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Five Finger Keyboards

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago

Handhelds 177

Tijaska writes "Mobile devices are becoming more capable all the time, but their small screens and keyboards limit their usefulness. This article shows ways in which five buttons located on the edges of a mobile could be used in combinations to generate 325 or many more different characters, making a full-sized keyboard unnecessary. If that sounds like a tall story, remember the case of the retired 93 year old telegraph operator who used a Morse key to send a text message faster than a teenager could send it via mobile phone (see here)."

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Adult Chat (5, Funny)

coren2000 (788204) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955405)

This has "Adult Chat" written all over it.

Well, along the sides I guess.

Re:Adult Chat (0, Troll)

D-Cypell (446534) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956923)

wt u wrng bbe?

I'm left handed (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19955411)

I'm left handed you insensitive clods!

Re:I'm left handed (0, Flamebait)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955745)

I'm left handed you insensitive clods!

Agreed. Buttons on the right side wouldn't do it for me, personally, because I am also left-handed. Then again, maybe I could do what I've always done -- learn to use the thing right-handed... after all, I mouse right-handed mostly because most people keep their mouse on the right side of their keyboard, and as a sysadmin/deskside support personnel, I don't have a choice.

Did you read the article? (2, Informative)

godfra (839112) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955861)

He clearly lays out a way around this problem - just have an identical row of buttons down each side, and when you turn the thing on, you quickly calibrate the keyboard so it knows which button to use for your thumb etc.

One finger keyboard (5, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955413)

I've been using PDAs forever -- starting with my original Newton MessagePad (I do miss it). Over the years, I've become accustomed to the tiny on-screen keyboards with no tactile feedback. I grow my right hand thumbnail long, file it down so I have a bit of an edge leaning left, and I can type VERY fast with it -- probably faster than the average layperson on a regular PC keyboard.

As my friends slowly pick up PDA phones without "real" keyboards, they've also mimicked my thumbnail mod and found they can type incredibly fast, especially with the faster processor PDAs (HTC Trinity is what I use) which offer almost no delay when typing. Disable any sound response, and you can type even faster.

I'm sure that the iPhone will make huge leaps in efficiency, but I'm happy with where I am with the "old fashioned" touchscreen typing. I've blogged, read and written on slashdot, and posted to forums from my tiny 320x240 screen, all because of a simple thumbnail mod.

Try it -- it may save you quite a bit of time, and not cause you to have to learn some new fandangled invention.

Re:One finger keyboard (2, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955633)

I, um, bite my nails.

Re:One finger keyboard (1, Redundant)

Tim_UWA (1015591) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955651)

I grow my right hand thumbnail long, file it down so I have a bit of an edge leaning left

Dude. Seek help.

Re:One finger keyboard (4, Insightful)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955871)

I grow my right hand thumbnail long, file it down so I have a bit of an edge leaning left

Dude. Seek help.
No! This is brilliant! It is adaptation in action. The individual experienced the problem, analyzed solutions and adapted his body to use his computer more efficiently. I think the poster should create "The Thumb Typer" for people to wear that don't want to grow their finger nail.

Re:One finger keyboard (2, Interesting)

GreggBz (777373) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955797)

Freaky +1

Re:One finger keyboard (5, Informative)

monk.e.boy (1077985) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955857)

I worked with blind and partially sighted kids who use 5 finger keyboards. They use a 'chord' system, like a guitar or piano.

The chords kinda look like the letter you are spelling, so to create a J you would hold the keys that kinda make that shape, I forget the exact sequence, but it was pretty easy to use.

But, the 5 finger keyboard was used like a regular keyboard, it was placed on a desk. I dunno how this would work if you had to hold it at the same time. Much harder I'd imagine.


Re:One finger keyboard (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956563)

Yeah, if they were smart, they'd make it a FOUR-finger keyboard. Since most people have one finger that's quite a bit shorter than the others and more suited to keeping the device in the hands.

Re:One finger keyboard (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956879)

The first one of these I saw used a six key system. You had one key for each finger, and two for the thumb. This gave you 2^4 (16) combinations from the fingers, and two modifiers, giving a total of 48 keys. TFA suggests using the order in which you press buttons, so holding 1 and pressing 2 would be different from holding 2 and pressing 1. I'd have to see a user study to see if this is easy to learn, but I suspect it isn't. What would perhaps work better is grouping sequences of chords into syllables, rather than relying on individual chords.

Re:One fingernail input (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956357)

Please Sir,

Tell me that Cordwainer Smith didn't beat you to the idea 50 years ago:

"He did not use his voice again. Instead he pulled his tablet up from where it hung against his chest. He wrote on it using the pointed fingernail of his right forefinger-the talking nail of a scanner - in quick cleancut script: Pls, drlng, whrs crnching wire..."

Re:One finger keyboard (3, Informative)

twoboxen (1111241) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956485)

"I grow my right hand thumbnail long, file it down so I have a bit of an edge leaning left"... Gross. Move it to your pinky nail, and I'm sure the number of your "friends" with similar abnormalities will grow faster than you expect. I'll leave it to you to figure out why ;)

Re:One finger keyboard (3, Informative)

Cedric Tsui (890887) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956973)

People who play the guitar do the same sort of thing.
You'll notice they have long nails on the right hand for strumming and picking, and shortened nails on the left so they don't get in the way.

Re:One finger keyboard (0, Flamebait)

dintech (998802) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957255)

I grow my right hand thumbnail long, file it down so I have a bit of an edge leaning left

Doesn't your girlfriend take issue with this? Oh wait...

AKA chording keyboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19955417)

I've been wanting to try one for a long time. Seems only natural to use more than one finger at a time.

Re:AKA chording keyboard (2, Informative)

phil reed (626) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955579)

I remember reading about chording keyboards as far back as early Byte magazines in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The idea is not new. There's a reason they haven't caught on, and it's the same reason that Dvorak keyboards haven't -- it's very hard to learn unless you're relatively young.

It would also help if there was a standard for chorded data entry.

Re:AKA chording keyboard (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955735)

Actually, I remember reading a story here on Slashdot LONG ago about a man who created this bicycle that powered his computer system through its own motion and while writing, he was using such a keyboard to write a book he was working on. It was pretty hard for me to imagine back then, and it's pretty hard to imagine now... I, like so many others, am so locked into my QWERTY layout, it's hard to think about key combinations that don't involve a shift, an alt, a control, a windows key, a right-click menu key or a combination of them + another character or two to do anything. :)

I guess what gets me is not so much the generation of keys themselves... I can imagine it and I can also imagine it being very annoying. But doing that in conjunction with meta and other control sequences? I use two hands in most cases and up to four keys simultaneously to make some things happen.

So I'm guessing that in order for these sorts of devices to be viable, the OS has to be altered to support that sort of device.

Re:AKA chording keyboard (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956195)

I disagree. I switched to Dvorak at 18.

We got our first computer in the house when I was in 5th grade. In 7th and 9th grade where we had to take a "mandatory" keyboarding class in school I was routinely one of the fastest typers.

Then senior year my mom asked me to find a key board program for my brother who was going to be 12. I found one that included this weird thing called the "Dvorak" layout. I did some research and it just made logical sense, so I decided before I was to go off to college I would learn Dvorak. IRC and AIM helped quite a bit but for the first week I was struggling.

I printed up a keyboard and hung it above my computer and forced myself to touch type, it took me 2 weeks to get back to my 'old' speed for most things and within a month I surpassed it. I've been typing that way ever since. (6+ years).

Not only was my brain not young, I had already a pretty good proficiency on a Qwerty keyboard. I have been tempted to learn Left Hand Dvorak so that I can have one hand on the mouse and one hand on the keyboard.

Re:AKA chording keyboard (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956967)

I think you'll find that 18 is relatively young (in about ten years or so). You're just not old enough to appreciate the GP's comment.

Re:AKA chording keyboard (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956849)

There's a reason they haven't caught on, and it's the same reason that Dvorak keyboards haven't -- it's very hard to learn unless you're relatively young.

Utter bollocks. Skills like this can be picked up easily at any stage of life. I'm a member of a novelist's web group that has a large number of dvorak typists. Most of them learned it after the age of 40, and few reported any serious difficulties. I learned a device very much like the one the blogger is describing in just a few hours, substantially less time than it took me to learn dvorak.

Also: Dvorak is hard to remember if you ever stop using it and revert to QWERTY. It's been 15 years since I last used a chord keypad, but I bet I could pick one up and be using it profficiently within ten minutes.

It would also help if there was a standard for chorded data entry.

There is, although it isn't currently popular. Scroll down to the bottom to see the list of basic shapes [] .

Re:AKA chording keyboard (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957369)

The reason that Dvorak hasn't caught on is because out of all the computer users, there's only X% who are even interested in typing speed. Then out of them, there's only Y% who have heard of Dvorak. Then out of them, there's only Z% who feel it's worth the effort to learn another layout just to add 10% to their typing speed. So, X% * Y% * Z% is a very small number. Add to that the fact that you can' just forsake QWERTY because you'll probably use other people's computers, and carrying around an extra keyboard or changing their keyboard layout isn't really the most convenient thing to do. So, with all that, it's no wonder that most people don't want to switch. Qwerty is fast enough for most people who are even interested in speed, and the trouble of switching to Dvorak an maintaining 2 key layouts in your brain is just too much trouble.

Prototype? (2, Insightful)

niceone (992278) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955435)

This seems like a nice thought experiment. but really without trying it you can't tell anything. Why not do a mock up using 5 keys of a regular keyboard? Personally I'd have done the prototype and tried it before blogging about it!

Re:Prototype - Microwriter (2, Informative)

DaveCar (189300) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955613)

Old news [] . I remember reading about this back in the early 80s when I had my ZX Spectrum.

As endorsed by Douglas Adams.

Re:Prototype - Microwriter (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956717)

As endorsed by Douglas Adams

And invented by Cy Endfield [] , the director of Zulu.

Transferable skills (3, Funny)

pzs (857406) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955443)

As a side benefit, you become a proficient player of the penny whistle [] .


Current Solutions (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955455)

This article was a fairly interesting journey into Shannon [] 's world of Information Theory [] but, in my opinion, it is little more than an exercise in applying that kind of idea to user input devices on small electronics.

I understand the enumeration and recognize that it scales quite quickly per key. The reason I don't think this has been employed or will be employed is that people are not willing to take the time climb a learning curve--even if it would take them a few weeks of memorization and the time saved over their life will be huge. If that were the case, we'd all just use one button and our handhelds would interpret Morse code (see summary). The implementation discussed here is probably even more confusing than Morse code.

On my current phone, I have 9 buttons that I push and depress to cycle through different sections of the alphabet. How is this any different? It's four less buttons and a hell of a lot more memorizing, if you ask me.

Morse (1)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956857)

...we'd all just use one button and our handhelds would interpret Morse code...

Rockbox [] lets you use Morse code to enter text on an mp3 player, I tried it out on my iRiver and it's a surprisingly efficient interface. Learning Morse isn't really that hard, no harder than learning to touch type. And wow, a one (or two) button interface is very cool!

Twiddler. (3, Informative)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955473)

I prefer the Twiddler [] . After some practice, it's actually pretty easy to use.

Re:Twiddler. (1)

John3 (85454) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955507)

Looks cool....I've tried to get proficient with the Alphagrip [] but it's taking a lot of time to get used to.

Re:Twiddler. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19956483)

I would just like to reinforce this. I use a Twiddler in combination with a portable computer to code websites on a pocketable linux PC. The cool thing is, I can even code while standing and walking about. I can literally walk down the street and code at the same time. It also has helped me with my RSI because I don't use my dominant hand for twiddling, so it gets a rest.

IM-speak compression (2, Insightful)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955481)

This is whole point of people texting "u" instead of "you". Instant 3:1 compression ratio. I could certainly hit the "u" button faster than any 93-year old morse coder could hit "..-" The only problem with texting is it's not streaming, you have to hit "send", whereas morse code streams.

Re:IM-speak compression (3, Insightful)

grommit (97148) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955591)

Who says morse coders don't use text compression of their own?

Re:IM-speak compression (4, Informative)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956073)

we do :)

Q codes [] , internationally recognized 3 letter codes beginning with the letter Q. Used in the Ham community, but there are Q codes for aeronautical, nautical, etc. use as well. It is possible to hold a meaningful conversation with someone, regardless of what language you speak.

Re:IM-speak compression (2, Insightful)

JrOldPhart (1063610) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955619)

Don't bet on that.

Some one used to even a straight key can tap out a 'u' in Morse much quicker than two clicks of, where was that, Oh yea, the '8' button. Then there are electronic keyers, only two touches.

Re:IM-speak compression (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956355)

'u' requires 2 key hits. I think a morse coder can certainly dot dot dash much faster.

Re:IM-speak compression (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957049)

In TFA it points out that the morse coder transmitted the entire phrase verbatim, whereas the text messager used abbreviations and slang. So, no, it would appear that he could hit ..- faster that you can tap the 8 key twice. If you seen the speed that a morse operator works at, compared to the spongey unresponsive keys on a mobile then it's not a big suprise really.

A more interesting test would be to choose a phrase that can be texted verbatim using t9. That's very close to one key per character and should be a closer result.

1968: Engelbart shows chord keyboard (4, Interesting)

chriss (26574) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955497)

These single hand keyboards are called chord keyboards [] and a pretty old idea. In fact Douglas Engelbart used on during the mother of all demos [] (first: windows, mouse, internet, video conferencing etc.)

I wanted one since I saw one for the first time in a computer magazine (the Octima, about 1984), but they never caught on. Some are available, mostly for disabled people, and they are very expensive. According to people who have worked with them it just takes just a couple of days to become fast on these ones, but you cannot become as fast as a very fast typist.

I guess this is the main problem: for starters they seem to be harder, since they cannot see the letters, for pro-typists/programmers they do not offer enough gain, unless they have RSI. Maybe mobile typing will finally be their breakthrough. Took only 30 years.

Re:1968: Engelbart shows chord keyboard (1)

ajs (35943) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955691)

These single hand keyboards are called chord keyboards [] and a pretty old idea.
Indeed. I've tried out the Twiddler [] , which is very nice, and easy to learn. Over a weekend, you should be able to get back up to being useful on it, though it has its limitations. The biggest advantage is that you can rest your arm at your side and keep typing.

Re:1968: Engelbart shows chord keyboard (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955723)

I love the idea. I was dreaming of a method to enter text wherever you are. With hands in the pockets or on the steering wheel to enter the outlay of the next grand idea ( probably translates as abberation ) I speculated about a glove to be used, maybe used in pairs - as certain combinations of finger-movements with one hand are difficult to achieve. (bend index and middle finger - most likely you will not be able to stretch the ring-finger)

Re:1968: Engelbart shows chord keyboard (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955751)

guess this is the main problem: for starters they seem to be harder, since they cannot see the letters, for pro-typists/programmers they do not offer enough gain, unless they have RSI. Maybe mobile typing will finally be their breakthrough. Took only 30 years.

Well, speaking as a pro typist, guitarist (the ten-finger kind), etc., I'm endlessly intrigued by these devices and the way keyboards are being designed, but I have strong concerns about anyone making use of them on a regular basis.

I don't know whether RSI is associated with small-device use, but I do know strain, injury and all-round weirdness results from doing too much of anything in an unnatural manner. Hell, most people using a regular keyboard get it all wrong, with results ranging from a lack of speed to errors to outright injury.

Put another way, I wouldn't want to be growing old with big and crippled thumbs. ;-)

Re:1968: Engelbart shows chord keyboard (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956749)

I would say that Steno machines predate even those.
A good court-reporter can "write" on a stenomachine at more than 240 WPM. Yes that is word per minute.
The only down side is it takes years to learn how to write well.

Re:1968: Engelbart shows chord keyboard (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957129)

Surprising that nobody has mentioned the Frog Pad [] yet. I haven't tried it myself, but it looks like it would be quite good for a pda or other such portable device.

Not news. (2, Insightful)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955505)

This is just a blog, ffs. The idea of chorded typing - or even just improving the efficiency of text-entry - has been bandied around for so long that it makes this particular blogger sound like a 13-yr-old nerd who's just had his first Big Idea.

I'm not saying he's wrong. Personally, I'd love to see this being implemented. QWERTY input isn't likely to be shunted aside until text-input keyboards become obsolete - it's well-established and it works well enough, and would require a hell of a lot of people to unlearn and relearn typing for a marginal increase in efficiency - but for other specialised applications there are always better ways. Just look at the stenotype [] used in courts, or the way SMS texting made use of the very limited resources that phones had back in the day. Very specific developments for very specific purposes.

My point is, this sort of idea is not new, and it's being discussed and ummed-and-aahed over in development labs even as we speak. Until someone with real inside knowledge writes about it, however, I'm really not interested in someone's inter-blag brain-fart.

I have done absolutely no searches to find out if any of the ideas described in this article have been patented or not.
Yeah, no kidding.

wtf? are people this mental? (1, Interesting)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955517)

Who the heck will remember the order to hit and release keys? That's the sort of shit you take bagpipe lessons for!

Re:wtf? are people this mental? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19955827)

Who the heck will remember the order to hit and release keys? That's the sort of shit you take bagpipe lessons for!
Bagpipes? Bagpipes?!? I think you misspelled "accordion".

Re:wtf? are people this mental? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955921)

accordions have more than 5 keys. By your logic i could have said piano, clarinet, flute, ... but I didn't because I wanted to pick something odd with only a few keys.

In short, you is teh fail.

Re:wtf? are people this mental? (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957137)

accordions have more than 5 keys.

So do bagpipes. Or they have less, depending on how you look at it... they have no keys, but they have 8 holes in the chanter.

So... I like the example, but it's not much better than his.

Re:wtf? are people this mental? (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956389)

Agreed. I know a variation of this type of thing with 60 combinations (29 + shift + caps lock in the basic set, 31 in the shifted set). That took a couple of hours to learn. However a 325-combination alphabet would likely be pretty tricky to remember. Stick to that basic 60 and the idea's viable, particularly if the combinations are mnemonic (as they were in the system I used).

Keyboard shortcuts and chords (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956457)

Yeah, keyboard shortcuts suck and no-one can remember them. That's why keys like Shift and Ctrl are so rarely used these days, particularly by experienced typists, and never in combination. :-)

Personally, I've always quite fancied trying one of these Datahand units [] , but obviously there's a high cost involved and quite a steep learning curve. I can well believe that when properly configured, it's much nicer for things that aren't simple typing jobs, such as programming, writing in mark-up languages like LaTeX, or playing games with complicated UIs.

If you want to press four keys... (1)

dovgr (935487) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955525)

So the author does some combinatorics regarding how many ways to press the 5 keys. But there is no mentioning how to hold the mobile in the hand while you are operating it. If you assume that you will press the keys with your fingertops then the mobile will be supported by the same keys that you use for input. But this is quite problematic since it means that the fingers give support to one another. Suggest e.g. that you want to press the four key cord of all fingers except your thumb. If the keyboard press resistance of the thumb key is lower than the sum of the other fingers' resistance then you will be pressing the thumb key instead. Perhaps you can strap the mobile to your hand, or hold it with your other hand... But it doesn't seem very comfortable. I would suggest using an optical sensor at the side of the mobile that catches finger gestures instead...

Re:If you want to press four keys... (2, Interesting)

John_3000 (166166) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956587)

You are quite right. It's hard to type with fingers that must grip the keyboard at the same time. Stiff keys make it worse but the difficulty doesn't vanish even as the key force goes to zero. It's much better to use braces or straps of some sort to free the typing fingers from grip duty. That's why guitars, saxophones, etc. have neck straps, thumb hooks, etc.

And while I'm up here on my soapbox: it's just NOT that hard to learn to chord. Some people declare confidently that the learning curve is the barrier to widespread adoption of chording but it's not. Learning to chord, at least on my prototypes, was way easier than learning to touch type on a qwerty --- at which latter I never succeeded. You don't need such complex schemes as the blogger writes about.

The real barrier, IMHO, has been the lack of motivation. Why learn ANY efficient new way to type unless you are sufficiently rewarded? The reward is (or will be) mobility. Not just mobility for exchanging cryptic little text messages but mobility for the full range of desktop functionality.

Old news... (1)

Mishotaki (957104) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955545)

Come on... this is over 2 years old.. just look at the article date...

Re:Old news... (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955771)

complaining already and we haven't even duped this old news yet! you're new here, eh?

And there's an even better texting system article in the works, for a flat fee a text message can be sent anywhere in the country via flying titanium tubes or eighteen wheeled box shaped transport and delivered to a container on the recipient's property, in rain or snow or hail.

The idea is nearly 30 years old... (1)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955553)

The author asks if there is already be a patent on his idea. There might be, but it would have already expired or could be invalidated by prior art.

In the late 70's, someone was selling a "one-handed keyboard" that implemented the concept, albeit a bit differently. The user pressed a combination of 4 keys with fingers, and then completed the operation by choosing one of 8 buttons with the thumb. This yielded only 128 unique combinations, but I believe there was 9th "shift" key that was pressed separately to select the remainder of the typical character set.

Re:The idea is nearly 30 years old... (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956447)

The first variant that used just 5 buttons was invented some time in the late eighties, I believe, so may still be under patent. I remember seeing it on Tommorow's World [] . I remember watching Judith Hann spelling her name with this big clunky handheld device, about the size of a brick, with an LED display on it.

Chorded Keyboards... (0, Redundant)

Colz Grigor (126123) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955565)

Chorded Keyboards [] have been around for a long time, technologically speaking. It's great that you (and Trevor) are interested in learning about them, and that someone believes that mobile devices might increase their development and adoption rate. This just doesn't qualify as "news" in my book...

::Colz Grigor

emacs (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955587)

I suggest using the following five keys: compose meta shift control escape

Re:emacs (1)

pondener (1129769) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955717)

These keys brought terrible damage to my pinkie, ouch!

Re:emacs (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19956399)

I think you mean: Escape, Meta, Alt, Control, Shift

Here's an old example (2, Informative)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955655)

The Sharp Agenda had its "microwriter" chording keyboard. []

Circa 1989, so patent worries should be minimal!

Re:Here's an old example (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956599)

The input device it used was invented a few years earlier. But thanks for reminding me of the name... here it is [] . "Early 80's" according to wikipedia, so yeah, I guess the patents should have expired by now.

Re:Here's an old example (1)

TooTechy (191509) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957491)

Had a colleague using this device in a meeting a long time back. He took notes in real time whilst not looking down. He payed full attention to the meeting. Effortless. He said it took a week or so to get the swing of it.


Will there be a discount on this? (2, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955663)

I haven't heard the expression "Five Finger Discount" in a very long time so I'm wondering if the term might apply in this case. :)

Middle finger alone is enough ... (3, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955665)

... for almost all communications on the road. Why bother with five finger salutes?

BAT keyboard (4, Interesting)

BlueF (550601) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955687)

We've been using these for years: ber=12 []

Had a clerk who was unable to type with both hands bring in one of her own. She did just fine in a demanding, fast paced environment (ER Patient Registration).

For what it's worth, I could never get the hang of it. Would certainly take some time to learn. Perhaps as much time (if not more) than learning an alternate full sized KB layout.

Morse-to-text keyboard driver? (2, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955709)

I wonder if there's a Morse-to-text keyboard driver for my phone? A lot of time is wasted looking to see what three keys my fat thumb is pressing this particular time. If I could just hammer away messages on one key, without needing to watch what I was typing, that would seem to be quicker...

Re:Morse-to-text keyboard driver? (1, Interesting)

Rick17JJ (744063) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956109)

I would be interested in something like that too, since I already know Morse code. I learned that to use with ham radio, although I have not used it very much. I don't know about any specific drivers for any particular cell phone, but here are a couple of links that mention people using Morse Code with a cellphone. It seems to me that someone could probably send CW with something smaller than a traditional telegraph key. I believe there was also once a discussion on Slashdot about that too, but I don't have time to look for the link.

Re:Morse-to-text keyboard driver? (1)

Rick17JJ (744063) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957379)

Below is the Slashdot article from May 6, 2007 about using Morse Code on cell phones that I mentioned. Perhaps CW would possibly just be sent using a button on the phone, while the cell phone is laying flat on a table. I think there may possibly be some way to send CW from a few Nokia phones, if I am not mistaken. Text messaging is almost useless for me when I am out hiking in bright sunlight and don't have my reading glasses with me, because I can't read the display. With Morse code, I probably could get by without needing to see the display or the labels on any keys. I already know Morse code and QWERTY typing and don't want to have to learn anything else anyway.

Morse Code Faster Than SMS []

Re:Morse-to-text keyboard driver? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19956741)

Years and Years ago, my father built a Morse Code input device for (I believe) the Atari 800. He hated typing, was really slow at it, but could code at about 50 words a minute. I don't recall how he actually hooked up the keyer (no serial ports), but it did work. He tried using it to get me to learn to code (morse, not C), but I never really got into it.

Why the Qwerty exists (3, Informative)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955727)

This is an interesting concept, but I feel that a true standard will need to lend familiarity to the infamous qwerty keyboard.
The reason qwerty was adopted as a standard was not for efficiency, but because kingpin (at the time) IBM decided that when electronic buffers were introduced to typewriters and there was no longer a need to obscure keys on the keyboard in order to prevent mechanical jams, a keyboard layout they were currently producing would become the standard.
Since then, every typing class, every default layout and the vast majority of keyboards have been based upon the qwerty layout.
While some people on the bleeding edge of technology are willing to learn something new (I personally am proficient on Dvorak, Palm Graffiti, phone texting, and blackberry) A real standard of input will arise when the device is both similar to the qwerty equivalent and small enough to take along in your pocket. The average users are more willing to learn something slightly different than new altogether.

Re:Why the Qwerty exists (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955947)

Not every typing class / test.

When I typed out of my typing class in the Air Force back in 1985 they offered the option of taking the test on Dvorak-layout typewriters (in retrospect, I regret not taking note of how they kept track of which machines where which since the keys were blank). ISTR that they offered the option for certain specialties (not mine) of using the Dvorak layout.


Re:Why the Qwerty exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19956987)

Wouldn't be difficult, just press the key to the right of A ^_^

Chords are used all the time for subtitling (3, Informative)

pfft (23845) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955749)

There are services for hearing impaired people, where they have operators watching TV and adding subtitles to the programs in real-time. (Obviously the subtitles will a few seconds behind the audio, but it's good enough to let you watch the news).

Those operators use chording keyboard (though with more than 5 keys), set up so that particular key chords map to common phrases. Typing this way is a lot faster than typing on a conventional keyboard, but it obviously is a lot of effort to learn.

So yes, it does work.

Re:Chords are used all the time for subtitling (2, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956851)

For closed captioning it is called a stenomachine.

Stenotype (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19955753)

This is not new but has a steep learning curve. This is why court stenographers are costly and in high demand.

cellphone? (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955767)

Call me crazy (or shirley), but isn't this what cellphones that don't use T9 do? How is that faster? Wouldn't some sort of T9 on a PDA work better? /logic

Guitar Hero (4, Funny)

boris111 (837756) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955875)

5 buttons huh. Where's the strummer and the whammy bar?

Add that and we'll talk.

plus 5, trogll) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19955915)

Practical (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#19955967)

Just as demonstrated with morse code, you can have inifinite combinations.. with just one key. It doesn't make it practical, since it's hard to develop an industry around *one* morse code typer with 80 years of experience.

It's easier to develop an industry around millions of teens who don't want to learn a lot to use their gadget properly.

since all the rage now is dynamically changing input device, ala iPhone, but we can't exactly forget tactile feedback, a mobile version of this [] comes to mind.

Why not 10 finger keyboard? (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956059)

A two- or three-way foldable keyboard, either wired or wireless, would do the magics without the need to reinvent the wheel ... ehm ... the keyboard!

Morse (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956135)

Put an iambic paddle on that cell phone and bang out text messages faster than those whippersnappers :)

A previous post argued the difference is that morse streams, while SMS is sent as a message, but I'd still bet even if you streamed SMS, or waited for complete sentances with morse, morse would win easily. Morse avoids the hunting and pecking, your finger and thumb is always on the key (or paddle) ... Morse or SMS? [] , a competition on the Late Show with Jay Leno.

duh (1)

zombie_monkey (1036404) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956225)

These have been used for decades by stenographers. At least in Bulgaria.

Pardon me, but do you have 6 fingers? (2, Insightful)

fortiguy (956443) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956275)

But what about handicapped people? What if someone has 4 or even 3 fingers? How would they make up for this lack of digits?

Also, this method would seem to encourage people to use 6 fingers if they have them. That would be an interesting progression for us, as a race eh? Due to the usefulness, we evolved/grafted/added a mechanical 6th finger!

Just watch out for revenge bent young Spaniards tell you their name...

What if someone has 4 or even 3 fingers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19956809)

Interesting question, but on slashdot, you are required to post such complaints thusly:

I have only 3 fingers you insensitive clod!

Obligatory Enstein quote (0, Offtopic)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956469)

Never memorize anything you can look up.

I didn't find the exact reference, but I remember he also said something about making as simple as possible, but not simplier.

Another possibility.... (1)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956515)

How about if all the options of the menu were arranged in a circle around a central point, and the input device was one of those directional sensitive controllers. Then choosing a menu option would just be a matter of choosing the correct direction.

Remember (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956517)

remember the case of the retired 93 year old telegraph operator who used a Morse key to send a text message faster than a teenager could send it via mobile phone

So you're saying that if I make a career out of sending text messages, when I'm 93 I will be able to do it as fast as I can now with a keyboard?

Five finger Keyboards (2, Funny)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19956607)

Do I get a discount?

One handed typing (1)

islisis (589694) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957069)

My dream would be to see half-keyboards with proper key travel implemented on phones, allowing one hand to type in the home position while the other hand has access to a press and hold toggle button on the side or rear of the device which changes between a mirrored-layout left and right hand sides of a full keyboard; i.e. p toggles with q, o with w etc.

I think this would be the best compromise with having to learn a new input and keeping decently-sized keys with travel on a phone.

Dvorak (1)

dosius (230542) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957073)

There *are* one-handed Dvorak layouts, you know.

hunt and peck (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957107)

The idea of a 5-finger chording keyboard is not new. It features the same advantages to data input that shorthand offers writing.

The problem with the chording keyboard is the same as the problem with shorthand: its hard to learn and virtually useless until you've learned it well. A regular keyboard is as useful to a novice who visually hunts for each key as it is to a touch-typeist who never looks at the keyboard. The chording keyboard is thoroughly opaque to the novice and no one has found a way to make it useable without instruction.

Dasher? (1)

leonem (700464) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957453) []

This is a '2D' typing system i.e. workable with a mouse or equivalent - could well be quicker with fingers.

I got up to about 15 wpm with minimal practice. Apparently you can get 30 wpm with a bit more. I reckon it could also be tweaked if additional keys were available for certain very common words, and if the underlying probability model was trained to your personal habits.

More crazily, a phone or similar with acceleration detection could also incorporate whole-phone movements. So you might write a word with Dasher (or whatever), and then flick your wrist to the right for a space, left for a comma, away from you for a full stop, down for a carriage return, etc. Or you could make a system like Monkeyball on the Wii, where Dasher works with a pseudo-physical simulation of a ball on the screen, which you 'roll' to select letters and words (sorry, not very clearly explained if you've not used Dasher and played Monkeyball - an elite minority!).

Unnecessary and archaic idea (1)

surfingmarmot (858550) | more than 7 years ago | (#19957497)

Archaic thinking, solving a problem in a cumbersome way that has already be solved more elegantly. With the iPhone showing the way, software keyboards are coming and will only get better. The limitations of mechanical buttons, poor touch screens, and tiny screens are almost behind us. Why press five keys playing "Twister" with you keyboard when a simple software UI can give you all the buttons you need--and can be updated/changed via a download? If the rest of the mobile phone dinosaurs would catch up with Apple that is.
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