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Adjustable, low-impact keeb (hackaday.com)
90 points by serial_dev 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 75 comments

As a pianist, everything about that seems wrongheaded and a great way to get RSI. Piano rules are basically don't move your fingers if you can move your hand, don't move your hand if you can move your wrist, don't move your wrist if you can move your forearm, don't move your forearm if you can move your body.

The point isn't to exaggerate that and be strict with it, but it is to limit strain. Even when typing at a desk, I keep the heels of my hands in the air.

As a long time typist, everything changed when I started floating my hands. A keyboard that optimizes for less wrist flicker helped too. Important keys in the middle instead of the side.

Another big one: Use the mouse from your shoulder/elbow, not your wrist. Keep the wrist stabilized.

Same with pencils, pens, and other drawing utensils. Drawing and writing from your elbow makes all the difference and suddenly you can keep going forever. And your lines look cleaner.

Not directly related, and hardly scientific , but the general consensus technique for high level FPS video games is to use arm rather than wrist, with an extremely low sensitivity, as this is more precise and consistent than flicking around with your wrist.

It's also generally accepted that people who "aim" with their wrist tend to need to warm up and take breaks more as it is more straining than using the arm.

It seems to concur with the conventional wisdom on art, piano and typing.

> Drawing and writing from your elbow makes all the difference and suddenly you can keep going forever. And your lines look cleaner.

Does this truly work?

I remember stumbling on a page that advocated using shoulder and elbow movements to control drawing utensils, for the reasons you describe. I recall it looking pretty sketchy, "one weird trick" type, but I figured what the hell, it's cheap to try and my handwriting sucks. So I tried and tried, for many hours (EDIT: [0]), and observed that it's not only much more tiring than "normal" way of drawing/writing, it's also extremely imprecise. Sure, I can sort of draw a straighter line this way, but I can't control where it goes or stops with enough precision. And everything has to be bigger, because again, precision for normal-scale letter writing just isn't there.

Or maybe my body is just broken?

(Also tried this with a mouse, with the same results - everything takes too long, and keeping the arm unsupported is tiring.)


[0] - I dug out my old notes; it was exactly 8.5 hours of focused, deliberate practice of drawing letters using arm and forearm for control, over the span of a month, on top of any writing activity I'd otherwise be doing. I may also have spent additional 1.5 hours on the aforementioned practice, but the notes aren't sure if that really happened (I tracked it in two systems, there was an entry missing in one).

8.5 hours is not many hours for what is essentially a major technique change. It could be that you were just rushing to a conclusion.

> it was exactly 8.5 hours of focused, deliberate practice

As already pointed out, that's a very low amount of practice to change the technique. For piano, when learning forearm rotation, the point when it became much, much more comfortable to me than my previous way of playing was after roughly two months of practice, 10-12 hours a week. That's just my experience, but when I asked my teacher about not feeling improvements around the one month mark (40 hours in), he said that everything is progressing at an expected rate.

This is interesting to me, especially since I've reached more or less the same conclusion by myself (don't play any instrument nor draw, though).

But, I'm curious: how do you place your mouse on the desk?

To me, there's one big difference between the paper and the mouse: The former sits in front of you, while the latter sits to the side.

I find it uncomfortable to move the mouse too much to the side, even though I use a fairly compact keyboard (MS Sculpt).

I've spent some time a few months ago trying to optimise my mouse situation. In the end, I went with a "gaming" mouse [0] for the high resolution and (relatively) low weight so that I can move it around with just my fingers. However, I'm not a very heavy mouse user, so maybe this helps rest the fingers.

I've also tried a vertical mouse, but the issue with moving the arm too much to the side was present, too.

What also worked well for me is a thumb operated trackball (I use a Logitech MX Ergo).


[0] For the curious it's a Logitech G703. It was the best compromise I've found looking for a wide and lightweight mouse. Wireless is a nice bonus, it was barely more expensive than the G403 which is otherwise identical.

I am an artist and my drawing tablet is on the right side of my keyboard, where most people would put a mouse. And yes I do generally draw from the shoulder, not the wrist - that got drilled into me by the elder artists at my first real animation job.

I don’t have any problem moving my stylus side to side.

When I’m working at my desk sometimes I end up shoving both keyboard and tablet to the left a bit, so the tablet is more in front of me. It’s not right in the middle like a piece of paper would be if I was hunching over a drawing board, though, it’s still distinctly to one side.

When I’m out and about with the laptop I tend to align myself more with the screen, so the tablet is distinctly off to the side. Never been a problem.

My first brush with RSI was drawing with my tablet too far to the right hand side, and pressing too hard. Nowadays it's just improper placement and having to crane over the tablet (with my left hand) to the keyboard shortcuts.

Out of interest, and assuming you use a tablet with extra buttons, how do you use them? Or do you disable them like virtually every other tablet user I've ever met :)

I disable them. Except for the scroll wheel, which I keep set to "mouse scroll wheel" for really stupid webpages that refuse to show a scrollbar because they assume everyone is on touch devices or has a scroll wheel mouse.

And yeah pressing too hard on the pen will fuck you right up :)

(so will holding it too tight, if an invisible person couldn't easily pluck your pen out of your fingers, you're holding it too hard)

Do you move your hand often back and forth between the tablet and keyboard? I could see positioning myself such that moving the mouse from the shoulder would be OK, but then the keyboard would end up in an awkward position for my right arm.

In my case, I use the keyboard much more than the mouse.

The right hand pretty much stays on the tablet when I'm drawing. Left hovers over the keyboard hitting shortcuts, except for ones waaaaay over on the right side.

If I try to go back and forth a lot then I'm gonna either be constantly putting the stylus in and out of the holder, or typing with it between the fingers of my right hand, neither of which is much fun.

I learned this while learning drawing techniques as a kid. Drawing a circle from the shoulder and elbow, for example, will look much smoother and be much easier to accomplish with just a little practice. Any sweeping motions will appear more sweeping. Practicing shoulder and elbow mobility is a great asset to hand control for all kinds of things. It isn’t always intuitive, perhaps because we learn to write, type, and draw on such small surfaces and tools.

> Another big one: Use the mouse from your shoulder/elbow, not your wrist. Keep the wrist stabilized.

I had a mouse once that was shaped like a joystick, so your hand was 'side-on' instead of face down. It FORCES you to use your whole arm, basically.

I recently bought an ultra-minimalist ergo keyboard that is designed to minimize hand movement, and that seems to be how it is working out for me, too. Keeping my hands in one place all the time is actually more tiring, and all the extra chording I have to do on a keyboard with so few keys is increasing the number of weird positions I put my hands into.

I'm hoping that that it's just that I'm using different muscles, and I need to get used to it. But I'm also becoming increasingly prepared to face the possibility that this keyboard is harder on my hands, because it takes work away from my elbows and shoulders, and gives it to my wrists and fingers.

Which keyboard is that?

I find that my Mitosis, which has tons of thumb selection, really alleviates the load on my fingers because the chords only ever involve two digits per hand at the very most.

Also I use Dvorak so my fingers move exceedingly little compared to QWERTY; when I first tried to learn to touch-type QWERTY the "right way" with leaving my hands on the home row, my wrists started hurting so I got angry and switched to Dvorak.

Using QWERTY but leaving your hands stationary is going to require your fingers to be doing a ton of reaching and increase the strain.

Not GP, but I've got the Keyboardio Atreus. And I've even modified that to have ctrl, shift, alt etc on the home row. So keeping 'A' depressed triggers Shift, for instance, but a quick tap is just A. Combined with a Programmer's Dvorak layout. Home row ftw!

Atreus here too.

It's a very nice keyboard, and scratches my itch for trying out a compact, minimalist, hackable keyboard without going to something that looks like it would be utterly wrist-destroying like the Planck.

I also do find it to be more comfortable than a standard keyboard, but, given the nature of my comfort issues, I think I would find that to be the case for any split keyboard. I don't find it to be more comfortable than my more standard split keyboard, but my more standard split keyboard is a (relatively) large beast that dominates my desk.

Was about to type the same thing, am also pianist. Using small muscles to do repetitive things is exactly how you get RSI. Don't do stuff with small muscles that you can do with large ones.

Unfortunately, even in the piano community, this knowledge is not that widespread. Really common to see repetitive motion injuries from very finger heavy technique.

This sort of thing is true for a lot of instruments. For guitar, a lot of players get into the bad habit of pinching the neck with their fingers and thumb, and moving their wrist when they strum. This can lead to injury at worst, but more common is a cramp or complaining about barre chords. You should use your elbow and a steady, fixed wrist to pull your fingers against the frets with just enough pressure to avoid buzzing, the thumb shouldn't be applying pressure at all, and you should be strumming from the elbow.

As a 12 year old I sometimes played scales with pennies on my hands (not by my choice!) and it sure has paid dividends. I’ve been a Emacs user since the 70s and never had a tiny bit of rsi despite mostly using all sorts of physical non-“ergonomic” environments.

I’ve always been shocked by “wrist rests” because they encourage compression and an offset in the orientation of the carpal tunnel. Seems like the best “wrist rest”, if you need one at all, would be a small bed of nails.

Note: I’m male. The carpal tunnels of women narrow during pregnancy and don’t return to the pre-pregnancy internal diameter. As with many conditions specific to women (despite being the majority of hipumanity) this does not appear to have been studied much less explained. An example of why this may be true for me but not for everyone.

Also: pianists are not immune to rsi; while there are sadly many famous professional examples, programmers may also consider Bernie Greenberg.

Moving beyond the kbd: I noticed that my gf’s kids (in Palo Alto schools), were never taught how to use a pencil or pen and suffer fatigue and cramp, while my kid (german education) was thought how to hold and operate pens from grade 1 and though he by now types of course, still has no problem writing for long periods. In Palo Alto all the kids learned was how to make the shapes.

My somewhat countervailing anecdote:

I've had various forms of RSI off and on for many years. For about the last 5 years it's been under control since I started doing the following: I use a Kenisis Freestyle 2, spread apart, rest my elbows splayed out wide on my arm rests, and rest my wrists on the wrist pads. (Seat height adjusted lowish such that wrists are straight.) Basically, I'm not activating any muscles to keep my hands/wrists/arms in the air.

If I try to adopt a more conventional posture[1], with my elbows by my side and forearms/wrists floating in the air, the muscles in my shoulders & upper arms will become highly inflamed, and wrist pain will typically follow.

That said, one thing I do that's in accord with your advice is that to reach the top/bottom rows, I push/pull my arms forward/back a bit. My elbow pads have a bit of give to make that pretty easy. So I keep my fingers curved nicely and minimize finger motion and especially extension at all costs.

I'm also a pianist, and understand where you're coming from, but if I adopt a pianist's posture at the computer, I'll be in pain within minutes. It's possible that no ergonomic setup is right for everybody. My recommendation to anyone with RSI is to listen to the (often conflicting) advice, but keep experimenting in order to find what's right for you.

[1] For example: http://ergonomictrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/proper...

Keeping palms in the air has alleviated my wrist and saddle joint pain as well. What helped immensely to build the habit was to switch to a low-profile keyboard so there is nowhere to rest my wrists.

P.S. The keyboard I switched to was designed and built by myself [1]. It is a fantastic first project for someone new to electronics (e.g. me).

[1]: https://github.com/tadfisher/nyx-kb

> What helped immensely to build the habit was to switch to a low-profile keyboard so there is nowhere to rest my wrists.

I feel like changing to a low-profile keyboard also reduces the angle at your wrist which ought to have a same impact as keeping your hands in the air

Well, it doesn't help that the piano is one of the most unergonomic instruments in common use. I don't know which is worse, the piano or the guitar. Guitar chord shapes get really gnarly sometimes, but at least there is some effort to switch neck widths to fit individual hand sizes. Pianos have only one keyboard size!

I'd argue the tuning of the guitar makes it remarkably ergonomic and flexible. Guitar players take it for granted how you can play the same chord all up and down the neck. If a shape is clumsy for you, there are many others you can try to get the same chord, but I think the shapes in general are designed pretty well for the hand once you develop your finger muscles and flexibility. There is a lot of logic baked into the guitar's fretboard layout.

I agree the one-size is bad, especially since it apparently is too big for a majority of humans.

But aside from that, I always thought it a very ergonomic layout.

Isn't the difference that with a piano you have to move your finger or hand perhaps 5-10mm to depress the key. A touch sensitive keyboard could be activated from a mm or less of movement.

But positioning on a table must be a bad idea - gloves that let you place your hands in your lap or by your side would be much less strain.

Also true for table tennis

I'm a double bassist, 40 years with no (physical) injuries. ;-) String players are taught similar principles despite the totally different ergonomics of our instruments.

If you’re really looking to minimize hand movement and type fast while doing it, perhaps a better option would be steno keyboards (http://www.openstenoproject.org/) where entire words are produced by specific chords. It’s definitely learning a new way of typing, but the keyboard showcased in the article here also looks alien enough (apparently each finger has a set of letters assigned to it and one types by moving each finger in a particular direction to produce a single letter) that the learning curve is probably substantial as well.

That's not going to be useful for something like coding though, is it?

It is - go have a read in openstenoproject or read/watch this. https://www.fortressofdoors.com/stenography-for-programming/

Also https://keyholesoftware.com/2017/08/14/stenography/ or really a google search for “steno coding” will show you the possibilities.

Are those minimal movements really ergonomic?

This is the question!!!

I’ve been coding for 25+ years. In high school my dad would get me summer jobs doing highly repetitive assembly line work. Like, the same motions all summer. I spent years being a pretty serious into rock climbing. And the absolute worst thing for my wrist/arm by far? ... Clicking a mouse button with my index finger.

Oddly I've been clicking mice since the early/mid 80's and never have had a problem. It always amazes me I've not had messed up wrists as a result.

I'd add though that gaming with typical WASD + Mouse style has caused problems. I think it's mostly the tension one has when gaming - hard to not grip that mouse tight in the moment.

I don't have wrist pain, but I sometimes have pain in my index fingers. I have been trying for a long time to figure out a good solution and have tried several keyboards as a result. It seems like keeping my wrist rested in one spot causes my index fingers to extend to reach keys that are one column/row over. Floating my wrists allows me to move my whole arm for those out of reach keys, reducing the impact on my index fingers. I currently use a low profile Nyquist from keeb.io and while I enjoy it, I don't think it does anything in particular to address my issue other than being split (which I love). Keeping my hands floating is the easiest when I am standing and my desk is leveled with my elbows.

I’ve not taken the plunge on any special keyboards. I am afraid of committing to something super custom and losing some of my already low typing speed when switching to use the laptops built in keyboard.

If you're worried about RSI, take action now. Don't wait.

Don't get a keyboard like the one in the article. Get one that reduces arm twisting and strain on your tendons.

Fifteen years ago, I had RSI pain in my wrists. I switched to a split keyboard [0] and the pain mostly went away.

After a few years, the aches came back and slowly got worse, especially when using a mouse. Eight years ago, I switched to a tenting keyboard [1] and vertical mouse [2]. Again, the aching and pain mostly went away.

Strength training [3] finally solved my RSI.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_ergonomic_keyboards#...

[1] https://shop.goldtouch.com/products/goldtouch-v2-adjustable-...

[2] https://evoluent.com

[3] https://www.lesmills.com/us/workouts/fitness-classes/bodypum...

Which is why we're all using Qwerty keyboards instead of Dvoraks...Switching costs are too high. This low-impact model in the title promises 120WPM (I'm assuming with time commitment to achieve mastery). But yeah, you won't be able to take a device like that everywhere. It makes me wonder if any WPM threshold is enough to convince people to make the switch from Qwerty.

> It makes me wonder if any WPM threshold is enough to convince people to make the switch from Qwerty.

No. You don't switch for speed. You switch for comfort and to reduce strain.

The reason why the 120WPM speed is brought up at all is to (1) demonstrate that the keyboard design isn't totally bunk, and (2) that the person has spent enough time with the keyboard to get to a level of mastery with it that their opinion on the keyboard is coming from a place of knowledge.

I can type about 70-80 WPM on my qwerty in typing tests. The limiting factor in my work isn't typing speed, it's my ability to form thoughts and to express them to the computer. So switching to a faster keyboard does absolutely nothing for me.

I wonder if there is some sort of ergonomic benchmark for IDEs or keyboard shortcut layouts.

What I have in mind is given some representative code sample, how many keystrokes are needed to perform a set of common tasks like duplicate line, reverse the order of function arguments, etc. There could be penalties for uncomfortable shortcuts like CTRL-B on QWERTY.

I definitely think the mac OS cmd based keystrokes are much more ergonomic than the windows ctrl based keystrokes. For windows you have to hit ctrl with your weak pinky, then awkardly stretch your index finger to somewhere on the keyboard. It's an awkard movement that I don't think my hand otherwise ever makes during my life. It seems like a recipe for strain to me, doing something not commonly done by the hand regularly. I think it originally was expected that users would use their other hand to type right ctrl since there wasn't a mouse back then, but these days everyone keeps their right hand hovering the mouse or trackpad rather than hovering over the home row.

With cmd based keyboard shortcuts, your hand basically forms the default resting limp hand position, with your thumb on the cmd button, and your index finger lazily and easily finding the other key to complete the shortcut. Your thumb is basically always there anyway due to the spacebar. It's a much more natural movement.

Using two hands for key combinations is step one to avoiding RSI.

If you need to keep your hands on the mouse (for example, CAD or video editing) then get a keyboard with programmable macro keys, or a separate macro pad.

For example, a Kinesis Freestyle Pro, or a Koolertron.

In the long run, your limiting factor is how much your favorite keyboard layout fucks up your wrist tendons by making them rub against the inside of the bones of your wrist (the “tunnel” of “carpal tunnel syndrome”).

Indeed. Stenographers regularly hit 200wpm on chorded keyboards, with a record of 375. We haven't adopted that tech en mass because speed isn't the only factor

Everyone has a "premature optimization is the root of all evil" story and I'm no different. I learned Dvorak years ago in university and stuck with it, thinking it would make me a better 'professional' programmer since I could type faster. Oh, how naive I was. Over a decade later, I've made the switch between dvorak and qwerty several times, and it really isn't too hard to switch, after an afternoon using a different layout I'll reach a reasonable WPM. Lately I've stuck to dvorak although I'm still reasonably fluent in Qwerty and I do occasionally go back to qwerty to ensure I'm still somewhat fluent. What really does me in when using another computer is the standard staggered keyboard layout since I've been living on an Ergodox Infinity for over a year now. Once you've grown accustomed to an columnar arranged keyboard, it's incredibly difficult to go back to a staggered layout.

Keyboard layout doesn't matter for speed. Here's a guy typing 99 wpm with two fingers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mNu8WnFFa0 You switch to Dvorak for comfort, not speed.

I tried Dvorak for some time and did find it more comfortable. I even got up to a semi-decent typing speed. My big stumbling block was the number of applications that have non-configurable keybinds.

It helps if you plan to toggle; on X11/Linux I just switch to QWERTY when gaming, but I think Windows can do per-program keyboard layout selection, which would make it really easy.

> Which is why we're all using Qwerty keyboards instead of Dvoraks...

Whether the switching costs are worth it is an individual choice, and quite a few people have chosen that it's worth it. They're in the minority, but that's fine as long as people are free to use whatever keyboard layout they like.

Given that the leaderboards for typing speed competitions are dominated by qwerty typers, and that I, a qwerty typer, type faster than every single one of my dvorak friends, and that the general pattern of the scholarly work on dvorak is that experimental rigor correlates positively with p-values, I'm inclined to say that the reason for qwerty's continued dominance is not just that people are stuck in their ways. It's absolutely a factor, of course, but another one is that the benefits of dvorak have been greatly exaggerated.

I use colemak, and type as fast as I did back when I typed with two fingers. But from people who switched from touch-typing qwerty, I'm told colemak and dvorak are much more comfortable. I don't think anyone should switch because they anticipate better typing speed, but if you type with two fingers, switching can force you to reset your muscle memory and make it easier to learn to touch-type (that's why I switched).

If anyone is interested in switching, also check out the Workman layout, which is a slight improvement on Colemak's ergonomics at the cost of messing up some keyboard shortcuts

me on dvorak: 110 wpm (10-race average) on typeracer.com

If your typing speed is high percentile, odds are you'd be faster than all your friends anyway, regardless of dvorak / qwerty. (E.g. I type faster than every single one of my qwerty friends! ...)

Given that <0.1% use dvorak, there's >90% chance you won't see a single dvorak user in a random sample of 100 people. Not hard to see why the leaderboards will be "dominated" by qwerty.

Like others have said, dvorak is for comfort, not for speed. Dvorak is MUCH more comfortable than qwerty.

Also, Dvorak users almost never complain that they type more slowly than their qwerty days, once they've gotten used to it.

Many of us dvorak users also are competent at qwerty in a pinch (80 wpm qwerty here).

Cf. http://www.mit.edu/~jcb/Dvorak/

I was worried about this as well but my daily driver is a split ortho 40% keyboard and I can easily switch between it (with multiple layers) and a laptop keyboard. You don’t lose the ability to type on a normal keyboard, you just gain how to type on a 40% split ortho.

I built a 40% keyboard a while back somewhat for the fun of it. I can type on it, but honestly it's difficult. Hunt and peck style, sure - speed typing, not yet.

As a professional software engineer, I always found I generally spent more time thinking than actually typing. I'm curious, what kinds of technical roles require such a large amount of typing?

It's not about the number of hours per day that you spend typing. It's about the number of seconds you have to hold an idea in your head.

I've found that the more senior I got through my career the more typing I had to do. The more senior you are, the more time you spend writing plans, documentation, designs, and of course copious amounts of emails as part of communication. Now I'm in management, and I type more than I ever did in any of the engineering roles that I held. Perhaps consequently, I've taken ergonomics and keyboard quality really seriously.

why not get a keyboard that is twice as difficult to type on, then, if optimizing for typing speed makes no difference? why not 10x? if you flip it around it's obvious why people would want good keyboards. to my mind, it's strictly less silly than wanting, say, a good/fancy car (which, though a luxury, i view as a perfectly reasonable thing to want as well). people don't buy porsches (e.g.) because they have "such a large amount" of driving in their jobs and/or lives-- they buy them to make the driving they do do better.

Tennis players spend way more time moving around than hitting the ball. And yet, they use the best racket they can find.

Verbose languages like C++.

email and slack. I joke, but some fields really do work the computer more than others. My roommate is in design and was sent home with a workstation to do their 3d modelling. It sounds like he is playing starcraft for 8 hours a day, but that's the job. Nonstop clicking and clacking until he clocks out without a single pause.

Can confirm. I worked as an animator when I was young and that was very taxing on the hands.

I also worked as a designer and developed forearm pain from the Photoshop shortcuts.

Now I work as a programmer and things are a lot easier. But I suspect it’s only a matter of time before even this is too much and I’ll need to change it up again.

Doesn’t look very secure.

Please tell me "keeb" isn't "keyboard".

Clicks link

Yes, it's keyboard, but occurs only in the title. Bad, but could be worse.

"Keeb" has become popular shorthand/slang in the past year or two. As far as I can tell it originated in /r/MechanicalKeyboards

And a look at Urban Dictionary seems like a pretty recent piece of slang. Honestly I t’s not like -oard is extra lengthy syllables or there’s an industry that uses this term. It’s very cringe-y web-2.0-like name but maybe that’s hip?

Why would it be “keeb” and not “keyb”. Is it pronounced liked “jeeb”?

> Why would it be “keeb” and not “keyb”. Is it pronounced liked “jeeb”?

Much as I don’t like calling it “keeb”, and therefore personally don’t call it that, writing it as “keeb” makes sense if you’re going to pronounce it that way. If it was written “keyb” then I might have read it as “key be” instead.

I presume by only referring to it with one syllable, it also helps reducing movement of mouth parts just as the "keeb" does for hand parts.

I presumed is was another example of the infantilizing of young adults today. 'Look at my cute pupper!' 'Just got dishy installed today Elon!'

It's not "infantilizing," it's linguistic mutation, and it's what languages do [0], for all manner of reasons. Text lacks intonation, plain text even more so, and internet dialect tends to evolve ways to add emphasis. In this case "pupper" is inflected to suggest endearment.


I have no evidence, but I suspect because it rhymes with, is only one letter off from, and has the same connotations vis-a-vis its subject matter as, "weeb".

Ugh. Truly an abomination.

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