Keyboards, comfort and the akimbo solution

I've always been rather fond of trying new things that twist the way I think about and interact with things and computers are no exception. Ever since I used The Typing of the Dead to learn how to touch type, I have taken an interest in keyboard layouts and designs and the more time I spend typing in my life, the more I come to understand the effects of typing comfort compounded over time. Prior to 2001, I was a dedicated 2-4 finger typist, capable of achieving over 30-40wpm using what amounted to "hunt and peck" without the hunting; it was essentially a successive offsetting solution using memorized relative positions to guide my hands. Then, in 2001, I built my beloved thevoid and got a Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro because it looked cool, had a USB hub and some neat programmable function buttons. The Natural keyboard has the fairly standard split keyboard layout, which completely broke my relative position scheme--the gap in the middle prevented cross-overs, which were integral to the scheme. At that point I slowly began learning how to touch type but later in the year, I discovered The Typing of the Dead and that changed everything; in addition to making speed typing a game, it also included a very useful typing tutor.

Having learned proper touch typing, I had divorced myself from cross-overs and was able to enjoy the comfort provided by a split keyboard. Additionally, at this time, I was living in a dormitory with my good friend, Riad, who swears by Kinesis ergonomic keyboards, which I must agree are really comfortable. The Kinesis keyboard is probably the most comfortable and ergonomic keyboard solution that I had encountered prior to the jerry-rigged solution that I've just devised (see below). The Kinesis keyboards, however, have the huge disadvantage of being really expensive.

From there, my keyboard experiments languished for a number of years until one day, when I was bored, I put lettered stickers on thevoid's keyboard keys and switched the layout to a Dvorak layout. Learning Dvorak was not entirely painless and I eventually gave it up because the positions of the '[/{' and ']/}' keys made C/C++ programming inconvenient--this later turned out to be because I didn't full learn to touch-type Dvorak. I have switched to Dvorak and back probably half a dozen times since, getting better each time; sometimes using Dvorak and QWERTY concurrently on different machines. At this point, I can switch between Dvorak and QWERTY with ease and I can say, without reservation, that Dvorak is much easier, faster and more comfortable than QWERTY. At present, I am using QWERTY because some of my keyboards are not suited to Dvorak layouts and it makes my new configuration more practical.

Recently, I've started to notice more so than before, how very uncomfortable it is to touch-type on an unsplit keyboard; the arm and wrist contortion is terrible. I was thinking that I might do well to ask the IT department at work if I could get a split keyboard but I'm much more the type to improvise an elaborate solution than walk 100 feet and ask someone for something. I asked myself what the ideal layout would be and decided that a split keyboard solves the wrist contortion but it still requires the arms to be uncomfortably tight in to the body. The solution: two keyboards, one 45° left, one 45° right, mouse in the center; each hand uses half a keyboard and it turns out to be really comfortable. If I want to adjust how one hand rests, I only need to adjust that one keyboard. Sure it takes a lot of desk space but I have that in spades right now and it really complements my multi-monitor setup. This is my akimbo solution and I really like it; if you know how to touch-type, have the desk space and a spare keyboard, I highly recommend giving it a try. Having just checked with a small online test, I am averaging about 60wpm and 96% accuracy with my keyboards akimbo layout.

Also, just so we're clear, I do know that akimbo is etymologically incorrect but it is a linguistic mutation that I approve of.

Comments

You need to make this a product that I can buy. Mouse in the middle is one of the few configurations that I can sustain, which I jury rig by crossing my arm over my kinesis to the other side's mouse - at work on my left, and at home on my right.

Also, get your damn company to buy you a Kinesis. They're taking the best years of your life - they might as well leave you with functional use afterwards.

Actually, I sort of really want Das Keyboard, or maybe two so I can dual wield.

Are you serious? That looks horrid.

I don't want it for ergonomic reasons; those would be solved by getting two. I want it for the switch based keys and the careful weighting targeted at different fingers. On top of that, having all the keys be unlabeled would break my habit of looking down at the keyboard occasionally. The cupped home keys also sound like a keen idea.