August 16, 2005 Sometimes when we cover a story, we suddenly find out how much we don’t know (lots). Three days ago we wrote about all the (clever but) weird keyboards we’d written about recently when we covered Logitech’s G15 Keyboard, listing no less than nine different, interesting keyboards that help solve some of the many problems associated with a device that was designed 137 years ago. Yes folks, the keyboard you’re slaving over is a dinosaur masquerading as high tech and it’s no wonder that everyone thinks they can build a better one, because they probably can. Indeed, in the short space of three days, we’ve had half a dozen readers write to us saying, “hey, you should write about this cool keyboard.” Well, we’ve fudged it slightly by bundling the new lot all together, but if you follow this link you’ll see a new keyboard replacement for controlling model trains, a vertical ergonomic keyboard with rear vision mirrors (so you can see the keys) and a bunch of different programmable key pads that can be used for almost any set of tasks you can think of.

Whether you are a Graphic Designer, an Architect, a Web Manager, or a Two-finger Typist, proficiency in your software and heightened productivity requires rapid input and it will come as no surprise to you that when Christopher Latham Sholes designed his first typewriter, he found that the common letter pairings kept putting two strikers onto the paper at the same time and jamming the typewriter.

His solution was to mix up the letters so that common letter pairing strikers came from different angles and the QWERTY keyboard was born and patented in 1868. This was the height of the industrial revolution and was an elegant solution to a 19th Century mechanical problem is unfortunately still plaguing the world’s information workers today – just to put that time-scale in context, it was eight years before German Nikolaus Otto invented the four-stroke internal combustion engine, the same year that radio waves were conceived (they were first detected twenty years later), and several decades before the first light globe.

X-keys programmable key pads

X-keys produces programmable key pads that place anything from keyboard shortcuts to names and addresses at your fingertips. If you have never explored the world of macros, it’s probably worth looking at if you spend a lot of time at a keyboard. A macro can capture a range of programs, shortcuts, functions or codes under one button and smart programmers use them a lot, as do any high-end user of CAD, Photo Editing, HTML Editing or any other professional software program.

Keyboard Macros and Hot Keys offer the shortest path to action, and the X-keys provides a clearly labeled, physical location for these complex or redundant functions so you don't have to think about them. The X-keys lets you focus on the project instead of the process

X-keys also has a Legend Maker Utility that simplifies printing key legends based on the description of your key macros. Using Legend Maker also makes it easy to print white text on a black background to accent the LED backlighting on the X-keys Stick, Jog & Shuttle Editor, and Joystick Controller.

RailDriver Train Cab Controller

If you’re into Microsoft Flight Similator, it makes sense that you would buy a joystick and fly as a real pilot would rather than by using the keys on your keyboard. Similarly, if you’re into Microsoft Train Simulator or Auran Trainz, you’ll want authentic controllers too.

RailDriver Train Cab Controllers put levers, switches, and buttons in your hands to make you feel like you're driving a train, not a computer. Programmable keys put commands on the RailDriver, so you can put the keyboard away and there are add-on modules that support scale model train control too.

Every keyboard claims to have a new ergonomic design. Unfortunately, there is no standard for calling something 'ergonomic' and as the SafeType web site points out the word is commercially over-worked and functionally meaningless.

The designer of the patented SafeType keyboard asked himself, "what is the most neutral location for human hands and then how do we place the keys to be available to the fingers while the user is in that position ?"

If neck and shoulder pain is one of your issues, the SafeType is worth a look.

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