Despite each generation of speedier computers, the Qwerty keyboard remains one of the the most recognizable and almost unchanged peripheral of the digital revolution. What’s odd is that the Qwerty keyboard, designed in 1874, was deliberately created to slow rather than speed up typing text.
Thankfully, a newer generation of keyboards has finally started to emerge, bringing fresh ideas and innovative designs to help improve the interface between you and your machine.
1. OrbiTouch Keyless
This keyboard has no keys. Instead, the OrbiTouch has two domes that look like giant volume knobs, on a curvy surface. Just slide the two domes for both mouse movements as well as for inputting keys, all without lifting a finger or moving your wrists. The entire character set of numbers and alphabets can be keyed in by just sliding the domes around the colour-coded ring and character combinations. And in case you are wondering how to familiarise yourself with the OrbitTouch, it comes with a typing tutor program, and the site claims speeds of up to 42 words per minute. The keyboard offers ease and comfort, and is specially beneficial for those with repetitive strain injury (RSI) and other hand or finger injuries.
Also See Qwerty Keyboards (PDF)
2. Really Cool
Wash this with soap and water. The Really Cool is a water-resistant and contaminant-proof keyboard with tactile feedback keys. The sealed and rigid surface is ideal for industrial, marine and medical use, as well as other applications where moisture, cleaning and durability are considerations. The Really Cool is also quieter than most standard keyboards. It is compatible with standard keyboard layouts and special software drivers are not needed. Options are also available with built-in trackpads; do check the website for other designs.
3. Buffalo Skype-Keyboard
A Skype handset is built right into the keyboard, so Internet voice telephones just got easier. The keyboard also has built-in speakers and 13 hot keys for instant access to media playback controls.
4. Maltron Ergonomic 3D
If comfort is what you want, do not look beyond the Maltron range of keyboards. In business since 1977, this company specializes in keyboards that have successfully cured people of RSI, and solved problems for physically-challenged people. The 3D keyboard fits the shape of the hands and the different lengths of the fingers to reduce movement and tension. Its split design eliminates wrist twist and offers a central cluster of numbers which can be used with the right or left hand, as preferred. Tilted keys and pads minimise palm-downward movement (pronation) to further reduce muscle tension. Straight vertical key columns eliminate tens of thousands of finger and wrist twists in a day’s work. Maltron also offers single-hand keyboards, and mouth/headstick keyboards for the physically challenged.
5. Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000
A wireless keyboard usually comes with the hidden cost of replacing batteries. This keyboard and its accompanying mouse are rechargeable, using the built-in charging hub. It connects from a distance of up to 30ft over Bluetooth with virtually no interference. Its intelligent backlighting comes on automatically when you approach the keyboard and turns off when you’re away, saving valuable battery life. The backlight intensity automatically adjusts itself to the room lighting conditions.
6. Das Ultimate
The keys on this shiny black and sleek-looking keyboard are all blank. No key labels mean no more distraction, according to the manufacturer of this “uber-geek” peripheral. Since hunt-and-peck is no longer an option, a user quickly gains accuracy and speed by learning touch-typing. Gamers will be delighted to note that the Das Keyboard allows up to 12 keys to be pressed simultaneously for lightning-fast responses. It ships with gold-plated mechanical key switches. Once you start typing, the tactile and audio clicks create positive reinforcing feedback, which makes typing fun and addictive. The Professional version comes with labelled keys for those who may still want to see their key labels.
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California-based industrial designer Jonathan Lucas’ Siafu is a purely conceptual and theoretical PC, designed to give the visually challenged an in-depth and intuitive computer experience. It provides a digitally tactile interface, utilizing a conceptual material called Magneclay that has the ability to morph upward into any shape. This material allows Siafu to generate infinitely refreshable Braille as well as display images as a 3D relief, allowing users to experience digital images and graphic layouts by moving their hands over the raised surfaces of the device. You can view some stunning 3D graphic models of the computer at www.coroflot.com/public/individual_details.asp? individual_id= 190761. (Niyam Bhushan)
The new Panasonic Toughbook F8 has a fashionable silver and black design covering brute strength. What looks like a standard laptop with a 14.1-inch screen and DVD drive is actually a beast able to withstand drops from about 5ft. Its hardened case can also withstand at least 220 pounds of pressure, and it’s water-resistant. The F8 comes with 3 gigabytes of memory and includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and optional cellular networking. Clad in ultralight magnesium alloy, it weighs a mere 3.7 pounds—about a pound more than the MacBook Air. The F8 has drainage holes that let water flow through the keyboard.
©2008/ THE NEW YORK TIMES
A note for users of the Polar FT80 ($349): While this training watch can transfer data wirelessly to Windows PCs, it really shines when you pull it away from the computer and actually go for a run. The thin black watch has a white on black screen that displays your current and target heart rates as well as the intended goals for your workout. It reminds you when you haven’t been working out and even makes suggestions for your weekly workouts based on weight, height and activity level. It can download workouts from the Internet. Even its set-up is easy: A 5-minute fitness test tells the watch everything it needs to know to plan your next workout.
©2008/ THE NEW YORK TIMES
Warm as they may be, regular winter gloves don’t provide easy access to your mobile device. Swany’s g.cell GX-1 ($500) performance gloves offer a way to stay both warm and in touch via an integrated Bluetooth system that synchronizes with your cellphone. When someone calls, the glove’s LED display blinks and a built-in “vibra alarm” at your wrist starts vibrating. To take the call, press the black button on one of the gloves, hold the loudspeaker (located on the thumb) near your ear and start talking into your hand. The GX-1 also offers a voice command system for hands-free phone calls. The gloves offer up to five hours of talktime.
©2008/ THE NEW YORK TIMES