On Father’s day my daughter and I went to see the new Disney/Pixar film “Inside Out”. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should… It’s not just for kids but it is indeed ideal family fare.
In recent years Pixar has been fronting their films with a short, which hearkens back to how cinemas used to work when I was a kid … there was often a ‘serial’ to encourage you to come back next week, newsreels (no TV back then), or animated shorts for the kids.
This time around, we get a bittersweet romance between two volcanoes, which takes place over the course of millions of years. The twenty-somethings don’t know enough about life to appreciate it, but the older people will, and the young kids will just enjoy the animation and music. Speaking of which, it’s a really plaintive and infectious song, sung with a ukelele. It’s available to buy on Amazon or iTunes, and you can watch here courtesy of YouTube:
As I continue to tweak (and wait for components to arrive), the Internet has delivered some other designs and ideas, which have some similarities to my design. First up is the μTron split ergo keyboard, which looks like this:
I had been reading assorted keyboard-enthusiast websites like GeekHack, DeskThority, etc. and seen comments about how useless the Caps Lock key was. So I thought I would do something more useful with that key, and turn it into a Delete key instead. I kept the Caps Lock function as a shift action on that key. And to balance things, I did the same on the right hand side, so now you have a Caps Lock facility on both sides.
I thought it would be useful to have the plus and minus keys more accessible, so added them on the inside. Getting a bit crowded there now.
Programmer’s KeyBoard v 1.75
Yes, that centre column above the Enter keys is way too busy. While working and analyzing my own key usage, I noticed that I use the / much more than the +. Programmers, especially in HTML etc, use -, _ and / a lot more than people who type English text. So I had to make a plan. I also decided that Workman-P had put the I where it did for good reasons and I should leave I where it should be … So I swapped it back, and put the ; where it had been… which should reduce the likelihood of hitting the wrong : or ;.
When ordering the keycaps I had to make a few colour changes. Also changed the Esc logo from an airplane to the international symbol sign, and asked the FontAwesome people to add it to their collection
Programmer’s KeyBoard v1.64
Decided the Yin Yang symbol was a bit too clichéd and Eastern, so switched it for something more interesting. I had seen the symbol in FontAwesome but had no idea what it was, but my interest was piqued. But the Internet always delivers, and a few days later I stumbled across some Star Wars symbols and there is was… a quick visit to Wikipedia and it’s fate was sealed. The Rebel Alliance lives. I also noticed that recent Microsoft keyboard designs have started playing down that key, and the Menu key, so I decided to combine them into one. I was looking for an extra key, because the period and comma were buried in the numpad, and while useful there when dealing with numbers, it was a bit inconvenient the rest of the time for such frequently used characters. I added some extra ones.
So after a laborious and rather nerve-wracking process, I have finalised the colours and ordered the keycaps. I reduced the number of colours and combined functional groups in the process. Was also limited by which caps in which sizes and colours were available. Was not able to get matching ‘indicator’ (the typing ‘home’ keys) for the Alpha chars. But I never used them anyway, I’m not a classically trained touch typist 🙂 . Cost was almost US$ 200. Ouch. Next up is the switches, once I find someone trustworthy to sell them to me.
Just when you think you’re done, you’re not. The backtick/tilde key had been bothering me. I don’t use the backtick much, but I know shell programmers do, and apparently also people who work in Emacs. I do however use the tilde key a lot: when exporting from spreadsheets to .csv, I use the tilde as a separator, as it’s much easier to split something like this
“Smith, John”~26~”1 Nice Road, Cool Area, Big Town, 1234″~ “2010-02-03” by splitting on the ~ than trying to do it with this:
“Smith, John”,26,”1 Nice Road, Cool Area, Big Town, 1234″, “2010-02-03”
Also, while going over advantages and disadvantages of the layout, the lack of symmetry bothered me, as well as the backslash/pipe key looking rather lonely. I also realised that my problem with the period and the comma being next to each other was now mirrored with the semi-colon and colon next to each other. I might hit the wrong one.
My ageing Microsoft Natural Keyboard (original design) was not happy after I spilt some water on it. It insisted on typing unexpected letters, so I swapped it out for the 4000 version, which I don’t particularly like.
I then commenced a search for a replacement keyboard, and looked at every model available on-line. I learnt two things: all the current designs suck, and I really should switch to a mechanical keyboard. My thumbs have been hurting for years, and I found posts on-line blaming the space-bar on MS Naturals for causing that.
So given that there was nothing suitable available, I decided to make my own, having stumbled across people who do that as a hobby etc. Much Googling later, I discovered Keyboard Layout Editor and set to work on my own layout, the Programmer’s KeyBoard, aka PKB.