Minimal Typing
small footprint keyboard

 T
here is some difficulty with typing into small handheld devices because a full alphanumeric display takes up too much space to fit into a cell phone size interface that's big enough for human hands. Some solutions I've seen are the mini-keyboard of the Blackberry which you press with thumbs (tiresome and awkward) ... the "air-guitar" method wherein the device "knows" where your fingers are in space and you type full size on an imaginary keyboard ... and sundry "we'll help you fill in the rest" wherein a program anticipates what you want to do next and occasionally gets it right ... maybe. None of these has proven satisfactory, so ...

Here is my solution

What I suggest is to select by means of multiple simultaneous finger inputs. Like this ...

There are six "keys" of approximately normal size. Let's call them for now 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

As individual keys when pressed they might mean the letters a, e, i, o, u, and maybe s. I'd pick the most common letters in the English language for the easiest press configurations. The six keys would be in two rows of three. The index finger would be responsible for the number 1 and 2 keys ... the middle finger for the 3 and 4 keys and the ring finger for 5 and 6. [This is a right handed unit]

The two-finger combinations are:
13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 24, 25, 26, 35, 36, 45, and 46. That's 12 more letters to denote in addition to the original six given above. To these combinations would be assigned more commonly used consonants.

There are now eight more three finger combinations:
135, 246 (easy combos straight across)
136, 145, 146, 235, 236, and 245 ... none of which are terribly hard to perform but would be assigned the least used letters like x, z, q, etc.

This yields exactly 26 combinations. There are no more since we cannot use a combination like 12 because that would require that we "squirm" the index finger to cover two keys at once or "squirm" the middle finger over to the left to help out the index finger. I want to use the least motion for each letter designation with no wrist turning at all. That's why the keys are angled ... ergonomics. And ... the left hand is to just hold the device while the right hand operates on it as would be the case if we were trying to send a message to someone while standing up.

Other buttons:

The big wheel button "I" is like the Ipod sellector. It's for going through the other stuff that's not involved in typing ... like making a phone call, taking a picture or watching a movie on the 100 gig mini-hard drive ;o).

The "space bar" does just that but with a helpful extra (that can be disabled in the set up menu which you get to with the Ipod wheel). When you press the space bar it puts one space in the document. When you press twice, you get a comma and a space. When you press three times you get a period, a space and a new sentence starting with a capital letter which is the next one specified. When you press four times in a row, you get a period, new paragragh, indentation and capital letter on the next letter selected. If you press five times, you get a space again so you're cycling through four possibilities. I think this would be very helpful and would reduce keystrokes with no big problems. The space bar would be pressed with the thumb.

The "L" button is the legend. When you press this, the work area in the display goes to half screen and the other half shows the rules and letter configurations for the mode you are in. So, if you are typing, it would show in half the screen all this stuff about what to press to get the right letter or figure that you need.

The "S" button is the shift for capital letters. When you press this button, the last typed letter will be capitalized. You don't have to press this simultaneously as you would on a manual typewriter of 50 years ago. I don't know why they held this rule over from then on computers. It certainly isn't needed. It was only used on manual keyboards decades ago because it "lifted" the carriage so that the capital letter would hit the ink ribbon instead of the other raised metal small letter on the striker. If you want all capitals (capital lock) just hold the button down for a second and it locks. To unlock, press once again.

The "C" button is for calculator. In the print mode this will assign the keys differently so you can type numbers and in concert with the shift button ... all those other little squiggly things that are so useful on a regular typewriter. To actually use a calculator, you'd have to go to the Ipod wheel and select calculator mode. But here we want to just write numbers and symbols with only six keys so we need to change the meaning of the key presses temporarily. To go back to letter mode just press the C button again. Actually, it should be the "Alpha-Numeric" button which jsut toggles between the two modes.
[Note: We only need 10 key combos for the numbers so there are 16 additional unassigned combos to use for symbols without ever touching the shift button]

Last is the "M" button which you hold down and press another key to do some elementary editing. For instance, if you want to backspace or delete ... hold down the M button with your thumband press the 1 key with your index finger and you're erasing the previous keystroke(s) or M2 and you delete the letter or number in front of where the cursor is. Or, press M3 or M4 and just move the cursor right or left. Get it?

Additionally, I'd like to have a touch screen so you could move the cursor with your finger and highlight and cut, copy and paste. This would put finger marks on your display screen so you'd have to wipe it off to watch your movies ;o)

Whudya' think?

I'm holding my breath till I can buy this gadget
(with internet access too)
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