Thursday, 18 September 2008

18. Did you know - Maltron Keyboards

The Maltron Keyboard

The layout of the modern keyboard was designed to minimise the number of keys that clashed in the mechanical version. It is not the most efficient layout, but with so many keyboards of a fixed design, it is difficult to envisage any other layout becoming commonplace. The one layout that does provide considerable theoretical promise is the Maltron keyboard.

In the 1970s Lilian Malt re-examined the strain issues around keyboard use, and in collaboration with Stephen Hobday developed the Maltron keyboard. ( Their analysis of the logic behind the keyboard makes for very interesting reading. For example the keyboard rest keys (i.e. those keys where the fingers naturally rest) on the QWERTY – ASDF : HJKL - allow just 27 words to be typed. However, the Maltron layout rest keys - ANISF : DTHOR – over 7500 words can be typed. For the 20 most common words (the, of, and, a, to, in, is, you, that, it, he, was, for, on, are, as, with, his, they, I) which account for 25-30% of all words used, only “a” can be typed with the rest keys using a QWERTY layout, while all but four (you, was, with, they) can be typed using rest keys with the Maltron layout. As well as improved key placement, the Maltron keyboard is also said to be a better ergonomically as it matches the natural position of the hand.

However, if the next generation of keyboards is built into the screen, we have the option to change the keyboard layout at any time. This means, at least in theory, that future generations could train to type far more efficiently.


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