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Pianist promises to usurp QWERTY keyboards

Pianist promises to usurp QWERTY keyboards

Krush's keyboard may be little more than a provisional patent application and a few diagrams, but the former pianist has high hopes for his QWERTY successor.

A retired pianist turned inventor has come up with what he claims is a revolutionary design of keyboard with which he hopes to supplant the QWERTY standard - and in doing so boost typing speeds up to 200 words per minute.

Joseph Krush, co-inventor of a triangular twist on the Rubik's Cube puzzle and former professional pianist, has been using keyboards since 1960 - both the musical type and those of mechanical typewriters. Since then, the then-six-year-old Krush has seen technology grow apace with his Underwood typewriter being long replaced with a computer keyboard - but is curious as to why the key layout has remained the same.

Most modern keyboards - at least those targeting English-language typists - use the QWERTY layout, named for the first six keys on the top-left letter row. While some small variants exist for other languages - chiefly AZERTY for France and Belgium and QWERTZ in Germany and Central Europe - the overall layout is typically the same. QWERTY and its variants are all based on a layout originally developed for Sholes and Glidden typewriters in the 1870s before being tweaked by Remington and Sons for the 1878 Remington No. 2 typewriter, which was designed to speed typing by moving commonly-used keys further apart to prevent the type-bars from striking together and jamming during fast typing.

Since then, however, changes have been minimal. Despite the rapid progression of technology in the intervening years - it's unlikely Sholes and Glidden could have predicted the laptop computer - the QWERTY layout survives, with only minor modifications such as the inclusion of the numerals 0 and 1, the addition of computer-related function keys and the invention of the calculator-mimicking numeric keypad. After all, it works; why change?

Krush believes he has an answer: the opportunity to vastly increase typing speeds, to the point where a trained typist could easily hit 200 words per minute using a modified layout. By contrast, a 1998 study put the average typing speed for transcription work at around 33 words per minute while a 1997 report (PDF warning) suggested that speeds of up to 100 words per minute made for a professional typist. In other words: Krush is promising nothing less than a doubling in typists' performance.

The keyboard, known as the K200K, features a layout vastly different to that of a typical QWERTY design. Based around three rows of twelve keys, the K200K includes functions not normally found: a Word key, and a Double Shift key. The former, Krush explains, allows for single-key word completion from pre-programmed entries on the top two rows and from customisable macros on the bottom row - a feature readers old enough to remember Sir Clive Sinclair's esoteric ZX80, ZX81 and Spectrum keyboards will find familiar. The latter, meanwhile, allows for a second shift function to make up for the loss of dedicated numeric keys - putting the numeral 1 on the O key, the numeral 2 on the A key to its right and so forth.

'I first got the idea for the Double Shift key over 20 years ago, some time in the early 1990s,' Krush explains. 'But today, it is an even better idea than it was then, because today it is possible to program keys. I have not designated any letters or numbers or symbols for the Double Shift key to be used together with the keys of the bottom row, but clearly there is a lot of potential here, because twelve keys are available. We could add international symbols, or foreign language letters, or symbols such as accents and cedillas, or anything else that users could find useful.'

The most interesting feature of the K200K, however, comes from Krush's musical background: the 36 keys across the three rows correspond to three octaves of notes - a happy coincidence that Krush is eager to exploit by associating each key with a single musical note. 'This association will enable users to associate letters and fingers with pitches,' claims Krush, explaining that he sees the possibility for such a system to aid blind users in entering text. 'This much I know for sure: many blind persons have an incredibly good sense of hearing, even if they are not musicians. There has to be a way to associate letters with pitches that will make life easier for them.'

Krush isn't the only man who thinks he can improve upon a near century-and-a-half-old design. Over the years numerous 'successors' to QWERTY have been launched to great fanfare, only to disappear shortly thereafter. The Dvorak layout, developed by August Dvorak and William Dealey in 1936, was one of the most successful - layouts for Dvorak users are a feature of all modern operating systems - but is still rare, despite being used for Barbara Blackburn's world-record 170 words per minute burst-rate; the more QWERTY-like Colemak layout is rarer still.

More dramatic alterations to the design of the keyboard have included chording keyboards - like the Microwriter - and stenotype keyboards, the latter of which allows for sustained text entry at a rate of up to 225 words per minute but requires extensive training and practice to become proficient. Neither have caught on in the mainstream, nor come anywhere close to the ubiquity of QWERTY.

Krush admits that his work is in the very early stages - he has applied for a patent, and currently seeks funding to finalise the application while students at an unnamed technology-centric university in Europe work on the design. Thus far, Krush has not produced a prototype - planning one for some time in 2014, ahead of a small-scale production run of up to 100 units - but already has plans for how he will convince users to switch from QWERTY. 'Once the new keyboard comes out, I plan to organize typing competitions literally by the hundreds, in all provinces and states of all English-speaking countries,' claims Krush. 'This can easily be done over the internet, and it is amazing what an attractive amount of prize money can achieve!'

For now, however, Krush's keyboard remains little more than a diagram and a provisional patent application with backers so far providing just $145 towards his target $9,000 goal on crowd-funding site FundaGeek. Whether Krush will be rembered as the man who supplanted the QWERTY layout, or the K200K left as forgotten as the Microwriter, remains to be seen.

35 Comments

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Shirty 24th June 2013, 10:56 Quote
If this ever sees the light of day, you can guarantee that our very own Margon will be one of the trailblazers.
Pieface 24th June 2013, 11:16 Quote
QWERTY is so implemented I'd be surprised if anything could replace it. No-one would want to risk on Laptops as it could be a massive failure, and it will be a very niche keyboard market.
Guinevere 24th June 2013, 13:19 Quote
No patent. No practical studies. No mock-up. No prototype. No product.

No hope.
sixfootsideburns 24th June 2013, 13:21 Quote
There is no way this will be 100% revolutionize the market. Not every needs and/or cares about being able to type 200 words a minute. I can type about 60 wpm at normal speed on a QWERTY (probably closer to 75 if I'm going for speed) and I wouldn't consider myself all that fast to be honest. That is still more than ample for my typing needs and I'm not likely to go learn a new keyboard layout let alone by a new keyboard just to increase my efficiency. My guess is the large majority of the market feels the same.

I can however see this being a success with people who spend a lot of time typing. Secretaries, writers, etc.
theshadow2001 24th June 2013, 13:54 Quote
The first thing that comes to my mind is to implement it on smart phones rather than with a regular keyboard. The more compact layout seems ideal rather than trying to squeeze a qwerty in on a tiny smartphone screen
schmidtbag 24th June 2013, 14:12 Quote
I've considered getting a dvorak keyboard myself for a long time, but I don't really feel like re-learning how to type, and I'm not sure what I'd end up doing if I went to work or a friend's house with a qwerty. I do think it's a shame qwerty was used from the beginning for computers though. You'd think people would know better that a digital system isn't going to encounter the same jamming problem, and since it was basically a new era of machines, it would make more sense to attempt to optimize people's typing skills. It's not like typists were all that common back then.
matt... 24th June 2013, 14:15 Quote
Unfortunately, unless the keyboards are easier to learn to use and are given away free to schools, I cannot see this innovation having any more success than the Dvorak keyboard... the Dvorak keyboards didn't fail to displace the QWERTY because it was an inferior product - rather it failed to displace it because people had to learn to use it.
Stanley Tweedle 24th June 2013, 14:32 Quote
Well... Ironically I use an 88 note weighted midi piano keyboard instead of a PC keyboard. The piano keys are mapped to key presses obviously.
Gareth Halfacree 24th June 2013, 14:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
It's not like typists were all that common back then.
That's actually the problem: typists were massively common by the time computers became readily available for use in the lab and, later, business. Offices would frequently have a 'typing pool,' a room full of women - and they were invariably women - who would type up correspondence on mechanical typewriters.

When computers were first introduced, the majority of them didn't have a keyboard in the traditional sense: users would program them by flipping switches, or inserting punched cards - and the punch-card machine has a lot more in common with a mechanical typewriter than a digital keyboard, right down to rods that can jam if you type too quickly.

Later, when it became important to input large amounts of text rather than small amounts of numbers, users would use Teletype terminals. Half computer terminal, half typewriter, these were again jam-prone mechanical devices - and served as the output as well as the input. Incidentally, if you've ever wondered why POSIX-based systems refer to their controlling terminals as TTYs: Teletype.

Even when computers got digital keyboards and monitors, and stopped taking up a room and started sitting on or by desks instead, the QWERTY layout was maintained because there were loads of typists - not because there weren't very many. A company might be able to afford a single computer and ten or so terminals, but these would be used in addition to the dozens - or, in a larger company, several hundred - mechanical typewriters. If staff were constantly swapping between a QWERTY layout on a mechanical typewriter and some other layout on the computer terminals productivity would drop dramatically - hence the decision to stick with QWERTY even though arm jamming was no longer a problem.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stanley Tweedle
Well... Ironically I use an 88 note weighted midi piano keyboard instead of a PC keyboard. The piano keys are mapped to key presses obviously.
I would love to see a video of that in action - what sort of speed can you get up to? I assume you were already a pianist before making the move? I - as you may have noticed - do a heck of a lot of typing, and worry about the long-term effects. I've played with a few alternatives, including bizarre 'ergonomic' keyboards, but keep coming back to my Model F.
Stanley Tweedle 24th June 2013, 15:03 Quote
Well to be honest... my pianist skills have dropped to near zero since I became addicted to guitar. I am now in the process of assigning all my key presses to my PRS Paul Allender SE.

http://www.pmtonline.co.uk/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/1000x1000/5e06319eda06f020e43594a9c230972d/p/a/paul_allender/pmtonline-prs-st95516-31.jpg
fix-the-spade 24th June 2013, 17:04 Quote
So if this takes off what happens to WASD controls?
SuicideNeil 24th June 2013, 18:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fix-the-spade
So if this takes off what happens to WASD controls?

Say hello to WAIE! :D

Thing is though, this 'keyboard' looks like it would be rather small, so could easily be sold as an ad-on usb peripheral, just like a number pad or one of those gaming key pads. No need to replace your £100+ gaming keyboard when you can just have a ~£20 extra pad to learn this new layout with, and perhaps use for typing if you like how it works for you ( no great loss if it doesn't ).

Now, to patent the idea... *trolololol*
SchizoFrog 24th June 2013, 18:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pieface
QWERTY is so implemented I'd be surprised if anything could replace it. No-one would want to risk on Laptops as it could be a massive failure, and it will be a very niche keyboard market.

While I agree that QWERTY is so implemented I think it would be very easy to implement. With more and more devices becoming touch screen all you need is to have an app that overrides the standard QWERTY software on screen.
AiA 24th June 2013, 18:35 Quote
WASD

ok you could use other keys for gaming

anyway, the keyboard just looks a little complicated to someone who doesn't have a clue
at least with the current keyboard, non IT people can manage to use it, i still don't know where that 'any key' is
Nexxo 24th June 2013, 19:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
That's actually the problem: typists were massively common by the time computers became readily available for use in the lab and, later, business. Offices would frequently have a 'typing pool,' a room full of women - and they were invariably women - who would type up correspondence on mechanical typewriters.

When computers were first introduced, the majority of them didn't have a keyboard in the traditional sense: users would program them by flipping switches, or inserting punched cards - and the punch-card machine has a lot more in common with a mechanical typewriter than a digital keyboard, right down to rods that can jam if you type too quickly.

Later, when it became important to input large amounts of text rather than small amounts of numbers, users would use Teletype terminals. Half computer terminal, half typewriter, these were again jam-prone mechanical devices - and served as the output as well as the input. Incidentally, if you've ever wondered why POSIX-based systems refer to their controlling terminals as TTYs: Teletype.

Even when computers got digital keyboards and monitors, and stopped taking up a room and started sitting on or by desks instead, the QWERTY layout was maintained because there were loads of typists - not because there weren't very many. A company might be able to afford a single computer and ten or so terminals, but these would be used in addition to the dozens - or, in a larger company, several hundred - mechanical typewriters. If staff were constantly swapping between a QWERTY layout on a mechanical typewriter and some other layout on the computer terminals productivity would drop dramatically - hence the decision to stick with QWERTY even though arm jamming was no longer a problem.

Don't forget the Telex teleprinter --it was email of the 60's! Two massive electrical typewriters connected by a dedicated phone line: a person types on one Telex, the Telex on the other end types out a copy of the text in tandem. For longer communications you'd spool a pre-written (as in: typed on the Telex in off-line mode) tickertape. My mother used to operate one and reach the fabled 100 wpm, but she had to strike the keys in an exact, steady frequency to keep input in pace with the data going out and prevent buffer overflow.
jinq-sea 24th June 2013, 21:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guinevere
No patent.

Not true. He's got the right to claim priority back to that provisional application, retaining his filing date. Therefore, he could have a patent in the fullness of time :)
LordPyrinc 24th June 2013, 21:15 Quote
I used a split-key or "natural" keyboard for quite some time. While the key layout remained the same, the angle offset really helped to increase my comfort whilst typing and in turn increased my typing speeds. I switched back to a standard layout mainly due to lack of space on my keyboard desk drawer. I think it would be difficult to learn a new keyboard layout especially if you are switching back and forth between styles on a regular basis (work v's home). I'm wondering too if certain letters are more prevalent now in the English language as opposed to what they were when the QWERTY layout was developed. Altering the layout slightly may help improve speeds, but again, I would think it would be tough to adopt based on the prevalence of the current style.

Never heard of anyone typing on a piano keyboard before. That's pretty cool.
faugusztin 24th June 2013, 21:33 Quote
Do you want high words per minute ? Type in Chinese :
http://shanghaiist.com/2008/11/19/video_woman_types_at_520_chinese_ch.php

Anyway, this keyboard is pointlessly complicated and one language only, so it really can't be used in globally sold products, which is pretty much everything on the market. His only chances are low volume standalone keyboards and maybe phone apps. Outside of that, no chance whatsoever.
SAimNE 24th June 2013, 23:40 Quote
i've actually been somewhat hoping for an more efficient key layout... but i've gotta say the image doesnt look like something i'd want :|
NaThRo 25th June 2013, 03:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fix-the-spade
So if this takes off what happens to WASD controls?

With my Dvorak set up at home, at least one of my games automatically adjusted to ",AOE"
I have a second keyboard set to QWERTY for those that don't... I just have to remember to change the computer language before firing up the game. I'll get around to re-mapping the keys in game eventually...
Gradius 25th June 2013, 03:08 Quote
Well... this won't gonna works.
slisgrinder 25th June 2013, 03:23 Quote
Anyone have a look at minuum yet?

http://minuum.com/

I am trying it out now, takes some getting used to but for someone who doesn't text a lot (me) I found that I can type faster...
Bindibadgi 25th June 2013, 03:47 Quote
Just wanted to say:

ursurp - nice!

TTY - I read as titty.

As NaThRo said, it's not like there aren't more efficient alternatives already out there. In fact it's not the English market that needs a new keyboard: Chinese does. Typing in Chinese is so wholly unnatural on a 'normal' keyboard.
fluxtatic 25th June 2013, 08:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stanley Tweedle
Well to be honest... my pianist skills have dropped to near zero since I became addicted to guitar. I am now in the process of assigning all my key presses to my PRS Paul Allender SE.

http://www.pmtonline.co.uk/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/1000x1000/5e06319eda06f020e43594a9c230972d/p/a/paul_allender/pmtonline-prs-st95516-31.jpg


Pshh, not looking for a pic of some PRS guitar (nice maple, too bad it's got that purple finish on it - wood that beautiful should be left natural).

Come on, man, make with the video of you typing on a piano!

(And what I see in my mind is a dude sitting at a piano keyboard, swaying as he types like my mom did playing Fur Elise when I was a kid).

On-topic, though, this is going nowhere. In my younger years, I was near 60wpm and never had any real training. It was that way trying to keep up in the old chat rooms. I don't think saving 1.5 seconds now banging out an email at the office will make much difference. I would guess that doubling your typing efficiency now would be niche - transcriptionists come to mind. Maybe authors hoping to get their thoughts down more quickly (I can type faster than I can talk, but they're both way the hell slower than my brain).

Reminds me of a lady I knew that could touch-type at 70-80 and she took dictation...but it only mattered after the fact. Her very old-skool boss insisted she take everything down shorthand. Now you want to talk niche - how many of you know what I'm talking about?
fluxtatic 25th June 2013, 08:21 Quote
oh, and no numpad? Dealbreaker - I 10-key all day long and I want to punch the people that have a numpad and don't use it, pecking with their index fingers on the top row.
Ljs 25th June 2013, 10:14 Quote
I quite like the idea and am not opposed to something taking the crown from QWERTY.

Should it make communication more efficent, I can only see it as a bonus.

I think the key really is integration. Before (or if at all) we see full size desktop keyboards being manufactured, it will most likely be used on other devices first.
faugusztin 25th June 2013, 10:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ljs
I think the key really is integration. Before (or if at all) we see full size desktop keyboards being manufactured, it will most likely be used on other devices first.

Unlikely. "Other devices" (laptops, phones) could fail very hard just because of this keyboard - standalone full size desktop keyboard is the ideal "test market" for a new keyboard layout.
Stanley Tweedle 25th June 2013, 11:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fluxtatic
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stanley Tweedle
Well to be honest... my pianist skills have dropped to near zero since I became addicted to guitar. I am now in the process of assigning all my key presses to my PRS Paul Allender SE.

http://www.pmtonline.co.uk/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/1000x1000/5e06319eda06f020e43594a9c230972d/p/a/paul_allender/pmtonline-prs-st95516-31.jpg


Pshh, not looking for a pic of some PRS guitar (nice maple, too bad it's got that purple finish on it - wood that beautiful should be left natural).

Come on, man, make with the video of you typing on a piano!

(And what I see in my mind is a dude sitting at a piano keyboard, swaying as he types like my mom did playing Fur Elise when I was a kid).

On-topic, though, this is going nowhere. In my younger years, I was near 60wpm and never had any real training. It was that way trying to keep up in the old chat rooms. I don't think saving 1.5 seconds now banging out an email at the office will make much difference. I would guess that doubling your typing efficiency now would be niche - transcriptionists come to mind. Maybe authors hoping to get their thoughts down more quickly (I can type faster than I can talk, but they're both way the hell slower than my brain).

Reminds me of a lady I knew that could touch-type at 70-80 and she took dictation...but it only mattered after the fact. Her very old-skool boss insisted she take everything down shorthand. Now you want to talk niche - how many of you know what I'm talking about?

LOL... You prefer natural finish? Chipboard dung look very nice without a purple coat.

I did have some typing lessons at college many years ago. It was boring as hell. I didn't apply what I was taught and so just typed with a few fingers. I have no need to be able to type fast. For music it's a different story. 170bpm playing and beyond.

:)
Ljs 25th June 2013, 12:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by faugusztin
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ljs
I think the key really is integration. Before (or if at all) we see full size desktop keyboards being manufactured, it will most likely be used on other devices first.

Unlikely. "Other devices" (laptops, phones) could fail very hard just because of this keyboard - standalone full size desktop keyboard is the ideal "test market" for a new keyboard layout.

Who said it had to be implemented in the traditional fashion via hardware?

It could just be an app created.
faugusztin 25th June 2013, 13:32 Quote
And uhm, what use would be there for that ? Phones have far more efficient methods than this keyboard.
Ljs 25th June 2013, 14:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by faugusztin
And uhm, what use would be there for that ? Phones have far more efficient methods than this keyboard.

Getting there.

Ok, flip that around; are you saying mobiles/tablets are more efficient than a QWERTY keyboard?
faugusztin 25th June 2013, 14:40 Quote
No. But just look at that proposal, it is unusable in portrait mode. Ok, it could be a solution for landscape mode - but :
1) why would anyone will create a keyboard for just one language ?
2) the main reason for speed increase is already there on mobile devices - it's called T9 and XT9. Why would they create a special key for 24 most commonly words, when you can just use predictive text for your whole vocabulary, or just type abbreviations for whole chuncks of text ? Simply put, this keyboard would perform worse than the solutions already found on the mobile devices. But hey, be my guest, create such an keyboard app for Android and let fast typist try it out...
Tyinsar 25th June 2013, 18:33 Quote
Many years ago I tried Dvorak and I found it easier to learn and nicer to use but the switch when I had to use Qwerty was a killer. However, I have read a few articles saying the whole inferiority of Qwerty is vastly overblown and possibly just a myth.
Top "qwerty typewriter myth" result: http://www.economist.com/node/196071

Still, I did like Dvorak better when I tried it.
Clesm 25th June 2013, 20:24 Quote
Used Dvorak quite a bit and found it easier and quicker but then started to help people with computer problems and was using multiple shared computers at work and switching between 2 systems became a pain and slowed things down so just conformed. So Unless you can replace 60% of all systems bound to fail.
theshadow2001 26th June 2013, 00:16 Quote
The one thing I do like about this keyboard is that it may be possible to type full words while still have the other hand on the mouse, removing the need to switch between the two devices.
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