[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: How to type when using Emacs?

From: Xah
Subject: Re: How to type when using Emacs?
Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2008 06:08:50 -0700 (PDT)
User-agent: G2/1.0

some more comments for this thread. (and thanks for all the feedback)

On the issue of keymaping, modifier keys, ergonomics... part of the
problem is the keyboard hardware itself.

The standard keyboard out there used by some 99% of computers
worldwide, namely the PC keyboard or Microsoft keyboard; is derived
from the design of type writers.

The design of the type writer itself, is largely concerned about
getting the machine to actually work. Like most inventions, in the
begining the concern is just to get it to work. The concept of
keyboarding ergonomics didn't come about or become popular after few
decades of keyboard use.

Let's consider some examples:

• The Delete key, the Return/Enter key, are among the most usedful
special keys. However, they are placed in the most inconvenient spots

• the vertical key column positions are jagged. i.e. The columns 1QAS,
2WSX, 3EDC, etc, are slanted. Worse is that the jagging is not a
regular like a triangular grid, but in a ad hoc slant from top left to
bottom right. So, for example, going from key D to E, your left index
finger moves upwards and in the direction of your pinky. Going from K
to I, your right finger also moves upward but in the direction of your

• The number of keys for the Left and right are not symmetric.

  `  12345   67890   -=
     QWERT   YUIOP   []\
     ASDFG   HJKL;   '
     ZXCVB   NM,./

Notice in the above pict, how the right side has lots of extra keys.

So, all of the above, makes today's conventional keyboard really a bad
piece of hardware.

One keyboard that is well known and loved, is the Kinesis keyboard.
Which fixed all of the above problems.

For keyboard gallery with photos and more detailed commentary, see:

Now, when we consider the placement of modifier keys, or consider
keymapping, or consider optimal keybindings for emacs, the given PC
keyboard hardware puts a lot constraint.


There are many variety of input devices in the past 2 decades, roughly
intended to replace the keyboard. (few of them based on “chording”.
See ) Some of them are
good in priciple but maybe bad in practice. Perhaps some of them are
truely good. None of them actually caught on. (except the Kenesis in
some degree) The main problem is getting people to change (if there's
such a need at all). The PC keyboard, although its fairly bad when
considered ergonomically, but it works ok. It is widespread, and most
people who has to use a keyboard, dont need to type that much. Vast
majority of computer users today, use computer to read news, watch
video, play music, play games. Typing does not happen that much. Even
for programers, perhaps a majority dont need to do continuous,
intensive, typing in prolonged hours. They don't want to change,
partly because they dont need to. As a fact, a lot professional
programers who code 8 hours a day, do not even touch type.

The problem is similar to the dvorak keymap. Radical change is hard to
get adapted. Radical change is costy.

small change or gradual change do happen. For example, most keyboard
sold today has several special buttons that launch apps or control mp3
players. The split ergonomic keyboards also been widely adapted. Mouse
has become universal since mid 1995, and mouse wheel since Microsoft
introduced/popularized it in late 1990s.

Large Ctrl Alt keys, on both sides of keyboard, symmetrically
distanced to left and right home row keys, are on Microsoft's
ergonomic keyboards.

On the key layout side, the dvorak is now available on all major
operating systems, and as far as i know there are gradually more
programers using it.


reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]