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Keybored? Here's Two New Ways To Enter Data

The most basic piece of PC technology has been around for more than a hundred years -- the keyboard. It came over from mechanical typewriters virtually intact. You'd think the "standard" 101-key keyboard would be the end of the discussion, but people just will not quit fiddling with it. And here are two more -- one that adds a key, and one that drops a whole bunch.
The most basic piece of PC technology has been around for more than a hundred years -- the keyboard. It came over from mechanical typewriters virtually intact. You'd think the "standard" 101-key keyboard would be the end of the discussion, but people just will not quit fiddling with it. And here are two more -- one that adds a key, and one that drops a whole bunch.I ran into Roger Barlow yesterday at the C3 Expo in New York, and the way he tells the story, his wife was doing data entry for her business one night on a PC, entering data on the numberpad at the far right, then stopping to hunt for the tab key on the far left to move to the next field. The lightbulb lit up over her head. "Why doesn't somebody put a tab key next to the numberpad where you could hit it with your thumb?"

The rest is history. The Barlows got a patent, a manufacturer and a Web site, and now you, too, can cut data entry speed by 40 percent, claims Roger. And he should know, because he's an accountant, and boy, do those guys do data entry.

The change isn't major. The ZTab keyboard just pushes the cursor-key block up to make room for a wide tab key below it. You can see for yourself -- and order one of the two models the Barlows sell -- at www.zeomi.com.

John Parkinson's idea takes the keyboard in the other direction -- more like a huge, training-wheels version of a BlackBerry thumbboard, Parkinson, an electrical engineer, makes two big changes. One is to arrange the keys on his New Standard Keyboard (the name may be a trifle optimistic) in alphabetical order, not the QWERTY layout loved and hated by touch typists. The other is to load up each key with multiple functions and put multiple shift keys under your thumb.

If you never learned to touch-type this may actually help you, but if you're used to QWERTY you'll have a lot to unlearn, it seems to me. You can see for yourself and order one Parkinson's $70 dollar keyboards at www.newstandardkeyboards.com.