The QWERTY keyboard, which is familiar to most of us who use a computer on a daily basis, was invented back in the 1860s. In the time since its creation, we have seen only a few attempts to supplant it as the “standard,” but none have succeeded yet. Today we are taking a look at the “New Standard Keyboard,” to see if it has what it takes to become a new force in the industry.
The QWERTY keyboard was originally designed for typewriters. The keys were laid out in such a way that successive keystrokes would alternate sides of the keyboard, so two keys close to each other would have less chance of jamming as the arms flew forward to strike the ribbon. Those of you who have ever used an old-fashioned typewriter know what I'm talking about. But in truth, the QWERTY keyboard was designed to keep typewriters from jamming, rather than making typing efficient.
Over the years, there have been a few attempts to change this. Back in the 1930s with the advent of the electric typewriter (and hence less jams), Dr. August Dvorak, a professor at the University of Washington, created what is known as the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard. This was the first to shift from the QWERTY standard to a keyboard designed around typing efficiency rather than jam prevention. This standard was never widely accepted, though there are a small percentage of people who use it today.
In the 1970s, the Maltron keyboard was introduced. This keyboard was designed to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries. There were many versions of this keyboard. Its main design feature was a curved surface, which was meant to reduce finger travel by 90%. Couple that with the specialized layout, based upon their analysis of the neuromuscular system, and we have a keyboard truly designed with the user in mind.
Since then, we've seen a few more innovations, mostly in the area of ergonomics. Microsoft released their "Natural Keyboard" in the mid-nineties, to be immediately followed by a ton of look-alikes. These keyboards still utilize the QWERTY layout, but split the keyboard in such a fashion that it allows the wrists to sit much more naturally.
Now that we are up to date, today we are looking at the New Standard Keyboard. This new keyboard, created by New Standard Keyboards (NSK) of Santa Maria, CA, simplifies the layout into just 53 keys. That's almost half of the standard 101-key layout.
John Parkinson, the founder of New Standard Keyboards, spent nine years studying all of the problems with alternative keyboard layouts and potential solutions. What he came up with strikes the optimum balance between conflicting requirements.
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