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Monday, February 14, 2005

I Want A Better Keyboard

I found myself wondering the other day: Why am I (a programmer in 2005) stuck using an input device designed for a totally different user (a secretary in 1873)?

And I'm not just talking Qwerty vs. Dvorak here. Those are both designed for people typing large quantities of English text. A significant portion of what I type every day bears little or no resemblance to English, at least as far as character frequency goes. I haven't done any real analysis, but I'd guesstimate that when I'm working in C#, probably one third of the characters I have to enter are ones I have to shift for. That means that I'm essentially being forced to press 33% more keys that I would otherwise. Does this strike anyone else as enormously inefficient?

So I did some Googling, and I haven't been overwhelmed by my options. I found the Kinesis Contour keyboards, which look pretty slick, and would certainly sooth the ol' carpal tunnel, but don't really do much for my coding woes. Another option is the TouchStream LP, which doesn't even have keys, and supports lots of gesture interface stuff. Pretty cool, but I'm not sure I'm ready for something quite that avant-garde. Both these lines of keyboards are programmable, which I suppose would address my programming wants. The only other line of programmer-oriented keyboard that I found is the Happy Hacker series, which seems to have blank keys as its main claim to fame, but I really need the ergonomic layout.

Obviously, though, price is the major obstacle, coupled with the fact that I can't just run down to Best Buy and try out any of these. So I guess I'll stick with my good ol' MS Natural Pro for a while longer (with the inverted T arrow key arrangement, thank you very much -- although it looks like that's only available now with some weird and pointless multimedia crap).

Any fellow programmers have good suggestions? Besides switching to Python to avoid curly braces and parentheses?

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