My office looks like the command center of a space ship. A low budget space ship with a clutter problem, perhaps, but futuristic nonetheless. Many years ago I banished my cheap ergonomic keyboard and kitchen chair and replaced them with a keyboard system.
I literally waited for this keyboard for years. I tested out a prototype in physical therapy in 1995 (not a typo, I’m that old), and after a few moments of typing I knew that I had found my soul mate. Ok. So it doesn’t exactly have a soul, but it’s definitely one of the first things I’d grab in an emergency of the house destruction kind. Unfortunately, as a newly developed device, it was also in a price range that made it unobtainable to a recent college grad and new homeowner. So I waited.
Sometime after I tested the prototype, the keyboard developers joined forces with a chair manufacturer and released it as a combined system known as Interfaces by Cramer. After a while Interfaces was bought by Kinesis and they renamed the keyboard Evolution. Kineses made a desktop model, an under desk arm suspended model, and the chair mounting model.
The Interfaces/Evolution keyboard is a truly split keyboard, not this halfway stuff you find in a standard ergo keyboard, it’s often referred to as a floating keyboard. Half of the keyboard attaches to the right armrest of my chair and the other half attaches to the left armrest. I can put my feet up on the desk and still type, if I were inclined. I’m not. But I could if I wanted to. There’s an integrated track pad, I opted for the left hand version after discovering that you couldn’t get it on both sides (eventually there was a model that had it on both sides). Each armrest is adjustable, and each section of the keyboard will raise, lower, pivot or tilt to the position most comfortable to the user. A not insignificant percentage of the population can’t comfortably pronate their hands (that’s the palm-down position necessary with most keyboards). For everyone else, it’s still a good idea to change your position from time to time. My system allows for all of that.
The chair was a bit of an unexpected boon. I’d always ignored my seating arrangement when writing. At one time I didn’t have a chair at all; the computer was only a foot or two off the floor on a couple of milk crates, so there wasn’t room for a chair. This wasn’t ideal for my back, or so I was told after I developed a pinched nerve. The kitchen chair was better, but what the heck is lumbar support, anyway? Most office chairs I’ve used aren’t suited for six-foot tall people with absurdly long legs. Whatever.
Now when I sit down to write, I am in control. I am the commander of all I see (at least until the computer crashes, proving who’s really in charge). I get delusions of grandeur. I can really put myself on those spaceships I occasionally write about. Who better to enjoy this technological masterpiece than a sci-fi writer? The real bonus, of course, is that I can type for longer periods of time without my arms threatening to secede from the union of me. This is critical because I still do all my editing by keyboard.
Granted it isn’t all roses. This split keyboard took some getting used to. It probably didn’t help that I taught myself to type and didn’t use the right fingers for anything (what is this “home row” you speak of?). It’s a long way to reach for a key on the other side of the board. When I first got started, I often had to watch one hand to make sure it was doing what it ought. It was initially really tough to alternate between the god of keyboards at home and the regular old ergo I use at my paying job. The keyboard and chair take up a lot more space than you’d expect, and I have to be careful not to smack the keyboard against the desk when I turn.
The most unfortunate thing, however, is that ultimately Kinesis decided the Evolution just wasn’t popular enough and discontinued it. You can sometimes find a used one for sale on E-Bay or Craig’s List; I actually picked up a second one a few years ago this way. I look into it periodically, and so far no one is making anything quite like this, and I fear its eventual demise.
Its nice to enjoy some of the benefits of technology I write about and dream about from time to time. A lot of them could be closer that we realize, but in a capitalist economy, the price point and sales figures may make them quickly obsolete.