OT: keyboard layouts

Taavi Burns taavi-LbuTpDkqzNzXI80/IeQp7B2eb7JE58TQ at public.gmane.org
Sat Dec 13 23:15:34 UTC 2003

On Sat, Dec 13, 2003 at 05:24:20PM -0500, Henry Spencer wrote:
> We routinely live with *many* decisions that are known to be suboptimal
> but for which it just isn't worth switching.  For example, there is
> general agreement that a somewhat wider railroad gauge (spacing between
> the two rails) would be superior... but it's not going to happen, given
> how many railyards, bridges, tunnels, etc. would have to be rebuilt. 

There's a funny story about why railroad tracks are as far apart as
they are...it involved the width of a horse's ass...

> have a limited working life anyway, Maltron keyboards would not be
> expensive if made in really large numbers, and if we're going through the
> pain of switching, we should go all the way to the optimal solution rather
> than settling for a halfway point.  Almost all the "we should switch"
> arguments also support "switch to Maltron, not Dvorak". 

Indeed, I see that point.  Given that Maltron uses the basic qwerty
letter layout, it's probably easier for someone to switch .

> > It's still a qwerty, though.  I don't see how a logical remapping of
> > a standard keyboard to some approximation of that would be of any use.
> If it's of no use, then Dvorak is of no use.  The Maltron key layout was
> designed with far more complete knowledge of typing ergonomics etc. than

Question: who made the Maltron such that it's that much superior to
a Dvorak layout?  Has anyone tried using the physical Maltron keyboard
with a Dvorak letter mapping?

> the Dvorak layout; if you could shoehorn some approximation of it into a
> Qwerty-based physical layout (which I'm unsure of), the result is quite
> likely to be better than Dvorak. 

I'm saying that after looking at a picture of the Maltron keyboard,
I don't think there's any way to convert a standard keyboard short of
a hacksaw and soldering iron.  The physical metaphor is wrong.

> > You're saying that no switchover (to Dvoark) is acceptable.  How much
> > better does something have to be for it to be worth it?
> Preferably a factor of ten.  It has to be at least a factor of two to get
> people excited.  10% just isn't enough when there are major compatibility
> issues. 

Noting that the compatibility issue is a human one.  The machine can
trivially remap the keyboard's logical layout.

> > and buy anything special.  Windows can be configured to switch between
> > qwerty and Dvorak using ALT-LEFTSHIFT.  Does it get any simpler than that?
> That's not "simple", not if you have to configure every machine in a
> company to do that.  There's a big difference between what's reasonable
> for an organized conversion campaign, and what's reasonable for one person
> with unusual needs/preferences. 

Most large organisations would be using some form of imaging anyway.
It's trivial to ensure that the correct keyboard definition files
exist, and are easily available for use.

On a slightly divergent note, I'm still quite perplexed as to why
having the most commonly typed letter _not_ on the home row is not
such a performance hit as one would expect.  Neverminding that
the studies you cite say that there's negligible improvement, I'm
quite curious as to why that is.

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