That was a very inspiring project, and read. Always impressive with people doing "all trades": from pure ergnomimcal to mechanical design, to keyboard driver firmware, to PCB design. Awesome!
I was happy to see the author settle for KiCad, having made a micro version of the same journey I've settled for KiCad too, it's pretty nice once you start getting going.
I was surprised to not see any mention of OSH Park when it came to board manufacturing, I thought they were the default for small-scale prototyping, and they're certainly competetive when it comes to price ($5 per square inch, for threee boards). Being in Europe the shipping delay is intensely frustrating, but otherwise OSH Park is like a dream come true.
I don't know if you contacted any of the big EMS companies, but they all -- with the possible exception of Foxconn -- take small projects and prototype runs. Generally speaking, it's as part of a DFM engagement. For example, my employer, Sanmina, streamlined Bloom Energy's functional prototype design from 5 PCBs down to 1, and cut overall complexity (and cost) by a large fraction in the process. Flextronics opened their Lab IX in Milpitas, CA, to focus on hardware startup development, too. If you think you might need real engineering help and not just "dumb manufacturing", it may be worthwhile to consider the big guys, too.
I would love to find an ergonomic mechanical keyboard. I tried the Truly Ergonomic but sent it back because it hurt my wrists. I'm not sure I'd like the Kinesis bowls; perhaps I'll try it eventually. What I'd really like is a Microsoft Natural keyboard, but with mechanical switches. Is there anything like that out there?
Kinesis is also super hacker friendly. If you email them and ask they'll sell keyboards without the keyswitches so you can put in cherry blue or cherry clear switches. They've also been very willing to provide technical information - they sent me mechanical diagrams of the main PCB so I could build a replacement controller running custom firmware, as well as part numbers for the ZIF connectors.
I've been using a Kinesis (Ergo Elan) for 9 years now. After about 5 years some of the little rubber keys started malfunctioning. Now my ESC and F5 keys no longer work at all and most other rubber keys only intermittently. I probably should open it up and apply graphite rubber to the keys to restore their ability to make contact.
I don't mind the size of the rubber keys, but I wish they'd make a keyboard with decent switches for them!
It's what the other Kinesis users around me were using and it's the only wired touchpad that could fit. It's a piece of garbage and I've given up on it. I've fallen back on using my Evoluent Vertical Mouse, as it's the only mouse that doesn't leave me in pain.
The real answer is that I've adapted my tools and workflow to be as keyboard operational as possible, using a tiling window manager, Emacs, and Conkeror for everything.
I'll throw my vote in for the Kinesis Advantage along with the others. It made a huge difference, especially for Emacs pinky. The thumb keys are wonderful and make so much more sense than wasting both thumbs on a spacebar.
As a datapoint, when I switched cold-turkey, it took about a week to be passable (~40wpm) and another week or two to get up to normal speed (~100wpm). The letter keys in the bowls actually aren't so bad; the harder part for me was retraining the control keys and punctuation. It's totally worth it though, and IMHO much easier than a full layout retraining (e.g. Dvorak, which I've given up on twice).
I learned Dvorak before switching to the Kinesis. I was only able to do it by having some strategic down-time in my job, and I would say it took around a full year before I was even close to my old QWERTY speed. I can now switch between QWERTY (laptop) and DVORAK (desktop) with only an occasional hitch.
Take it from me: the advantage of Dvorak pales in comparison to the advantage of a good keyboard. Add in the fact that the whole world (games, vim, cut/copy/paste) revolves around QWERTY, and Dvorak starts to lose its luster.
(Come to think of it, the biggest plus for me with Dvorak is that I can left-hand mouse and hit copy/paste/undo with my right hand...)
I've found Colemak to be a nice alternative that avoids may of the Dvorak pitfalls you mentioned. The z, x, c, v, and w keys are in the same position they are in QWERTY layout, meaning that the common shortcuts for functions like cut, copy, paste, undo, close tab, are unchanged. Perhaps more importantly, the punctuation remains unchanged, which I consider to be a plus for programmers, who regularly need to make use of brackets of various kinds. (I feel it's worth noting that the Dvorak layout was created in 1936, and probably did not take the syntax of modern programming languages into account.)
Because Colemak has more overlap with the QWERTY keyboard, the learning curve is much more gentle; it took me about 2 weeks to get up to around 50% of my old QWERTY WPM, and probably less than 3 months to get where I felt I could match my old WPM. By 1 month in I felt that I was efficient enough with Colemak that it was worth it to type a bit slower in exchange for the increase in comfort it afforded.
I've found that the biggest inefficiency that came with the transition was not physical, but mental. During the early weeks of learning the new layout, I needed to actually devote some conscious thought to what my fingers are doing, meaning that those brain cycles couldn't be used to process what I was about to type next, leading to a process where I frequently needed to pause and think about what I was typing, whereas it's typically more continuous and interruption-free as my fingers try to keep up with my brain. During the first few weeks of transitioning, I used Colemak only for "clerical" tasks like writing emails and some documentation I was working on at the time, and not for coding.
Question for the Kinesis folks: does the height bother you at all? I've been considering buying a Kinesis Advantage, but in a comfortable seating position, with my forearms and thighs level with the ground, there's not much space between my arms and legs. I'm currently using a relatively short keyboard, on a keyboard tray, at work, and already find myself bumping the keyboard tray with my legs fairly frequently.
My forearms are tilted upwards very slightly; the kinesis is indeed a bit "high" and my desk has no keyboard tray, nor is the height adjustable. It does bother me in the sense that I would prefer to have my forearms level or tilted slightly downwards. On the other hand, it doesn't feel like my setup is causing any actual discomfort or ergonomic problems.
I use my Advantage directly on my legs without a keyboard tray. In that configuration the height of the Advantage is very nearly optimal. At least for me, it naturally puts my arms into an ergonomically suggested posture with my arms straight down, bent to approximately ninety degrees, my wrists held straight onto the palm rests.
Bracket/brace are fine if you use your little finger properly. Really it's a better position than "standard" keyboards since you only have to reach down vertically instead of having to move laterally as well which reduces accuracy.
Using a Kinesis is possibly the best way to unlearn all your bad typing habits. :)
The Kinesis classic is the keyboard that saved my career.
My wrist pain actually increased slightly when I first got it, due to the strain of having to interrupt my years-old muscle memory. It took several days for the thumb keys to become (somewhat) automatic. Within a couple of weeks, I was on my way to pain-free computing. It's now been over a decade, and I consider the Kinesis keyboard to be the primary factor in my recovery.
I used to use the Microsoft Natural keyboard Elite, from probably around 1998 until late 2011, when the one I had at work broke and I couldn't find a suitable replacement. I tried one of the other Microsoft ergonomic keyboards, and found it to be lacking. I've since switched to the Kinesis; after a lot of consideration as I was worried I would spend a lot on a keyboard and not like it, but I am incredibly satisfied with it. I have one at home and one at work, and now prefer typing on it to anything else. It is also assembled in the USA, which I count as a plus.
Have you tried an IBM model M or Thinkpad's keyboard? Neither ergonomic. But I am not kidding, I prefer my laptop's keyboard to many other full sized keyboards, also I think my trusty 20+ years old IBM model M is one of the best in general. Maybe it is all in my head more than in my hands, but that is my 2 cents.
Well actually I tried an ergonomic keyboard before and it wasn't bad, except for when I had to go back to using a regular one at other workstations. It was hard because I had gotten so used the ergonomic design. So I prefer the "rectangular" kind since then.
Have you tried the Freestyle2? I don't think it has mechanical keys, but they are still nice action. I'm typing on one now. I like it better than my Microsoft Natural Ergo, although the Microsoft board is a bit more "silky".
As a sufferer of carpal tunnel syndrome, I can tell you that this palm rest design is a bad idea. You're focusing the weight of each hand on a pressure point which is sure to contribute to pinching the median nerve.
Also, separating the left and right hand boards from one another really helps with joint stress. I saw one of the designs has a axle. Why not just split the keyboard in two completely? I vote for each half of the keyboard having a velcro strap that I can comfortably attach just above each of my knees. For most people, this would be a very neutral posture. In fact, it may even inspire better posture as folks would reach for the keys on their knees.. You know.. You could call it KneeKeyboard or Keys-4-Knees. Then again, I'm sure someone has already done it, but I'm too lazy/busy to look into it right now.
Other than those comments. Awesome stuff.
Edit: I'd like to add that the wrist pad suggests to me wrist movement is required to reach all of the keys. Again, the carpal tunnel gnome tells me that pivoting my wrist is painful. Why not strive for very little wrist movement. Once you get there, the surface is it's own support, and it would support more than just the wrist; it would support the forearm, too (see knee keyboard suggestion above).
I also noticed one of the designs recessed the keys below the face of the keyboard. I think that's a good way to get away from the vertical wrist pivoting. Still, you'd need to mind the lip of the recess, so it's not a high impact point on the wrist.
I've been looking to create a ErgoDox which is a two part mechanical design. Not sure I could deal with the split layout but I'm willing to try. It looks pretty similar to the ones in this post and you build it yourself.
Nice I really want to build one but I think I'd much rather buy the parts in a kit than separately. I saw this wooden case in a tweet and I think I'd want to try my hand with that instead of the 3D printing.
Out of curiosity, was there anything wrong with the two handed design (like intrinsically/ergonomically, not wiring-related) that caused you to switch back to a one-piece design after the Mark 9?
I've been wanting for years for the monitor-keyboard setup to be replaced by something that's set up to a human body and not a table. Screen is set to your head and not vice versa. Manual input devices are physically based on your hands and not to a table. You don't have to lean forward to look at a screen. You don't have to hunch over (or even tend to hunch over) to type and mouse. Ergonomics problems vastly go out the window because you don't have to conform your body to a machine built for compactness and manufacturability.
On the monitor front, once somebody mods the Oculus Rift for non-gaming [read: programming etc] use, I'll dance an embarassing unskillful engineer jig and then buy one immediately.
On the input (mouse/keyboard) front I'd love to have two devices attached to my hands instead of having to reach forward to a keyboard (dual myo bands? some kind of handheld gig?) so the two-handed keyboards are always intriguing to me and I'd love to hear more about your experience with designing them. (and in general).
The split design is..not great in my lap, which is usually where I rest my keyboard. With better mechanical design, that could be better. But no, it's mostly about manufacturability and simplicity for what will be my first physical 'product'
I'm almost ready to say that "ergonomic keyboard" is an oxymoron.
Thinking outside the box: Some musical instruments have a small number of keys for a large number of notes. Playing for long time periods without injury is now part of the basic training that all musicians receive.
Maybe a model for an ergonomic keyboard would be something like a saxophone.
I don't see the advantage of chording based input, it actually requires more effort to press two or three keys at once. I guess I'm thinking of the use of modifier keys. Anecdotally speaking, it increases tension as well because of the need to maintain more complex finger/hand positions under stress and high repetitions.
All things considered it's only a different kind of effort. You have to learn how to distribute smoothly the tension in all limbs, it's abstract at first, but that's how musicians can play anything. Also maybe chorded keyboard would fit or need a better set of commands. More abstract ones thus less many.
Reading the story of your keyboard iterations was a lot of fun, and I'm very interested in finding a mechanical keyboard that works for me. But I have to ask: how can you possibly type with all those keys under your wrists? Am I the only one wondering this? What am I missing?
Hm? There are only two keys that actually sit under the heels of your hands. And the keyboard is designed with a higher top plate than usual so that resting your palms on the butterfly's wings puts your hands in a fairly neutral position.
I'm currently awaiting delivery of components to assemble an ErgoDox. The later variations show here display an encouraging similarity to a lot of the ErgoDox's features, although perhaps most interestingly a move away from independent positioning of the two halves.
The ErgoDox is really the two halves of a Kinesis flattened.
Keyboard.IO is a little bit different. There's a splay of a few degrees between the columns that map to each finger. A bunch of the work you do with your pinkies on the ErgoDox or just about any other keyboard moves to your thumbs. And yes, it ended up as a single keyboard. I really, really wanted to do something that was two separate pieces. Between the risks it would add to the mechanical design and the fact that I found myself intensely frustrating that the two halves of the ErgoDox were never in quite the places I expected them to be, we've decided to run with a single-piece unit, at least for the Model 01.
"Ergonomic" has become a great buzzword. These keyboards are not ergonomic. While they protect against ulnar deviation, they do not protect against pronation and dorsiflexion. Note that you WILL still get RSI from using these keyboards.
> "Ergonomic" has become a great buzzword. These keyboards are not ergonomic.
"Ergonomic" is not a binary switch. A thing is not simply "ergonomic" or not. And more importantly, what is ergonomic varies based on the user. For the author, these keyboards are presumably more ergonomic than alternatives. For you, they might not be.
> Note that you WILL still get RSI from using these keyboards.
That's a rather strong claim, especially considering that many people never get RSI even from standard keyboards.
As someone who has sworn by Microsoft's Natural Keyboards, you're on the right track!
Regarding the Datahand and Kinesis, which I just discovered in this discussion - how would one be able to get their hands on them to test them?
I wish you'd kept with Mark 8/Mark 9 style (allowing you separate the two halves of the keyboard). I find this the one killer feature of the Kinesis FreeStyle. Unfortunately Kinesis Freestyle does not use mechanical keys.
Cool! I've never tried the ErgoDox though I've been halfway wanting one for a year or so. I think if I didn't have to jump through geekhack groupbuy's and assemble it myself I may have made the jump. I noticed that the Mark2 was closer to a HHKB or 60% layout and it does look quite a bit smaller than the next iterations - is that just the pictures or is that true? Do you find the split ErgoDox-like layout is better than a more compact keyboard, even if you don't suffer from wrist pain?
It was very close to a 60% keyboard. It just wasn't better enough than a 60% keyboard to really be worth my while. I find the split layout to be a lot more comfortable. And I didn't even touch-type when I fell down this rabbit hole.
Isn't the usual solution to stop doing whatever causes the pain? There isn't a known cure (ie pill, exercise, etc). If the impact of my fingers on the keyboard is causing the numbness then my best option Is to find a way to minimize the impact?
Nice! I have not made the jump to ergonomic though I do have both a Unicomp Model M and a DAS Keyboard (Cherry Blue) that are my prefered. Though neither keyboard is ergonomic, its use is because it allows me to place my laptop on a stand and use a second external monitor. This and switching to the Dvorak keyboard layout has made a huge difference to me personally in terms of hand comfort.
The HHKB (on which I type this) is kinda minimalist but it's still a "60%" keyboard (no numpad, no functions keys and no arrow keys for the HHKB but some 60% have dedicated arrow keys). There are people who have custom 40% keyboards (you simply use a modifier to access the "missing" numbers row).
The most minimalist has way less keys than that and is probably the DataHand (or something close to it, like a one-handed DataHand if such a beast exist?).
I like the look of the keyboards he realized, reminds me of the ErgoDox. Not that contrarily to the HHKB the keyboards in the blog aren't "staggered" and are all split. The HHKB appeals to many because it has incredible switches (Topre) yet stays very close to traditional keyboards that people have been using for years and years. It's not easy to adapt to a non-staggered layout and some people are allergic to split layouts.
If you're into that sort of thing, GeekHack.org and Deskthority.net are good places to hang out on.
good to see a GHer on the front page of HN... It's a nice board you made there and I prefer your thumbs key placement than the one on the ErgoDox, which I find to be too a bit too close one to another.
I have a Kinesis, and the trouble I found with these were that they are raised too far above the table surface which causes neck strain for me. I have had better luck with the Truly Ergonomic but this looks even better!
Meanwhile, most keyboards (especially desktop boards) have spacebars so wide that none of the modifier keys are easily reachable by thumb. C through M should be the widest allowable spacebar, and splitting it is great.
huge disclaimer: i work for a company that is about the be aquired by primax.
As you can see above, I'm working for a company that is currently being bought by http://primax.com.tw/ . I went on a factory tour of their facotry here inb China a few days ago.
They are basicly the biggest keyboard-producing factory in China/ the world. I love the mark 13, and it would be awesome if it could be mass-produced. Primax might be the right factory for that.
Which switches do you plan to use? Really like the sounds of this (I read your entire page, sorry to hear about your printer catching on fire!).
I looked for an ergo mechanical keyboard but couldn't find one to my liking so ended up with a Filco Majestouch 2 with Cherry Blue switches. Really love it except for the whole lack of ergonomics thing. The Cherry Blues are fantastic.
It'll be Cherry switches. Depending on who we end up with for a manufacturing partner, we may be able to offer a wide variety of switch options. If we can only pick one, I'd probably run with Cherry Browns. They feel a lot like the Blues, but won't piss off the people sitting around you.
That is a matter of some debate. Even in the scientific literature. But I do know that when it hurts less for me to type, I can type for longer stretches. And that's way more important to me than typing faster.
I've seen a trackpoint- (or some equivalent eraserhead pointer thingy) bearing keyboard with cherry (blue?) switches in the store, but it was a bit too "maximal" for my taste (numpad, lots of function keys etc).
OMG. I've been waiting for them to do this for forever. I've got a pair of M13s, neither of which is totally functional anymore. I never realized how much I used the trackpoint until I had to switch to the one where it wasn't working.
I don't have a number I'm ready to share in public. That's the big thing that's holding up a Kickstarter. Once we've got a manufacturing partner and know what our costs are, I'll be in a better place to give you a number.
We're working to build something that's going to work well and look gorgeous for a really long time. It's not going to be cheap, but I don't think we could justify charging more than Kinesis do for the Advantage.
I really wish Datahands were available for purchase. No one gets rid of them, and they aren't produced anymore (I tried emailing them numerous times before their site disappeared -- nothing). If anyone wants to sell a set, I'm buying!
I'm in contact with olddatahands who started the project. I'll be helping in any way I can.
Datahands take some commitment, but they pay off big time. It took me about 3 weeks of using them at work before I became comfortable. I'm sure if I started learning to type on dvorak that would be lessened - I went all in and switched to the dvorak datahands and now I can't type on regular keyboards at all. They at least have to be dvorak.
"Just" learning Dvorak isn't necessarily going to help people. For me, the angles I need to keep my wrists at to type on a traditional keyboard are a showstopper, no matter what layout I'm using. I've previously taught myself Dvorak. And Colemak. Both are, indeed, clearly better than QWERTY. They're not better enough to justify continuing to use a physical layout designed around 130 year old mechanical constraints.
Please note that I'm not saying people shouldn't ditch QWERTY. They should. But that alone isn't enough to just declare the battle won and go home.
(While the keyboard.io prototypes are labeled in QWERTY, the firmware speaks Dvorak and Colemak as well. As of last weekend, it also speaks Workman and a variant of the Maltron layout.)
I'm certainly not saying ergo keyboards aren't useful. It's just that dedicating dozens of prototypes that will always float hands up and to the right (to get at the vowels) seems a fools errand. Ergos are great! I just think, in the same way a cyclist can buy a $4000 bike to save 10 lbs, when a moderate diet would achieve the same weight reduction, that it seems a bit misplaced resources.
I'm a dvorak user and I agree with others that while it is useful, it's not sufficient alone for a good typing experience. Typing x, z, f is still more awkward than it needs to be, enter/backspace etc is difficult, and ctrl is in a really awful position on standard keyboards. (I'm sure every emacs user will agree.)
The difference is more like using an off-road bicycle to travel on flat roads. It's just the wrong tool for the job. The standard keyboard layout was designed how it is for a specific purpose: to allow physical parts to move on old typewriters. The placement of keys serves little purpose to the typist.
In our collective madness though, we have adapted ourselves to typewriter layouts, rather than adapting the layout to fit our hands when the requirement for moving physical parts disappeared.
The higher price of ergo keyboards is mainly a consequence of a much smaller market. Standard keyboards are only so cheap because they're mass produced, and have had countless iterations to simplify the production process over the years.
I'm in desperate need of a better ergo keyboard and I find projects like this one fascinating. I tried designing one myself a while back, but I don't have the skills to make it happen.
I disagree on dvorak, except in the sense that even dvorak doesn't remap the most awkward keys: backspace and control. If you put backspace on caps lock and control on alt gr (then you can hit it with your right thumb), you are %90 there.
On a Scandinavian keyboard I also put esc on the extra key right of the left shift. My current laptop has a US keyboard but I'll be a smarter shopper next time.