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The conventional keyboard layout is an archaic design that does not meet the needs of modern PC usage patterns

New Left-Hand Editing Keys

Before the invention of the mouse, the conventional computer keyboard layout was just fine. IBM designed it, and introduced it with the original “Personal Computer” in about 1982. IBM was, at that time, the most successful manufacturer of electric typewriters with their Selectric brand, and the PC keyboard was based on the Selectric layout, but with a few additional keys.

Three important keys are right-hand only: The conventional Selectric layout was just fine at the time, because computers were text-based, not graphical, and so there was no mouse. But now we all use mice, and that changes our usage patterns considerably. The problem is that the keyboard has four editing keys, one -- the Tab key -- on the left, and three -- Enter, Backspace, and Delete -- on the right. Without a mouse, the right hand was on the keyboard just as much as the left hand, and so it really didn’t matter which side of the keyboard those keys were on.

But now, the right hand has to operate the mouse, which means that it has to flip back and forth between the keyboard and the mouse. Not only that, but many mouse-oriented operations require the use of Enter, Backspace, or Delete. Consequently, we are forced to operate the mouse with the right hand to do things like move the cursor position and select regions of text, and then we have to move the right hand back to the keyboard to hit one of the Editing keys.

As a result, the right hand has much to do, while the left hand has little to do.

Our solution to this is to make a vertical row of keys, just to the left of the main typewriter keyboard section, having duplicates of those three right-hand-only keys. Now, the right hand can position the cursor, while the left hand strikes the Enter, Backspace, or Delete key. A perfect arrangement for a world with mice.


A New Shift-Tab Key

Notice that we use the Tab key for moving to the right in word processor tables and in spreadsheets, a one-handed operation, but we need to use two hands, the right hand for the Shift key, and the left hand for the Tab key, in order to move to the left. Easy one way, not so easy the other way.

Having just a Tab key made sense on original, mechanical typewriters, because the carriage was spring loaded, and the Tab key simply allowed the carriage to move by the force of the spring to the next “tab stop”. There was no way to automatically move against the force of the spring to tab in the other direction.

But now, with computers, we’ve got more liberty, and frequently have the need to move in either direction or back and forth in spreadsheet and table cells. So, in freeing ourselves intellectually from our mechanical past, one might ask why it should be harder to move in one direction than in the other.

The new row of Left-Hand Editing keys described above gives us the opportunity to gracefully answer this question. We can solve this problem with a new key, a Shift-Tab key, in that same new vertical row of keys. Having a single key that performs the functions of more than one key is not new -- programmable keyboards allow you to program a key to do many things. What is new here is a dedicated key to perform the Shift-Tab function, and locating it adjacent to, and to the left of, the Tab key.


The New Look


There, now isn’t that better. It’s very sensible and efficient. Your right hand is happy, your left hand is happy, and your life is a little easier -- thanks to modernization and Emerson Development.



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