Despite being in a relatively technologically advanced world, we still have a lot of holdouts that are decidedly old-school. Why washers and dryers have become more efficient, they’re essentially the same machines your grandparents used. Fax machines are still the most common means of sending documents over long distances. Possibly one of the most glaring examples of this though is the keyboard that you use every day. But, the times they are a changin’, and Lenovo has decided to make some small changes to their keyboard layout which are actually making some big waves.
To understand why this is such a big deal, you have to understand where the layout of your keys was born. The layout on most keyboards is called QWERTY. The keys are actually laid out so that on average, you the most time possible between keystrokes, mostly because the layout was developed on typewriters that would jam. The layout stuck through the development of modern computing, and even though it’s clearly inefficient, we still use it. Alternatives exist, like the Dvorak layout, but these remain niche products that appeal mostly to the ubergeeks.
Laptops, and especially netbooks, pose their own set of challenges, requiring special thought to be paid to their design. Some manufactures cut the size of the shift key on their netbook’s keyboards, causing headaches and consumers had to retain themselves on how to type correctly.
Lenovo, maker of the ThinkPad, has been studying keyboard usage by installing keylogger software on volunteer’s laptops. Armed with this data, they’ve decided to make two small changes to the layout. The escape and delete keys are now twice as tall, which accommodates typists who tend to reach up to the keys instead of out to them, increasing efficiency and decreasing accidental taps.
Lenovo readily admits this layout isn’t perfect, considering that the caps lock key, bane of anyone on the receiving end of an email shouted at them and arguably the most useless key on a keyboard, still exists. Of course, intrepid users have learned how to remap the caps lock key to something more useful, like an extra command key or some fort of auto-script. Either way, we’ll probably never leave the QWERTY layout, so any finessing, no matter how small, is always welcome.