Myth has it that typewriter inventor Christopher Latham Sholes’ first machines were so clunky, he used the QWERTY layout to slow typists down and keep the hammers from jamming. True or not, the fact is that the layout of the key-driven data entry device has remained mostly impervious to innovation since the first Sholes-designed Remington was sold in 1874.
Now one company has patented the first alphanumeric “keyless” keyboard. CIO-100 honoree Keybowl of Winter Park, Fla., has introduced the ergonomic OrbiTouch, which uses two domes that move laterally across what looks like a normal keyboard base, sans keys. Typists use their hands and arms, rather than fingers and wrists, to create a keystroke by sliding the domes into one of eight positions. Using OrbiTouch takes practice, although the company has tried to model dome movements after qwerty hand motions. To type the letter “n” for example, you slide the left dome to the south and the right southwest.
Keybowl says OrbiTouch allows people with carpal tunnel syndrome or other upper extremity disabilities to type faster than they could with traditional keyboards. OrbiTouch may also be useful for older adults who suffer from arthritis, according to Peter J. McAlindon, Keybowl’s president and CEO.
OrbiTouch is PC-compatible (a Mac version is in the works) and comes with a choice of large or small domes. But it isn’t cheap–$399, available only at www.keybowl.com.