The future of the physical keyboard…
Even as a little boy, I loved to play with my mother’s out-dated typewriters. Not because I see a deeper meaning behind it, such as the spread of the written word, story telling or poesy. No just the kind of technique and the fact that it’s possible to bring every thought down on paper on a such elegant and effektive way. May be this is one reason why my handwriting was terrible since the first grade. Later I also recognised that computers are also powerful tools too and was fascinated by writers and programmers how fast they can wrote on a keyboard.
Growing up with all the scifi-movies, a nerdy attitude and a enthusiasm for technique doesn’t make the whole thing better, I was absolute into computers, laptops, mobiles and any else “high-tech-gadget”.
So I early started to fiddle with all little computers and gadgets I could get. When computers where expensive and my family didn’t have enough money to buy one, I start to play with handhelds and the first mobile phones. And later of course I get my first computer and was instant addicted.
And they all have one thing together — a hardware keyboard. I also used PDA’s but the stylus’ where another and slower approach of data input. And later I used PDA’s which had a stylus, a keyboard and a touch screen (like the Sony Clie PEG-NX70V).
And then a little dream come true — Smartphones started to take over the world. Little devices which give you the ability to make photos, videos, PDA-Stuff, search for informations and communicate in nearly every thinkable way.
My first “real” smartphone was the Google Android G1 (aka HTC Dream). It was perfekt! All the features I ever wished in one little device! And it got even a background-lighted sidekick keyboard and as pointing device there was a small trackball (and of course a touchscreen).
For using the command line or terminal emulators it was great! Later I tried to replace this kind of use case with the ZipIt and a special Open-WRT Rom, but with just WiFi it make it obsolete for the way I would use it.
And now the most (or even every) serious smartphone got just a the touch screen. I not have really a problem with a touch screen, it is the good old qwerty keyboard in a virtual version. From today’s point of view the G1 is garbage and it was possibly already at that time. But the pragmatic design and the keyboard made it something special for me (may be like the old think pads).
Typing on a regular physical keyboard is like playing an instrument every time you use it, you get a little bit better and faster. The learn curve with virtual keyboards (with swipe, autocorrect, spellchecking etc.) is at the beginning more high, but I can’t type better or faster on them. Today I can use a iPhone very fast with my thumbs. It is even possible to type on it without looking at it (partially). But I don’t feel comfortable to write long texts on it. Even the iPad with its bigger size, is not really fast by tipping with ten fingers.
More and more often I try to use Siri to answer short messages, in this case I think text to speech really useful and fast.
A lot of friends using Blackberries, I like Blackberries but they slept many inventions so it’s not a real alternative for me. And keyboard covers often use bluetooth or making my smartphone much bigger and heavier.
I really hope, that there will be any invention in this direction — this couldn’t be the end for a device so many people use that often every day. And I remember the moment as Steve Jobs at the Macworld 2007 in San Francisco ask the rhetorical question “Who wants a stylus?”, then 8 years later Apple presents the Apple Pencil — a stylus. So may the exiting techniques need just a little improve. But it would be great when the next input-device innovation got similar properties to the good old keyboard.