A keyboard can be a trusty companion that takes much abuse from relentlessly pounding fingers. The six rows of keys that have become the standard input device in the computing world are today’s primary means of communicating with a computer.
Computers, the actual processors, are more likely to become outdated than to actually wear out. But there are parts of a computer that are more susceptible to wear and tear. Understandably, these are the parts that receive the most use – the parts that you pound on each day. Yes, your keyboard is likely to wear out long before the rest of your computer system. I can certainly attest to this, as I have worn out three keyboards in the last three years.
The keyboard is an old friend to many of us who spent endless hours in front of a typewriter, both the old manual and the electric typewriter. Today’s typewriter descendent, the keyboard, has a typewriter-like set of keys that enable you to enter information into the computer. The layout of computer keyboards is similar to the typewriter layout, but computer keyboards have extra keys like function keys labeled F1, F2, etc., arrow keys, Caps Lock keys, and keys marked Ctrl, Alt, Delete, Insert, Home, End, etc. Some of these keys are meant to be used in conjunction with other keys just like shift on a regular typewriter. Other keys like Insert, Delete, Home, End, Help, and function keys are meant to be used independently and often perform editing tasks. The world of computers and technology has even taken over the word “typing” and co-mingled it with “keyboarding.” Today keyboarding is an accepted term to replace the word typing, all because of the popularity of computing which depends on its indispensable keyboard for computer input. (For help with keyboarding, see my How To on Keyboard Basics.)
The keyboard has a lot of history and a lot more variety than most people realize. The standard layout of letters, numbers, and punctuation marks on the keyboard is called the QWERTY layout because the first six letters on the top row of alphabetic keys spell the “word” QWERTY. It is said that this layout was developed in the 1800’s to slow down the original touch typists who typed too quickly and jammed the old-fashioned typewriter keys when they were placed in a more logical sequence. Another keyboard layout called the Dvorak keyboard is also available. This layout has the letters positioned for speed typing. Although the Dvorak keyboard may have been designed for speed, it has never caught on, and the QWERTY layout continues to be the most popular.
What a Variety
The original PC keyboard had eighty-four keys. An enhanced keyboard was subsequently introduced that has 101 keys. This keyboard is now most commonly used; however, some keyboards have even more keys. The variety of keyboards is almost staggering. Keyboards will often look slightly different and have a somewhat different collection of keys. Some keyboards even have independent shift lock and caps lock keys. Some have hot keys to help you access the Internet, e-mail, and often-used programs. Some have buttons that you can use to put your computer to sleep or change the volume of the speakers.
No one has to stick with the standard keyboard that comes with the computer. There are many options to consider. Your choice of keyboard is a very personal matter. Computer users should research the many different products offered. Only you can decide which kind of keyboard is most comfortable for you. Shop around for the keyboard that "feels" best. The touch is all-important. Some have a louder "click" than others; others offer a non-click approach.. Shopping around for a keyboard with the right feel does not mean that you can’t order a keyboard over the Internet. Just be sure that you order from a company like Kinesis who gives a sixty-day money back guarantee.
Ergonomically designed keyboards often have unusually sculpted or contoured shapes and a space age look. These keyboards are designed to help avoid repetitive stress injury to the wrists. Some of these keyboards come with foot pedals to spread the work to other limbs. Some keyboards are designed to take advantage of the strength in the thumbs. Ergonomically designed keyboards often have a "split" keyboard design, looking like the keyboard is broken in two. Many of these keyboards can slide apart or tilt at angles. The advantage is that by accommodating the natural position of the hands, the ergonomic keyboard can alleviate and/or prevent stress injuries caused by repetitive key strokes on the standard keyboard. Anyone who uses the computer a lot and/or has any hand and wrist strain will benefit from an ergonomic keyboard. Simple ergonomic keyboards can be found costing not much more than a standard keyboard. More intricate keyboards like the Kinesis Contoured Keyboard come with foot pedals, memory to store macros to eliminate repetitive keystrokes, and special software can easily run into hundreds of dollars.
Other keyboards come with extra large keys to help users with sight or hand coordination problems. The BigKeys LX keyboard is made for adult computer users and has a special assist mode for keyboarders who find it difficult to press multiple keys at the same time.This keyboard also has a switch on the back to change the keyboard from QWERTRY style to a plain ABC style for those who find it easier to hunt and peck alphabetically.
Wireless keyboards can offer freedom from being tethered to the computer. The Logitech iTouch wireless keyboard and mouse have been around for several years and work quite well. Newer wireless keyboards by Microsoft and others have recently flooded the market. Most of these work on radio waves.
In keyboards, if you shop around, you will find that there really is something for everyone. So if that day comes when your J key or F key lose their responsiveness or the Caps Lock sticks, offer a well deserved thank you to the poor old worn out keyboard and log on to the Internet to check out what the latest in keyboards has to offer you.