Tag Archives | Input Devices

How America Clicked

Nobody is ever going to list the TV remote as one of the most important inventions of all time. Maybe not even of the second half of the twentieth century. But if the remote had never been invented, life would be meaningfully different. Think about it: if we all still had to get up from our couches and trudge across the room to change the station, there’d be no such thing as channel surfing. (Then again, we’d be thinner from the calories we burned.) Dealing with more than a handful of stations would be impossibly unwieldy, too–no remote control, no 500-channel universe.

In short, the TV remote matters–and it’s it worth pausing to remember some of the most significant models to appear since 1950, plus a not-so-significant curiosity or two. (Click on the images below to see the ads, patents, and magazine pages at a much larger size.)

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PC Annoyances–and Fixes

PCs are annoying. They do unexpected things and act like little children. I know, because my computer’s always troubled — and from the e-mail I get, so’s yours.

This week: Solutions for some of the computing troubles and annoyances you’ve asked me to fix.

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The Nub of the Matter

I used to swear by ThinkPad-style tiny pointing sticks as my mobile input device of choice. I’ve since grown accustomed to touchpads–and come to think of it, before I swore by pointing sticks I swore by trackballs–but Laptop’s Avram Pitch is still a pointing-stick man, and has gone so far as to review them.

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The Plot to Kill Plain Old QWERTY

KeyborgsA couple of months ago, I dug into Google Patents and found some weird, weird pointing device patents. The results became the most popular Technologizer slideshow to date. Where there are mice, there are almost always keyboards–so I recently checked Google Patents for peculiar keyboards, and found an embarrassment of riches.

Most alternative keyboards aim to do away with what I think of as POQ–Plain Old Qwerty, or a keyboard with a standard layout and typical keys. The filings are full of optimistic claims about the benefits to be derived, and the ease with which wildly new keyboards can be learned. But as far as I know, the majority of these designs never got off the drawing board. I wouldn’t trade the completely unmemorable keyboard that came with my HP desktop for any of them–but I’m glad they’re there in Google Patents for rediscovery. And here they are as a Technologizer slideshow.

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Keyborgs! 21 Bizarre Keyboards

KeyborgsIf our ancestors of the late nineteenth century hitched a time-machine ride to 2009, nearly everything about the technology we use would leave them dumbstruck. They would, however, immediately recognize our computer keyboards, nearly all of which work in pretty much the same manner as the ones on Victorian-era typewriters. Which is not to say that a bevy of inventors haven’t tried to improve on standard-issue QWERTY. It’s just that most of their bright ideas go absolutely nowhere. Herewith, a gallery of Google Patents finds, including ones that never got off the drawing board, ones that flopped on arrival, and a few that achieved at least minor success among typists with open minds. Oh, and just for fun, there’s one bizarre keyboard in here that turned out to be bizarrely successful, too.


Death to QWERTY?

No QWERTYTechCrunch’s MG Siegler has a thought-provoking post up which discusses the multiple rumors and other bits of info out there about upcoming devices with touch interfaces–the fabled Apple Tablet, of course, but also Microsoft’s Courier dual-screen concept device and scuttlebutt about an Apple touch remote control and  multi-touch mouse. MG ponders all the evidence and comes up with a sweeping conclusion:

While it may be hard to imagine right now, eventually there will not be physical keyboards.

My first instinct was to dismiss the idea. I’ve written in praise of physical QWERTY; I’m not ready to give it up; I see no immediate scenarios that involve it disappearing. And hey, Steve Jobs himself told me that Apple couldn’t figure out how to make a Mac with a pleasing touch interface. (Yes, I know that Jobs saying that simply means that Apple doesn’t have anything it’s ready to roll out just yet.)

But with tech predictions, the safest strategy is often to avoid being safe. We’ve already seen the death of the floppy, and it’s clear that desktop PCs are on their way to being archaic, niche products. And I’ve frequently predicted that it’s not going to be very long until most people think of the PC as something you can put in your pocket. So I’m not ruling out the possibility that MG’s prediction is right–although I’m guessing that the decline, fall, and disappearance of physical QWERTY will take a decade or two if it happens at all, and that it’s contingent on smart people inventing better ways to enter text via touch interfaces and/or voice input.

What’s your take?


Peregrine Gives Players a First-Touch

peregrine1In the world of competitive videogaming, speed is everything. So Iron Will Technologies, a gaming hardware maker, decided to bring in some pros to show off its one-of-a-kind input device, the Peregrine. The device is similar to a glove control device currently under development for the military, according to Iron Will CEO Brent Baier.

The left-hand glove is made of thin, stretchy mesh material, and its most immediately obvious feature is the Tron-like circuit traces embedded in the fabric. Essentially, the traces inside the glove act as electronic circuits, called Touch Points. Players can close a circuit by making contact between a touch point and one of three grounding spots — two on the thumb, and one planted across the palm. The first four fingers have five touch points, and the pinky finger has two. A magnetically-connected USB dongle attaches the glove to a Windows PC.

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