it rests against the gesture surface. The FingerBoard will automatically send a ctrl+alt+del sequence to your computer. Repeat as necessary.
  • ...I thought that after the Atari 400, everybody swore off those things. Hell, the HP Pavilion keyboard with the extra buttons all around that I'm using at work right now is bad gets the job done, but the extra buttons that I'll never use get in the way.

    Give me a nice, clicky keyboard any day. I have a Focus 2001 at home, and I put in a bid on eBay for an IBM Type M...that one's coming to work when it arrives.

  • According to some correspondence I had this weekend, the IBM Model M is what to look for, although I'm not sure where - EBay I guess.

    They've got several Model Ms available []. I just snagged one a few hours ago; with shipping, it should still be under $20, which is less than you'd pay for a reasonably good keyboard most places (PC Club and similar places usually have some under-$10 keyboards, but I wouldn't want to type on one for an extended time...the one I have is plugged into the server in the coat closet.)

  • > If Linux is trademarked, it's a waste of money since it's already dilluted.

    Actually, Linus has trademarked Linux for purely defensive reasons. Indeed, before he did so, every couple of month or so, a "clever" businessman would register the Linux trademark in some backwater country, and attempt to extort money from various distribution makers. AFAIK, none of those extortion attempts succeeded (it would have been very easy to invalidate those bogus claims, if ever it went to court), but nonetheless this was a nuisance. In order to put a stop on those shenanigans, Linus eventually trademarked the Linux name himself.

  • TO7 is a bad example, because you could purchase it with a real mechanical keyboard (the same thing applied to other Thomson computers. I had a MO5) .
    It was also the case for most old 8-bit computers. ZX80/ZX81/Spectrum also had a flat keyboard, but you could also buy a mechanical keyboard.
    Flat keyboards are error-prone. You can easily type a key twice, or mix characters if you press two keys by error. But when they require a zero force (or a low force), they are relaxing for the wrist. And damn quiet.

    -- Pure FTP server [] - Upgrade your FTP server to something simple and secure.
  • Judging from their picture of the keyboard here [], they want you to put your LEFT hand on the RIGHT side of the keyboard (and presumably vice versa)! Call me an anatomical traditionalist, but that just doesn't seem that comfortable to me.

  • Look at the image of the hand printed on the background of the keyboard -- the image shows a right hand on the left side of the keyboard.

    As for 'straight guy'.. heh... I suppose I do prefer to have my arms straight while I'm typing. Beyond that, "What evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows..." heh heh.
  • Less responsive keyboards hurt my wrists more. My Dell laptop is horrible, I type for a few minutes and I'm in pain. My Powerbook is a lot better, but still not perfect. The ultimate keyboard is, of course, the original IBM PS/2 battleship keyboard. It has perfect tactile feedback, and offers good resistance. I can type on it all day and not hurt. The wierd 'ergonomic' keyboards are bullshit, in my experience. The most important attribute of a keyboard is how the keys feel.

    The absolute worst keyboards for my wrists that I've used are Sun type 5 and type 6 keyboards. MUSHY! No resonse whatsoever. 5 minutes and I'm in real pain.
  • by Corrado ( 64013 ) <rnhurt AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @02:47AM (#95798) Homepage Journal

    Ok, well everyone here seems to be down on this technology but I think it would really be useful. People are complaining about the sensitivity but from what I understand it reads your hand position, not the points that you are touching. That means that your hand does not even have to touch the surface to make a gesture.

    From the FAQ []: Isn't the MultiTouch Surface just an oversize touchpad?
    No. The technology used in our MultiTouch surface produces images of the hands and fingers as they approach the surface. In effect, a video is created that records the complete motion of all fingers and the other parts of the hands.

    It also goes on to say that after you start the gesture/keyboard input you can rest your hand on the surface. It is supposed to be smart enough to differenciate between gestures and resting (I'd like to see that!).

    And I agree that it would be great for Macintosh users (layout/graphics operations).

    BTW: Check here [] for details, including the price of $289 (which puts it in the ballpark of the Happy Hackers Keyboard).


  • It amazes me that every time the word touchpad is mentioned we have dozens of people who tell us they hate them and can't get used to them.

    We can write in machine code, we can give commentary on laws on countries we don't live in, we tell of how we beat 'the man' in his own game, and yet we can't use this little 2 inch square we call a touchpad.

    I love my touchpad. It lets me do things you can't do with a mouse, even when you add 5 extra programmable buttons to it and several scrolly things. I also have a mouse connected to the same computer for tasks where the mouse is more suitable.

    Now back to they keyboard. I can try to imagine that it would be OK for typing tasks and such, but when it comes to games, it's gotta hurt when you're hitting keys madly but find that you're drumming against a brick wall because there's no give...

  • Lokks just like the keyboard I had on my old Atari 400. It sucked then, probably still sucks now.
  • by BlueUnderwear ( 73957 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:34AM (#95801)
    Quoting from their FAQ [], 4th question:

    What is the physical interface?

    The FingerBoard connects to Windows/linux computers through the USB port or through the PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports.

    However, I wonder why they chose to spell Linux with lower caps, rather than upper caps as they did for Windows? Multi-touch technology failing to reliably sense shift key?
  • The new Natural Elite Pro manages to be even smaller than the Natural Elite AND do the arrow keys correctly. WAY nifty..check it out. Just ignore the extra buttons ;)

  • My old ZX-81 uses the same technology to receive
    input. I wonder how it compares?

    I'd definitely have to have a Dvorak version of
    it (not that appearance ever matters.)
  • 12 kilos? Are you _sure_ about that?

    xx Stuii!
  • You worry me sometimes. Remind me never to provide you with a jay cloth if asked.

    xx Stuii!
  • * Big backwards 'L' shaped enter key .
    Why? Having changed to a "Happy Hacking" keyboard (with a small enter key), I don't understand why anyone would want a big enter key. It's just a waste of space.
  • Maybe there's someone on the inside trying to get out???
  • Just hope the keyboard doesn't piss out after a few months.
  • Maybe there is a market for this with certain disabled conditions. But, I mean, how many times do you hear people complaining "God dammit! My fingers are really hurting from having to apply all that pressure to my keyboard keys. Why doesn't someone invent a zero-pressure keyboard?"

  • One of the first things I look for in a keyboard is it's tactile feedback. The feel, the sound... I'm not sure, but I'd bet it would take a lot of getting used to to use such a device.

    Being a touch typist is one thing. Even an experienced typist feels the keys, get's immediate feedback that the keystroke was successful... and moves to the next. How can that be replace with, what is essentially, a flat piece of plastic? I like the technology, but I'm betting it has more practical uses than a keyboard.

  • If Linux is trademarked, it's a waste of money since it's already dilluted.

    - Steeltoe
  • Hell yeah go for it! By the way... make the numerical part of the keybord stretchable. Now I have to type on the left side then stretch my right arm... even further... that's it! I found my mouse! Who had the brilliant idea to place keys that you never use at the location where your mouse should be? c==||::::::::::::::::>
  • by sjeng ( 101084 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @03:43AM (#95813) Homepage
    We should ask the guys of Microsoft what to do with this... They probably will dynamically change key so you have to look for them all the time! And finally some annoying paperclip will say: "you do not seem to use the 'e'. Should I show it in the future?" A nightmare!
  • ... since contrary to pouplar belief, it is not the force of pressing keys which causes the problem. Your fingers are built to grab, press and hold things, so this kind of movement is seldomly a big problem.

    In fact it's the strain of constantly having to hold your fingers up above a too-sensitive keyboard to keep yourself from unwantedly pressing keys that causes most of typing-related injuries. If you want a keyboard that helps your RSI problems, get one that needs MORE force, so you're able to rest your fingers on the keyboard, relaxing the muscles and tendons on the back of your hand and arm.

    A keyboard with zero-pressure keys is likely to worsen the problem instead of helping it


  • ... the harder the keyboard, the better it is. Do you see pianist with RSI? No? Don't you wonder why? After all, they spend as much time playing we we do typing...

    The problem is that our keyboards are too soft, not too hard!! And a pianist always chooses a hard keyboard. Our wrists, arms, hands are not supposed to be jiggling about, not using any strength. A hard keyboard improves your wrists, makes them less susceptible. This I know from experience.

    Another thing which leads to RSI (which I read somewhere it's just a fabrication, and doesn't really exist?) is the position of the arms. Again, has every piano player has learned, the arm should be bent at a 90 degree angle.

    So, as much as that keyboard is fun to use, I guess it's completely off-course as far as RSI is concerned...

    ------------------------------------ Gone Crazy, Back Soon, Leave Message
  • Now what I will read on my screen in the morning if some stupid fly (or, god forbid, cockroach !!)will walk over my keyboard? On second thought, if there is no spaces between buttons, there will be much less food in my keyboard...
  • by Dr_Cheeks ( 110261 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:55AM (#95817) Homepage Journal
    OK, so it'll be easier to wipe coffe off it, and it looks kinda like it's from Star Trek. But I really wouldn't like to replace a usual keyboard with one of these for the following reasons:
    1. I like to have to exert force on keys - I can currently rest on the home keys or even brush past others without my cack-handedness appearing on screen.
    2. How on Earth would you touch type on this? I'm not the greatest touch typist (got bored with Mavis Beacon too easily), but I still like to be able to type about half of what I'm writing without staring at the keyboard.
    3. I've seen similar products that are too slow, or unresonsive (there was some stupid programmable game controller like this a few years back with interchangeable sheets for different games, that was horrible to use) - does this suffer any of these problems?
    There's probably other potential problems, but even from a cursory examination it seems like a waste of cash. Thoughts/opinions?
  • The studies who originally showed a clear superiority of the Dvorak layout were rigged by Dvorak himself who had of course a vested interest to sell his idea. And if it did put less strain on your fingers, it would also improve typing speed in the long run, but this has not been observed.
  • by -brazil- ( 111867 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:31AM (#95819) Homepage
    I know this is common knowledge but qwerty was developed with the opposite of usability in mind

    This is actually an urban myth, and a false one. QWERTY was developed with ergonomics and optimal typing speed in mind. It was also influenced by some mechanical restriction that are not anymore a problem, but that wasn't all. Unbiased studies have never shown QWERTY to be significantly slower (or faster) than alternative layouts.

  • the thing that amazes me is that on the Why Switch to Fingerboard? [] Page, it says

    "The FingerBoard uses standard mouse and keyboard drivers. You don't have to install any additional software on your system."

    But on This page [] it shows a number of gestures that are tied to common functions such as CUT, COPY, Back/Forward on browser, etc. Well, how does it know to do those things if you don't install seperate software? I mean they are useful functions, but is there a linux driver to interpret the gestures? And do I really want yet another background process running in my systray and splashing a startup screen on the windows box?

    i dunno. Neat idea, but i have no beef with my IBM keyboard.

  • Just think of the possibilities of using gestures as commands.

    You know on the windoze boot up screen you see that annoying M$ logo, why not have flicking off the screen simulate "ESC" to make it go away? That's useful, don't you think?
  • The "capture an image of the hands" technology looks neat. But the actual design of the board is pretty gimpy; missing keys, moved keys, too little customizability, really big name font...

    I look forward to better tries with the same tech.

  • Windows isn't trademarked unless there is a microsoft in front

    Wrong. I went to TESS and found this [] information (#129 in the mono discussion). Microsoft Corporation owns trademarks on WINDOWS and WINDOWS NT.

  • I've had one of their Sidewinder joysticks too and it was great.

    I've heard good stories about their joysticks, but their pads are awful. The directional control on Microsoft Sidewinder USB game pads is rotated 20 degrees clockwise from how it is on Nintendo and PlayStation pads, making it nearly impossible to press straight down without also pressing to the right; Tetris was unplayable. Specifically, Nintendo and PSX pads have the "up" direction parallel to the cord coming out the top, whereas MS pads have "up" along the direction of the handgrips. This does NOT feel good for somebody who has played Nintendo products for 12 years.

  • by mauddib~ ( 126018 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:33AM (#95825) Homepage
    I must say that the direction keyboards has gone to, from the clickyclick '80s keyboard to the unusable cheap devices available now, could be one of the sources of RSI. After reading the documents on the zero-force keyboard, you'll see that one cannot hold their fingers on the keyboard while typing. It is however possible to bang all 10 fingers simultaniously on the keyboard to indicate a "rest".

    Such keyboards might be very interesting in places where it is necessery to keep dust and dirt away (like in kitchens), but as a working keyboard I think it misses the comfort of an "old" keyboard. I still think it's a step into the right direction however. Maybe time will learn. At least these keyboards look quite "startrek" like :]
  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @03:49AM (#95826)
    It was called a ZX81.
  • Once again, 70% of the people here have not bothered to read the f'n artical

    If you had read it. You would know that it isn't a membrane keyboard.

    And people here also seem to forget another thing. Not everyone speends their day typing. This keyboard would be great for any program that involves manuvering and keyboard shortcuts, with not much actual typing. E.G. 3D apps, layout/illustation, photoshop, games, you get the idea.

  • I was going to post this but I see you beat me to it.

    I killed my old IBM keyboard and recently ordered one from them. They didn't have it with the IBM logo, this has a Unicomp logo, but it's pretty much the same board. Same colors, same layout (pipe where it should be, no windoze keys, no goofy power management keys). The keys themselves are one piece units as opposed to my IBM which had the characters on one piece of plastic that snapped into another that actually was the key. These are harder to get out, the little caps don't go flying all over when I punch it :)

    I might take it apart and build it into the IBM case, I bet it will fit.

  • by eMilkshake ( 131623 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @04:06AM (#95829) Homepage
    I suppose most people who are looking at this and think it's neat have never used a Timex Sinclair 1000 (a nice computer with a standard 2K of RAM, but my family splurged and bought the 16K expansion module). We loved the thing (bought several games, including frogger -- load off your tape player and play in glorious black and white!), but had one major problem using it for any period -- the keyboard was a membrane one like this. You would push buttons, and you didn't know if it happened or not. Of course, this condition was made worse b/c the thing was so slow that there would usually be a delay.

    Trust me, you fingers like tactile response. I always figured the Star Trek keyboards gave some sort of vibration or something back to the fingers. Think about it -- do you want your weapons control system NOT controlled by a button that you can feel push in?

  • I feel inclined to make the obligatory reference to the exceedingly cool Kinesis [] ergonomic keyboards. I own both a Classic and a Professional (the ones with the bowls that the keys sit in) and I honestly don't understand how I was able to type before. They've helped to reduce the pain that I feel in my wrists when typing pretty substantially.
  • That hand is where you are supposed to rest your hand when you type, if I am looking at it correctly. It seems a bit akward, yes. I'll stick with my keyboard for now :)
  • I think he means the ZX80 and ZX81 (the Speccy's predecessors), which had touch-pad keys.


  • Anyone remembers the keyboard with a tiny LCD in each key? I think it was COS manufacturing it. Haven't heard anything about them for a while...
  • Heck, I had one of these on an ATARI 400 in 1983. No-one could type on it ... in fact, ATARI had to ship all its 400 customers free keyboard replacements because their customers hated the membrane keyboards and were threatening to return the computers (I know, I was one).

    "Magnetic therapy", now membrane keyboards ... just goes to show that the old adage about history is true. Me, I'm headed to F*ckedCompany with FingerBoard, inc.

  • this "zero force" stuff was done in microwaves in the '80s using the whole electrical grounding through your fingers scheme....people hated it, they couldn't tell if they had pressed the button or wasn't very long before the "fad" had worn off and microwaves had a slight force response to the buttons..... there must be some type of tactile response, it could be very, very, slight, but its a matter of comfort in the human interface
  • I had one of these machines, and it had a touch-pad style keyboard. OMG it sucked. half he time you would brush across the wrong key. I ended up having to sell it and getting an Atari 800 with real keys.
  • by Rothron the Wise ( 171030 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:58AM (#95849)
    In my country we have a few ATMs with keyboards similar to these and although they might look cool and have few moving parts, they are just too sensitive, and as a result, people tend to mistype alot. I don't know about most people, but without the feel of the keys I'd have a hard time navigating a keyboard like that and would have to resort to hunt and peck. The horror! The horror!

    I don't care how Star Treky people might think it is. It actually isn't. Everything in Star Trek is high res touchscreens with GUI-interfaces. People in Star Trek do not spend hours on end typing stuff in, they dictate to the computer, that's why they don't need traditional keyboards.

    A penny for your thoughts.
  • by IainMH ( 176964 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:33AM (#95851)
    lets you perform guesture based commands

    Oh dear. If my laptop starts to understand some of the gestures I make to it, it would never talk to me again.
  • Wouldn't a zero-force keyboard result in random input to stdin?

    Another problem would be that almost anything could trigger a keypress. If you thought the cat on the keyboard was bad, how about that annoying fly trying to get at the spilled Coke stain on your keyboard.

    A keyboard that senses the heat from your finger may help, but these keyboards are annoying because they can sense any heat, not just your fingertips. So when you go to hit keys at the top of the keyboard (numbers, F-keys etc,) your palm can trigger the lower keys. Perhaps a minimal force/thermal combo-keyboard could address the issue.

    I don't see what the big deal is. I don't mind the clickitty-clack of current keyboards. It gives me feedback when I am touch typing and not looking at the screen. If I had one of these keyboards, then I would have to set my computer up to beep at every keypress like those annoying computers in the movies.

  • The real reason you find so many compuers with crummy cases/speakers/powersupplies/etc is due to the competiveness of the market and the stupidity of the buyers.

    Face it, the average person who walks into CompUSA only understands 3 things: MHz, MB, GB. They don't know a Modem from a WinModem, a 400 Watt power supply from a 125 watt one, or a GeForce 2 Ultra from a Raedon. Unless you tell them how fast the processor is, how many MB of RAM and Video memory it has, or how many GB's the Hard drive is, they don't know how to compare the two. (Trust me on all of this, I unfortunatly worked computer retail sales and sold several computers to darling 12 year old sons of the Mother with the credit card.)

    Computer makers realize this. They know that they can shave $30 off by putting in some lame WinModem, save $50 and even LOOK BETTER by puting in a 16MB S3 instead of a 8MB TNT2, save more by putting in a minimal power supply, and even save the phucking 30 cents a substandard case gives them. And then they use all that savings to price themselves $50-100 less than the computer next to them. That is how they generate sales.

    The real kicker? They get away with it. Why? Because anyone who knows enough about computers to even understand the difference between a WinModem and a Modem is out building thier own computer.

  • by revin ( 191651 )
    who didn't wash its hand and left a skin-oil trace on those keyboards?
  • A keyboard that senses the heat from your finger may help, but these keyboards are annoying because they can sense any heat, not just your fingertips. So when you go to hit keys at the top of the keyboard (numbers, F-keys etc,) your palm can trigger the lower keys. Perhaps a minimal force/thermal combo-keyboard could address the issue.

    I think you're looking at the problem backwards. My fingers are always cold from lifting frosty Jolt cola cans all day.

    I can almost picture the conversation now:

    Boss: Do you have the interfaces done for the new product line?
    Me: Um, no.
    Boss: What seems to be the problem?
    Me: This dang keyboard won't accept any input.

    I just hope I can get it to spit out my resume before I'm escorted out the door.

    Entropy ain't just a good idea. It's the law.
  • I'm a student at the University of Delaware EECE department, where the people who design and make the Fingerworks keyboard come from. I've used one for a short while at an IEEE meeting that was held here on campus where the technology was demonstrated, and I must say that, for the short time that I used it, the Fingerworks keyboard was very difficult to type on quickly.

    However, one of the men who invented the thing (Dr. Wayne Westerman, Fingerworks CTO), demonstrated to the audience that it's quite possible, with practice, to type at around 50-60 WPM on the things without your fingers getting in the way of each other. He did say that it would be difficult or impossible for most people to reach the level of typing speed of a regular keyboard, but also demonstrated that the Fingerworks technology has several uses in areas where typing speed doesn't account for everything.

    The really slick advantage of the Fingerworks technology is that your typing surface can also act as your pointing device, as well as a sort of low resolution graphics tablet. Also, since there are no physical keys, if you could hack the keyboard layout or use their layout design tools, you could make your own key layout that would have keys in non-traditional positions, or as many keys as you want... The keyboard's big enough to have space for about twice of a normal keyboard's keys, if you wanted to get rid of the (rather important) wrist rest area.

    The other big deal with this technology is the gesture-based input that Fingerworks has come up with. I've seen it in action, and it's quite impressive. Westerman, at his demo, was scrolling around a document with his left hand, zooming with his right hand, and editing text (cut and paste) with a flicking gesture of his fingers. He made text move around the page faster than most people I've seen doing text editing work. I was quite impressed.

    Also, I spoke with him afterwards and he noted that Fingerworks keyboard would be ideal for miniaturized laptops... The technology has the capability to become as thin as a sheet of paper, and space need not be wasted on an extra trackpad or trackball. It would allow thinner machines that have larger effective keyboards relative to their case size.

    Don't get me wrong, I think I'd hate to use one myself, but the secretaries in our department use them all day long, and they work very well with them... The keyboard reduce RSI effects dramatically, and they speed up everything but sheer typing speed that a word processor needs to do.
  • The Model M is the most holy of PC keyboards. It's even available (if you're lucky to find one; I've got two) in a "Spacesaver" version without the number pad. Most of them have swappable cords for AT and PS/2. And many of them (but not the Spacesaver) have fully swappable keycaps, perfect for April Fools pranks, like making a "QUERTY" keyboard. :-)

    The second most holy is the Northgate Omni series. They even have models with the control key to the left of the A key. I think that's their "Jerry Pournelle" model. (JP is well known as a keyboard bigot^Wconniseur from his Byte magazine columns.)

    And thanks for the Model M site link.

  • by Soft ( 266615 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:25AM (#95893)
    most unresponsive, most annoying possible keyboard

    I have used Thomson TO7's at school a long, long time ago. Keys were flat but did require a non-zero force, and in fact you had to push them madly to type a character...

    OTOH, that zero-force keyboard could be a step in the direction of movement-activated controls in the HHGG, where you just wave at them to activate them, with all the annoying side-effects you can imagine.

  • A keyboard knows the difference between a keypress and a tap.

    This thing might, but it would take learning a whole new set of muscle and pressure memory translations.

    The Gesture and mouse-in-place things might save a little elbow grease, but the non-giving surface and variable pressures would result in callused fingers.

    And carpal tunnel isn't caused by keystroke, it's caused by bad elbow-wrist-hand-finger alignment, and heredity (and greed).


    I just want one of the ultra-quiet keyboards they faked in GATTACA, instead of this $2.99 parts-and-labor[*], $13.99 retail thing I've got here at work.


    * - maybe less; the other day at Fry's, I saw a pile of boxed keyboards in the keyboard section with $2.99 stickers on them. It wasn't a special price. It was the price. You couldn't tell them from this one without some MTTF testing.
  • by Flying Headless Goku ( 411378 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @02:19AM (#95905) Homepage
    He was the greatest mind ever to have developed a keyboard layout. Far greater than that wannabe Dvorak.

    Any hack can study character frequency and place the keys to minimize finger travel (hint: layouts based on past usage are optimized for use in the past!), but it takes a real genius to create a design that lets you spell "typeuriter" using only the top row.

    However, there is a better keyboard design, which promises to reduce instruction time to a fraction of current cost by the use of a surpassingly elegant mnemonic device:


    And who created this great innovation?

    It was found among the lost notes of none other than the great Jock Querty! He invents better dead than Dvorak did alive!
  • "It's not about speed, it's about comfort" - I myself did not change to dvorak (I haven't found a layout with german umlauts yet), but the folks I know who switched to dvorak told me that it felt much more comfortable. I don't know if it'd make sense for me - all the studies assume that your fingers rest on the middle row, but I keep my fingers always about 1 cm above the keyboard.

  • by No Tears In The End ( 452319 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @01:34AM (#95913)
    I couldn't use something like this. I am a very fast typist. I need the tactile feel of the keys to know when I have successfully made a keystroke. My keyrate takes a nose dive when I use a keyboard that has a different pressure threshhold than the one that I am currently typing on.

    How about the rest of you?

  • The keyboard layout, with backspace and the delete on the left thumb, space and enter on the right thumb, and straight columns, reminds me of the keyboard i'm using right now: Kinesis contoured (the Essential model). []

    I'm just getting used to this keyboard but so far I really like it. Ctrl and Alt are kind of awkwardly positioned, so if you're going to use Emacs you really want pedals.

    This FingerBoard looks really cool, I'd love to try it. I have RSI kind of problems myself, and for me, keyboards with lighter touch are definately nicer on my hands and arms. Hmm... gesture recognition... light keys... i'd LOVE to have one of these. I want one now!

Enzymes are things invented by biologists that explain things which otherwise require harder thinking. -- Jerome Lettvin