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What happened to MS's keyboards?

Whenever I think about MSFT's natural keyboard pro and intellimouse explorer, I'm ready to forgive it for being a monopoly.  Truly, some monopolies are good; these have excellent usability.  But I just found out that the natural keyboard pro has been discontinued a long time ago, and replaced by two inferior keyboards.  (One is the Elite, which makes lots of layout mistakes from a touch-typist's viewpoint.  The other is the Multimedia, which looks terrible and doesn't even support USB!)

Does anyone know what happened?  Was it company politics?  I've used really good keyboards, including Northgate Omnikeys, and I'd say the natural keyboard pro is overall my favorite.

red
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

AKAIK, the Elite preceeded the Pro - I had one and it lasted ten minutes (the cursor keys are in a plus instead of inverted T, and it crashed NT4 - a known bug)

I can't believe they've discontinued the Pro. It was the *only* ergo keyboard on the market I'm aware of that has the Insert/Home keys in 3x2 and the cursor keys in an inverted T.

And once again I would dearly love to talk to the product managers that think moving keys around on a keyboard is acceptable.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

A real pitty, indeed. :-(

Thunderstone
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I suppose I'll be visiting http://www.fentek-ind.com/ergo.htm or similar when my Pro finally gives up the ghost.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I think different vendors have slightly different physical key arrangements due to copyright issues.

Li-fan Chen
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

me 4 :)  I really miss the pro keyboard .. luckily we bought three of them at the same time so hopefully they last for another few years.

jedidjab79
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I have one of these http://www.kinesis-ergo.com/professional.htm and was quite happy with it (paid $290 at the time - 3 years ago) until I switched to working on my laptop full-time a little over a year ago. 

Actually, if anyone is interested in taking it off my hands (make me a reasonable offer), send me an email - if no one responds, I'll just throw it up on eBay in a few days...

GiorgioG
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Giorgio, you should start getting numbness in your hand and forearm any day now.

Switching to a laptop keyboard full-time was what gave me carpal tunnel after seven years of typing. I only got rid of it by putting ergo keyboards on both my desktop and laptop.

And yes, it took about a year or so to show up.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Philo,

I've been toying with the idea of buying a DataHand http://www.datahand.com at some point. 

GiorgioG
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I can't imagine pushing my fingers away, let alone left and right, to type.  Have you ever used a DataHand? 

D
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

>I can't imagine pushing my fingers away, let alone left and right, to type.  Have you ever used a DataHand? 

D,

Think about when you have your fingers on the home row and to click on the letter "i" you move your middle forward to move onto the key and then press down.  In this instance (on the datahand) all there is is up/down/left/right movement and no real vertical travel (as I understand it) with the exception of the 'main' or home row keys...

GiorgioG
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

oops - to answer your question, no I've never used a datahand.  But I'd never used a Kinesis-Ergo keyboard before I plunked over my $ either so...guess I just have a keyboard fetish =)

GiorgioG
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I really don't trust these guys' judgement on ergo issues when their product info page is three screens of dense text:
http://www.datahand.com/overview/overinst.htm

This product screams for LOTS of pictures and animations, and there's squat on their page.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Oops - I found the pics. Not exactly intuitive page navigation... [grin] And I still think the overview is poorly laid out.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I horde the original MS Natural keyboards. The full-size ones with proper key layouts that don't bend when you type on them. They seem to fail on me every so often, so my stock is getting depleted. I'll have to get some more off eBay pretty soon.

Of course, my model M will probably never fail me, but it's not as comfortable.

Meine Hosen sind hervorragend!
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

To type an 'n' on a DataHand I have to move the ring finger on my right hand west (right) to move the flap.  It seems to me that I would have to do a rather unnatural cupping of my palm to make that work.  Personally, I would really have to try it first. 

The DataHand is substantially more expensive than the Kinesis.  However, I think it looks cool so I say go for it, if you have nothing better to spend your money on.  Please post a follow if you get one.  ;)

D
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I saw some in the shop in Khobar last weekend. If they're being discontinued I suppose I had better biuy a couple.

Are you sure they are getting rid of them; seems a pretty stupid thing to do.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I think there's an older model of the Datahand that's being/been discontinued and that might be what you saw Stephen.  Check to see if it's the DH200 model...if it is, it's the older edition... differences? no idea...

GiorgioG
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

When a PC "maker" "designs" a keyboard. They basically call up their counter part in Taiwan/Some other place in asia and ask, "Hey, what's the cheapest you can do?" And the company would reply back, for this quality, you can get X units for Y dollars. A price table is exchanged. A few screen shots. The maker then goes and ask for a few modification. Don't like the back slash there, can we have it there? No? Why not? IBM patented that? Oops.. okay how about putting it here? No.. HP/Compaq/DEC patented that?...  where can we put it? How about here? No way someone patented this location right? And then the deal is sealed and 40,000 units is soon pressed and shipped.

Forget usability testing.

Li-fan Chen
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I've found that the Natural Elite can be gotten used to.  I use it at work.

The problem is that I've got 4 different keyboard layouts to deal with.  There's the Stinkpad from work, which is wretched (no windows key, which I actually use.  And no trackpad, just a little stick thingie).  There's the Sony laptop at home.  And then there's the MS Natural at home and the MS Natural Elite at work.

The Natural is probably the all-time best.  It tilts backwards (so that the space bar is the highest key and the F-keys are the lowest keys), which is better for the wrists.  It's also touch-type friendly.

Except that they didn't really make a USB version of it and eventually PS2 ports are prolly going to dissapear.

And nobody makes anything like that anymore.  One of these days, I should get an Elite and see if I can hardware-mod it to perminant upwards status (And maybe slide some glo-wire and blue LEDs in there at the same time).

Before too long, I'll be making my own keyboards from scratch, I'm sure.

Flamebait sr.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

A tip for those who mix 'elite' and normal keyboards:
Pop off the Insert keycap from all your keyboards.

That way the 'rotated' six keys changes so that only one key (the delete key) moves diagonally one position, the other four will now be in the 'right' place.

Anyone know how to remap keys in software? Especially the Fn and Ctrl keys on laptops?

mb
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Short of a global keyboard hook? No. But you could probably find software that does this - have you tried Windows' disability settings? There might be some remapping there.

Mickey Petersen
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Try http://www.sysinternals.com/ntw2k/source/ctrl2cap.shtml

I don't think the Fn keys would be included there, however.  That tends to be integrated into the keyboard controller.

I would rather avoid popping off the insert key because I do tend to use all of the six keys in that block.

And incidntally, Another obnoxious property of Stinkpads is that the numlock key means "Not only should the usual numlock functionality be active, but I also want the numeric keypad interleved with the keys to be active, too".

Which is annoying.  This means that When docked, I want the numlock key to be active.  When not docked, this means that I don't.

Flamebait sr.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

For those people looking for MS Natural Keyboard Pro's, you might want to stop by your local Fry's and look around their keyboard section. The Fry's here (north Austin, TX) has a ton of brand new Dell branded Natural Keyboard Pro's.

The only difference is they have a Dell logo and the "My Computer" and "Calculator" buttons have been relabeled to "Dell.com" and "Dell Support".

Jason Allen
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Flamebait sr - I've built my own keyboards.  Believe me, you have to be in it for the fun of crafting a thing because it's a real pain in the but. 

mb - I've written global keyboard hooks, they aren't hard.  There is a good writeup on MSDN about hooks (including the one major pitfall you have to be aware of) and some realy good tutorials out there. 

D
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Is the microsoft natural keyboard the one with a single key that does ctrl-alt-del and a reboot key?

Tubbs
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

No reboot button, but it has the annoying Sleep button.  Oddly enough, it's the only one I can't reconfigure to do something less harmful.

I can't find anything on keyboard patents; does anything know where I can read about these crazy things?  I can't believe someone patented the arrow button config.

red
Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Oooh, don't get me started about the Multimedia keyboard. It's absolutely terrible and breaks one fundamental design principle - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The biggest crimes of the Multimedia keyboard are this :

Firstly, there's a new key called "F Lock". You have to press it to get the function keys to work. If, like me, you spend a lot of time in DevStudio or WinDbg, this'll drive you up the wall. But just to make matters worse, you have to press it again to turn "F Lock" off in order for Alt+PrtScn to work, which I use a lot for creating UI prototypes in specs.

Secondly, the Insert/Delete/Home/End/Page Up/Page Down set of keys have been rearranged for the first time ever. So I keep hitting the wrong key in that set cause I'm so used to where they are.

Needless to say, I threw my new "Multimedia" keyboard in the bin and kept my old one. Personally, I can't get enough of the original IBM keyboards that are built to last and can take a real hammering!

Better Than Being Unemployed...
Thursday, September 04, 2003

Is there a way to remap keys on microsoft's natural keyboard elite (with out software)?

thanks,
Peter.

Peter
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

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