Keyboards are an essential component of a PC/Computer/Laptop. Despite its ergonomic limitations and other factors which have led to several developments over its design, Keyboards form an essential component of a Computer and play a huge role in its working.
With the early 21st Century, development of Wireless Keyboards and software-based Keyboards have taken this relationship to another level making it cost-effective for nerds and Computer Geeks to get a Computer.
Another reason why Keyboard design has been in the news lately is the regular occurrence of a muscular issue amongst Working professionals called ‘Carpal Tunnel Syndrome’. Regular and sometimes over-use of poorly designed Keyboard has made it very common from being the rare case especially at an era where professionals are expected to be computer-literate.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the nerves of your fingers face a compression due to rapid typing leading to pain caused by pressure flowing straight through your wrist to your entire arm causing shoulder pain.
Below we look into the top bestseller keyboard types which are in the market and are widely considered for use by the common public including those which are said to be easy to use in terms of ergonomics.
#7: Chord Keyboards
A less-known version of the Keyboard. It the user to enter characters or commands formed by pressing several keys together. The benefit over traditional keyboards is that it only requires the use of one hand.
There are versions of this keyboard where both hands can be used currently under research.
The tricky part is that each letter requires a combination of more than one key to be pressed which will require serious level practice to remember the combinations. One would definitely consider taking rest in between typing long documents instead of buying such keyboards.
#6: Wireless Keyboards
I would definitely call it ‘Brother’ of USB keyboards. Post-2003 when Keyboard innovation started, these came into the market along with their USB counterparts.
Wireless Keyboards actually work using Bluetooth or infra-red tech.
Each keyboard has 2 components: A transmitter which is attached to the keyboard and a trans-receiver attached to the parent device. Strokes from the keyboard are converted into radio waves transmitted between the 2 components.
Very useful as one can keep a single keyboard for multiple tablets/computers/laptops. If you are lucky and your keyboard has strong connectivity then you can even use it by staying 50 meters away from your computer. Most of such keyboards are very lightweight in use.
#5: On-Screen Keyboards
It’s quite obvious because it’s of no use for hardcore gamers. But ergonomically, it’s a good alternative to physical ones as you can tap on the screen to touch the keys without any sort of extra physical pressure. But its benefit is only restricted to Tablets and Smartphones.
Current laptops don’t have such a feature and the ones which do have end up being pricey if not seriously expensive (at least US $500).
So, if you really want such a thing in your laptop you’ll need to come up with some alternative or else prepare to burn your pockets.
Also, if the software has ‘bugs’ in it or the screen gets damaged, then you might end up with an erroneously typed document if not a mail sent to your boss instead of your family/BFF.
Focusing on benefits – On-Screen Keyboards are way easy to use if you are a Spreadsheet man or ppt hero. There are certain features which might be tricky to use like ‘SwiftKey’ for instance but that doesn’t diminish the value of On-Screen keyboards have in terms of overall ease of use.
I mean it only takes a few hrs research to get yourself used to it, doesn’t it?
#4: Thumb Keyboard
These Keyboards are available in Blackberry’s 8520 curve model and in the latest Nokia E series phones. Despite the rise of Android and Windows phones, these are still seen in use in some mobile phones. Quite understandable, given the fact that it works on the theory of ease in operability amongst senior people who find it tricky to get the on-screen keyboard (No offense but that’s what I have seen).
Such Keyboards are useful for Business persons who have to browse through spreadsheets on the go or find it difficult to use the basic phone keyboard where you have to press each numeric key ‘n’ no of times to get the letter of your choice.
The design is suited for maximum use of your thumbs for typing which might be tricky at first but once you get used to it then there is no stopping. They are quite suitable for gaming but only if you are happy with small sized screens.
#3: Flexible Keyboards
Perhaps the best option for tablet loving people. These keyboards can be rolled into sleeves of your small briefcase and carried anywhere without either getting mixed with your other essentials or taking too much space.
These come with USB port connectivity, mind you. Useful for people who travel frequently or live on the roads. One must bear in mind that these keyboards require a hard surface to work and are ONLY meant to be rolled up and not folded during storage. There is 100% probability that folding will damage its internal wiring and circuits.
But don’t worry it won’t blow up!
#2: Ergonomic Keyboards
If you have seen what Tony Stark’s Iron Man movies, then it looks something like this:
Such Keyboards have been in development for quite some time. The position of the keys is set based on the distance between them and the tip of your fingers being kept at a minimum so as to ease pressure on your fingers, thereby helping in typing faster. QWERTY, HCSTER are some of the versions of keyboards used under this concept for the purpose of not only work but also gaming easier.
#1: Membrane Keyboards
Such Keyboards have a 3 layer flexible design. The top membrane layer is the first under which there is a conductive trace. When pressed, it passes through holes located on the 2nd layer, allowing the pressure pads that are located under each key to pass through, and ultimately make contact with the conductive traces on top of the bottom membrane layer.
In terms of design look, they are quite similar to mechanical keyboards only they make it easy to type with low pressure, are less noisy and less prone to damage as much as mechanical keyboards are.
Trading Keyboards, Laser Keyboards, and More
Trading Keyboards are a new addition and can be considered a sub-component of Multimedia Keyboards since they contain keys dedicated for specific functions. Bloomberg Terminal is a leading financial software provider in the world with companies like JP Morgan and Credit Suisse as their clients. Bloomberg Terminal has its own keyboard in the market which can be categorized as Multimedia Keyboard as it has specific function keys useful for share traders or investment bankers.
The final selection would be a very recently introduced version of Keyboard. These are laser projected Keyboards which can be connected to using Bluetooth. A beamer projects the image of a keyboard on a surface. There is a sensor camera which picks the movement and position of the user’s hands so as to send messages to the in-built device driver software to convert the touch into keystrokes.
The second type of laser keyboards projects a second beam possibly infra-red above the virtual keyboard. The user with each touch of a key’s image makes a keystroke on the virtual keyboard. This results in a break in the infrared beam surrounding the image then reflecting light back to the projector. The reflected beam then passes through an infrared filter to the camera which photographs the angle of incoming infrared light. The sensor chip determines where the infrared beam was broken. The Software gathers the generated data to create a keystroke message to the computer.
Three modules: projection module, sensor module, and illumination module help make the projection possible in four main steps. The main devices and technologies used to project the image area diffractive optical element, red laser diode, CMOS sensor chip, and an infrared (IR) laser diode help make the functioning of the laser keyboard possible.
OrbiTouch has come up with a new and amazing Keyless Keyboard concept which has the features of a mouse and doesn’t any sort of typing at all. When you see the device, it will look to you like a pad containing 2 slideable domes. Below the domes, there are certain instruction regions which are to guide the user for implementing a certain function using the domes.
The following example can help us understand how we use the above.
Let’s say we want to type the letter ‘e’ on the screen.
So, if you look at your left dome, it contains a set of colors while the right dome contains a set of letters belonging to each color category.
The Blue color is on the right side of the left dome so you slide your left dome towards the right.
Looking to the right dome, you see that letter ‘e’ is in blue color and located to the left side of your right dome.
Putting the right dome at the indicated position completes the instruction combination and voila the letter ‘e’ is typed on the screen.
Very simple yet it requires a certain level of practice but I would definitely recommend it for those who want to save themselves from the pain of typing.
How to Select the best Keyboard?
- Consider the kind of work you are doing. If you are a traveler, consider using a flexible keyboard.
- In case your work depends on your Computer, choose a keyboard which is easy to use and has a soft typing base. You need a keyboard, not a typewriter.
- The issue of compatibility is important. PS/2 types are now obsolete. In case of Wireless, check at the store whether its properly connecting before buying it. Else just don’t as there are compatibility restrictions coming up in Bluetooth and infra-red devices now that Android and Windows are in hot competition.
- If you are dependent on Keyboard more than the mouse, consider getting a Multimedia Keyboard which has buttons giving you access to various features like Mail, Calculator, etc. at the single push of a button.
- Laser Keyboards and roll-up rubber ones are easy to pack. Virtual and Laser types are software heavy so they still have questionable quality.
Keyboards are a very important partner of use in Computers and make a Computer what it is. The stress of corporate jobs today has landed people with disability cases.
So unless a miracle happens, I would advise people to take adequate rest while working on typing extremely long documents.
For gamers, as long as your eyesight is fine, no problem.
For enthusiasts, despite rapid technological advancements leading to the creation of laser keyboards and software counterparts, I would suggest having a good keyboard in hand which doesn’t require too much pressure on typing unless you have something like a Keyless Keyboard provided by OrbiTouch.
Hope it helps!!!
Thank you and Adios !!
John Scalzi writes books, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. He’s best known for writing science fiction, including the New York Times bestseller Redshirts, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. He also writes non-fiction, on subjects ranging from personal finance to astronomy to film, was the Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. He enjoys pie, as should all right thinking people. You can get to his blog by typing the word “Whatever” into Google. No, seriously, try it.