An Introduction to Ergonomic Keyboards

Today, on the last day, I backed the Kickstarter keyboard project “Model 01: an heirloom-grade keyboard for serious typists” from Keyboardio.

It’s a bit expensive but there are so few good ergonomic keyboards that I had to give them a shot. I tried the keyboard when the founders visited Manhattan. It was hard to tell how I would feel about the palm key, and a few other things, until I’ve used it for a while, but all the ingrediants to a great ergonomic are there, which I’ll summarize below.

Mechanical Switches

Most keyboards use dome or scissor switches, which require you to press a key to the bottom.   Remember the scene in Kill Bill: Volume 2 where Uma Thurman is smashing her fingers into the coffin to escape from being buried alive?

Anyway, mechanical switches register at about the half-way point so you can avoid hitting the bottom.  There are many keyboards with mechanical switches. In addition, these switches usually require less force to press the keys down. These are the common types of switches that you’ll find in keyboards:

  • MX Cherry Brown/Blue/Clear/Green
  • Topre Switches
  • Matias Switches

Xah Lee has a great intro on keyboard switches

Split Keyboard

The Microsoft Sculpt is a good example of this.  It allows for your arms to be placed in a more natural position.  It looks slick, and many people love them, but they don’t have mechanical switches.

Separated Keyboards

A separated keyboard allows the user to place each section at a comfortable width.  The ErgoDox is an example.  However, these usually require that you build your own from a kit.

There’s also the Matias Ergo Pro.

Tented Halves

Tenting also allows users to hold their forearms and wrists in a more natural manner.

Tented Keyboard

The Matias Ergo Pro also has tenting.

Until Next Year

That covers the basics of ergonomic keyboards.  I won’t have the keyboard until next spring so I can’t tell you how it all works in practice, but I’ll be sure to do a review after I’ve had it for a few months.  In the meantime, I’m going to take a soldering class at a local Hackerspace.  I just might build my own ErgoDox.

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