Re: new keyboard

Subject: Re: new keyboard
From: "Maureen J. Akins" <csvmja -at- ADMIN -dot- AC -dot- EDU>
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1993 09:08:08 EST

David's answer is quite correct. Instead of a keyboard with individual
displays, (Do you really look at the keys much?) why not go for the rainbow
of voice recognition? Wouldn't "Set left margin at 2 inches" be much
better than obscure key combinations that keep sight impaired people as
second class computer users?


On Sun, 21 Mar 1993 01:21:13 PST, David Hamilton wrote:

>Steve Hollander writes:

>> WHAT IF somebody developed a keyboard that recaptured the display function:
>> When the computer is off, the keyboard is BLANK. When turned on, the keyboar
>> display is loaded by whatever program (or op system) the computer is using.
>> Thus, the A key would routinely display "A" but if the Ctrl key were pressed
>> and Ctrl-A meant "Abort," the keyboard display (LCD, probably) would say
>> "Abort." The f---ing F-keys would display WHATEVER THEY WOULD DO AT ANY GIVE
>> TIME! (The COMPUTER knows what it'll do when Shift-F9 is pressed; it can dam
>> well tell us!)
>> Think of the $million$ in training that would be saved. Think of how much
>> easier it'd be to write manuals. Think of how happy the software writers'd b
>> since they'd have to create (and sell!) new versions with keyboard drivers
>> built into them. The template saleshumen, of course, would have a fit; but t
>> rest of us'd be on Easy Street.

>The biggest problem with the your idea is that it would greatly
>increase the cost of the keyboard. Right now, the keyboard switch
>assembly for a "standard" keyboard layout costs about $20 in quantity
>(from Korea). Once the case, cable, keycaps, processor, and assembly
>are added in, we have keyboards in the $80-100 range. Adding the
>display for each keycap would increase the cost by an order of
>magnitude, not counting the amortization of the R&D effort required.

>The largest segments of the desktop market are strongly price-driven.
>Purchasing departments save a few dollars per keyboard by buying
>inferior equipment. How do you think they would react to a keyboard
>costing $700 or more?

>The second problem is convincing the software vendors to support such
>a keyboard. While there are no major technical hurdles on the
>software side, the a major redesign of the keyboard drivers would be
>required. Updating the keycap displays would slow the overall
>keyboard response. There is also the problem of synchronization for
>very fast typists. The display text would increase the size of the
>program executable files, as well. The software development cost
>would not be trivial and the vendors would pass this cost on to the

>The software vendors would only make these changes if forced to do so
>by market pressure. Until they did, there would be no advantage to
>the keyboard hardware folks developing the keyboard design.

>The third problem is primarily technical. LCD displays wouldn't work
>well, given the current limitations. Touch an LCD display displaying
>text and you'll immediately see part of the problem. The text will be
>distorted and obscured. Now add the problem of contouring they keycap
>with the display. Then add the problem of carrying the wiring from
>the display around the key switch. Any of the current techniques
>would either be prone to wear (and thus failure) or change the feel of
>the keyboard.

>In addition to an extra microprocessor required to handle the display
>functions, there is a fundemental problem with the way keycodes are
>generated by the keyboard. For most keyboards, a keycode is not
>returned to the computer when the CTL key is pressed or released.
>Instead, a different keycode is returned by the keyboard if CTL is
>pressed in simultaneously with certain other keys (the notable
>exception being the PeeCee).

>In short, while millions of dollars might be saved by your suggestion,
>many more millions would be required to take advantage of it. The
>only vendors that would profit from the situation are the keyboard

>If all those who design and use computers have been unable to agree on
>the relatively simple matter of a standard keyboard layout, what
>chance would a radical change in concept have? How many different
>places are there to put an ESC key, brackets, etc? How much
>productivity is lost when users must move between keyboard layouts?
>Currently, they cannot even agree what to call the ALT key(s). On
>some keyboards these are labeled META, while on others they don't even
>exist. It sounds like a very simple problem to solve, with provable
>benefits in productivity and portability, doesn't it?

>I like your suggestion - I just don't think it will happen.

>David Hamilton
>Sr Tech Writer (and former hardware/software designer)

| Maureen Akins Augusta College |
| Internet: makins -at- admin -dot- ac -dot- edu Computer Services |
| (706) 737-1484 GIST: 337-1484 2500 Walton Way |
| FAX: (706) 737-1773 Augusta, GA 30910 |

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