Although the jury is still out on whether or not alternative keyboard layouts really do stress on the joints and tendons in typical day-to-day typing excercises, and that even the speed-typing results aren’t very clear, one salient fact hasn’t been disputed: There is no real reason to ever use the QWERTY layout. Following no real pattern, rhyme, or reason, the QWERTY layout is difficult to memorize, difficult to adapt to, and difficult to master. But every single OS out there uses QWERTY as the default, and it’s not always easy to change.
The reasons vary, but whether it’s lack of user privileges, difficulty of installing new keyboard layouts, not having enough time, or simply using an OS that doesn’t support anything but QWERTY, the fact remains that a software-fixed keyboard layout isn’t always the best answer. It certainly is a very flexible solution – especially on the operating systems that let you drag and drop letters around to create your own keyboard layout that acts exactly the way you want it – but it’s not necessarily the only one.
It wouldn’t be difficult to create a portable (or not so portable) USB keyboard that types the way you want it to no matter what platform or configuration you’re on. While the OS itself is still configured to use the QWERTY layout, by using your alternative layout keyboard, pressing F gives you the U you really wanted. It’s as simple as changing the scan codes for each keypress; for example, making F return 42 instead of 53 – all invisible to the PC and the OS.
Imagine a keyboard with a scroller on the side with a little analog screen next to it. You can scroll to the layout you want and type – no BS involved. Even better, imagine a tiny cylinder that sits between your USB port and the Keyboard – with a scroller on it. It can (on the fly, of course) intercept outgoing scan codes from the keyboard and replace them with the right thing according to the layout you selected… How cool would that be!?
Interesting concept – NST should start a Patent Fund… These ideas really are worth the money. Too bad you guys aren’t into non-profit hardware design! 😛