Author Topic: My year with the ErgoDox (or how I learned to stop worrying and love QWERTY)  (Read 25714 times)

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Offline daerid

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I've spent the better part of the last 12 months (got my first ErgoDox in June of last year) evangelizing the ErgoDox, espousing its greatness every chance I could get. Not necessarily to the level of tp4tissue, but well enough. I went all in with it, going as far as selling all my beloved Topre boards as well as any remaining Cherry boards I had lying around.

However, recently I sold all three of my ErgoDoxes and purchased a 55g 87U, a FC660C, and a Code 104 w/ Clears.

Huh? What the hell?

There's quite a simple explanation: my right hand started hurting like hell.

A little background:

From probably around 1998 up until 2010 (when I registered on this site and bought a Das Keyboard Ultimate 3 w/ Blues) I was a strictly Microsoft Ergonomic guy. I started out on the Natural Keyboard Pro and used those for probably 5+ years. I tried the Natural Multimedia Keyboard (the gray one), the standard Natural keyboard (with the cross arrows), and then finally landed on the Natural Keyboard 4000. I was very much a fan of "ergonomic" boards.

Then I found this site and my wallet essentially lit on fire. I bought a DK3 Ulti, 3 Pokers, 4 Filcos, a HHKB, traded that for an FC660C, 2 QFRs, and 3 RealForce 87Us (probably forgot a few as well).

And then the ErgoDox went up on MassDrop and I thought "what the hell, I love ergo boards".

I put it together on June 16th (Father's Day) 2013, and was immediately hooked. Once I got used to the layout, it felt completely natural and relaxed. I originally bought a full hand with Clears, and then bought a classic with Clears, and then bought another classic with Blues. I sold all my other boards (including my ultra-heavy 55g AE RealForce that I looooooved) and started using the ErgoDox exclusively. I preached how awesome it was to anybody and everybody I could (don't get me wrong, I still think it's an awesome board). I got one of kurplop's absolutely excellent ErgoDock wooden tented rests. I was in ergonomic bliss.

Or so I thought. (*DUN* *DUN* *DUN*)

A few months ago I started noticing a slight pain in the base of my right thumb, right where it meets the wrist. I didn't really pay any attention to it at first, but it kept getting worse and worse. It didn't register to me that it would be related to my keyboard, because "hey, I'm using an ergo board! there's no way!". At first I thought it was the tenting, because the pain went away for a while after I had to use the ErgoDox flat for a week (wasn't in my home office). However, it came back after about a week, even after switching to using the Dox flat.

It wasn't until after I went back to the 55g RF for a few days and the pain went away completely that I started thinking it might be the ErgoDox itself. After examining closely how my hands moved and what muscles I was using when typing on the ErgoDox, I realized that it was the placement of the thumb clusters.

Using the ErgoDox thumb clusters (even just the closest vertical button, which I used for the space bar), required me to extend my thumb ever so slightly. This constant extending of the thumb eventually caused that tendon to just start screaming in pain. It was only my right thumb because that's the only hand I use to hit the space bar.

I tried going back to the ErgoDox a few times, but every time within a matter of hours my right hand would be in agony. So, regrettably, I came to the decision that the ErgoDox was not for me. It was a fun year, and I still feel the ErgoDox is a fantastically designed board. It's just not worth it for me, as much as I might like it to be.

TL;DR:

ErgoDox makes my hand hurt, still love it but can't use it.

PS: I'm not suggesting that the ErgoDox is a flawed design or that somebody who's been thinking about buying it shouldn't, I'm just saying that it didn't work out for me due to how I personally type.

RealForce 87UB55 | CODE Clears 104 | CODE Clears 87 | Infinity w/ Clears | Unicomp Ultra Classic
Previous boards: RealForce 45g 87UB | HHKB 2 PRO | Leopold FC660C | Filco MJ2 87 (Browns and Blacks) | CM QFR (Blues and Reds) | Filco MJ2  Linear-R | Poker (Reds, Browns, Blacks, Ergo Clears) | Dell AT101W | Matias TP3
Other: G403 | G Pro | Rival 700 | Castor | G502 | G602 | G600 | MX Master | Zowie EC1 CL  | Sensei | IE 3.0 | Kinzu 2 | Perf MX | Imperator | G500 | Apple Magic Mouse

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Offline osi

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Time for a maltron?? Haha

It's a shame that you love the dox so much and have to give it up. Since your thumb is the most affected, what about rigging something so you don't have to reach for that key with the thumb? A quick kludge fix I think would be to grab the clip from a uniball pen and secure it to the key. That metal piece I would think would be rigid enough to easily transfer the energy required to activate the key.

If you fixed that one element of the board, would you go back to using it? Seems like a good fit otherwise.

Offline intelli78

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Interesting post. I have had thumb tendon pain before, when I used the swipe gestures on a Blackberry 10 device (ew). It was similarly due to extending my thumb. I wonder if I'll have the same problem with the Ergodox I'll be receiving shortly.
Daily Driver: HHKB

Offline vivalarevolución

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I weep for you.  You know what they say:  if you love something, give it away.  Not sure that I totally agree with that statement, but whatever.
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Offline jacobolus

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If the first Ergodox thumb key were moved slightly closer in (to where there’s currently an awkward gap) would it work for you? Or do you think it would be better to also change the height/orientation of the thumb keys, not just the 2D position?

Alternately, would just changing the height of the keys help? For instance, putting a couple of SA-profile keycaps on the thumb keys (with lower profile caps on the other keys) might be some improvement.

Does reaching for the further thumb keys occasionally also cause you problems, or is it just mainly the need to frequently hit space that’s an issue?

For instance, would a layout along the lines of this work, assuming the key directly below the 'N'/'B' could be used for space?


Have you tried a Maltron ever? The thumb keys seem much better placed/oriented than the Ergodox, for my hands.

Are you keeping an eye on Jesse’s (Obra’s) keyboard.io startup, or the upcoming Matias ErgoPro?
« Last Edit: Fri, 23 May 2014, 14:51:51 by jacobolus »

Offline vivalarevolución

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If the first Ergodox thumb key were moved slightly closer in (to where there’s currently an awkward gap) would it work for you? Or do you think it would be better to also change the height/orientation of the thumb keys, not just the 2D position?

Alternately, would just changing the height of the keys help? For instance, putting a couple of SA-profile keycaps on the thumb keys (with lower profile caps on the other keys) might be some improvement.

Does reaching for the further thumb keys occasionally also cause you problems, or is it just mainly the need to frequently hit space that’s an issue?

For instance, would a layout along the lines of this work, assuming the key directly below the 'N'/'B' could be used for space?
Show Image


Have you tried a Maltron ever? The thumb keys seem much better placed/oriented than the Ergodox, for my hands.

Are you keeping an eye on Jesse’s (Obra’s) keyboard.io startup, or the upcoming Matias ErgoPro?

The Maltron has much better thumb key placement, and they are lower in height than the rest of the keys to make them more comfortable.  The curved design also is nice.
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Offline daerid

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Looking at the Matias offering, for sure. I'm really happy with the 55g RF currently, although the layout you proposed does look better, but I'd still like a top row of num/function keys. TBH, I think my ideal layout would probably be a every so slightly symmetrically-staggered ErgoDox layout with the thumb keys like you have there in that picture.

RealForce 87UB55 | CODE Clears 104 | CODE Clears 87 | Infinity w/ Clears | Unicomp Ultra Classic
Previous boards: RealForce 45g 87UB | HHKB 2 PRO | Leopold FC660C | Filco MJ2 87 (Browns and Blacks) | CM QFR (Blues and Reds) | Filco MJ2  Linear-R | Poker (Reds, Browns, Blacks, Ergo Clears) | Dell AT101W | Matias TP3
Other: G403 | G Pro | Rival 700 | Castor | G502 | G602 | G600 | MX Master | Zowie EC1 CL  | Sensei | IE 3.0 | Kinzu 2 | Perf MX | Imperator | G500 | Apple Magic Mouse

I write code for Stack Overflow.

Offline vivalarevolución

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I would keep your eye out for keyboardio offerings.  Their blog mentioned the possibility of an adjustable design.
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Offline davkol

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EHMAGERD AXIOS

Offline JulianFR

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You'd better change the way you type first, than change your keyboard. *trolling*  ;D
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Offline kurplop

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Daerid-  Thanks for the report on your experience with the ErgoDox. Many of us have questioned the less than ideal thumb key placement and hopefully future designs will consider your experience.

I'm still enjoying my ErgoDox and am experiencing almost pain free keyboarding but there is definitely room for improvement.

Offline islisis

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i'm not sure whether it was primarily keyboard related, but i have at least experienced symptoms like yours in my left hand (i have a feeling it is excerbated by ligament injury however).

i do agree it is careful to not invoke too much thumb activation at its limit of reach. that is where muscles are at their weakest. from reports i suppose problems with the ergodox layout led to your problem, for me i can feel strain after assigning the furthest thumb keys on the kinesis to single hand modifers. they are very useful and i can still use them easily, but i have learnt to adapt to different 'home' positions for different modifier keys (they provide relatively independent function mapping), to prevent stretching of the thumb.

i have found one of my main dual-role mod keys (backspace) can be easily activated by ball of the thumb (alternative palm key for the kinesis if you will) which is a whole lot more comfortable to use anyway. another useful thing to do would be to modify the keys to reduce their activation force, or replace with cherry reds.

the pain may not be noticed during keyboard use early on, so it may be hard to make the association at first. i encourage anyone who does notice such symptoms to catch the problem early, it is too easy to ignore when you are entranced in some task and tendons/ligaments heal unrepentantly slowly.
« Last Edit: Mon, 26 May 2014, 11:13:40 by islisis »

Offline jmolino

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Daerid,

What if you reprogrammed the layout and utilized a different key for space/shift?  I don't have my Ergodox yet so I can't talk from first hand personal experience, but generally speaking I've been moving keys around on my HHKB to get to a layout that is most comfortable for me - including re-mapping shift and space keys.  Perhaps you can find another key to solve the problem?

I realize that you can re-program the Dox in hardware, but for a quick trial you might want to try one of these (for linux)
https://gitorious.org/at-home-modifier/pages/Home
https://github.com/alols/xcape

If you think of something and want help with the mapping stuff in linux let me know.

Offline Matias

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Using the ErgoDox thumb clusters (even just the closest vertical button, which I used for the space bar), required me to extend my thumb ever so slightly. This constant extending of the thumb eventually caused that tendon to just start screaming in pain. It was only my right thumb because that's the only hand I use to hit the space bar.



Thanks for posting your experience...

If your hand is the right size, the ErgoDox can be extremely comfortable to type on.

However, if your hand is a little too big or a little too small, the ErgoDox will feel like a wrong-sized shoe.  This is due to the way they've designed the spacebar keys...

A normal keyboard has the spacebar going all the way across the bottom.  The spacebar is crazy WIDE, so you can press it anywhere you like.  It's a one-size-fits-all design.

The ErgoDox has a TALL spacebar that's only 1u wide.  Because it's so narrow, it has to be in EXACTLY the right spot.  If it's just a little bit off, you'll feel it.  You'll either have to stretch to reach it, or you'll feel cramped because it's too close.  It all depends on the size of your hand.

To fix this, they either need to widen the spacebars, or to offer the ErgoDox in different sizes, to accommodate different hand sizes.


Offline davkol

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...or just separate thumb-cluster modules. Angled clusters would allow inward instead of awkward vertical motion.

Offline SonOfSonOfSpock

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That's an interesting bit of keyboard science, Matias. Thanks!

Offline Oobly

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It's experiences like this that are pushing me further towards making my ergo board into a product.

The ErgoDox was a step in the right direction, but not nearly far enough. Tenting should be part of the package, pinkie column should be staggered more, thumb clusters should be more compact, angled and repositioned.

The thumb clusters on my design are primarily based on allowing the thumb to be at a natural rest position while typing and using adduction / abduction for positioning and flexion for pressing, whereas most "flat" boards require the thumb to be in extension at rest, position with extension / flexion (and sometimes ALSO twisting the wrist to move "up" or "down") and press with abduction while extended. The movements don't really correspond 1:1 with muscle and tendon groups and particular joints and their movement abilities and limits, but only define movement directions with respect to the rest of the hand / wrist. Still, long term testing is showing lots of promise for my cluster design. The movements required are small and don't require tension to be introduced in awkward ways.

I hope he doesn't mind me quoting him here, but this is what jacobolus has said about thumb movements in the Nexus / Axios thread:

Quote
A standard keyboard, as well as the ergodox, kinesis, maltron rely mainly on the main direction of carpometacarpal movement. Of these, I haven’t tried a Maltron, but in making prototypes of my own with plastilina and cardboard, and from just holding loose switches in one hand with the other hand sitting in a neutral position and trying to press them, I believe that the Maltron has the best angle for taking advantage of the natural direction of motion for the strongest type of thumb motion. The Kinesis Advantage is in my opinion is a less effective angle, and the ergodox has a still less effective angle.

Oobly’s DIY keyboard, for example, relies on a different, inward movement of the carpometacarpal, plus an assist from the metacarpophalangeal joint. This is in my experience a less easy/powerful joint movement, but he gets away with it by having all the keys very easy to reach, which more than makes up the difference compared to the poor placement of Ergodox thumb keys.

Figuring out the proper height and direction for the thumb to move though, such that (a) the motion takes as little effort as possible using the biggest muscles and aligning with the movement as closely as possible, and (b) reaching all the keys is easy and natural is a quite non-trivial problem. And figuring out something that will work for very large or very small hands is difficult indeed.

I still have to really study the joints, ligaments and muscles governing thumb movement and who knows, I may change the thumb cluster design again then, but for now it seems to be at  the very least a big improvement over what's on the market at the moment and if it can help people to type more comfortably and with less chance of long term damage it'll be worth getting it out there.
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Offline jacobolus

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By the way, I believe Obra talked to some UC Berkeley ergonomics professor who advised him that pressing the spacebar in the standard direction is probably more ergonomic than pressing inward toward the fingers. [But take that with some salt, since I don’t think they were envisioning anything quite like your setup, Oobly.]

My personal hypothesis (but this isn’t backed by enough experience to really say anything very definitive) is that the angle you have thumb keys set up at is probably about as good as other alternatives for modifier keys, but for a key being typed frequently like the spacebar it might be an advantage to angle it the other direction (something like the Maltron’s angle).

I’m still trying to figure out how to build a keyboard with 2-3 thumb keys angled one way, and 2-3 angled the other way (not quite at right angles to each-other, but almost).
« Last Edit: Tue, 27 May 2014, 05:49:38 by jacobolus »

Offline vivalarevolución

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Yea, if somebody could create a keyboard with thumb keys like the Maltron and a more solid feel than the Maltron, we would have a great ergo board. 

The curved design is quite ideal as well, because it prevents having to reach for many keys.
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Online tp4tissue

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It's experiences like this that are pushing me further towards making my ergo board into a product.

The ErgoDox was a step in the right direction, but not nearly far enough. Tenting should be part of the package, pinkie column should be staggered more, thumb clusters should be more compact, angled and repositioned.

The thumb clusters on my design are primarily based on allowing the thumb to be at a natural rest position while typing and using adduction / abduction for positioning and flexion for pressing, whereas most "flat" boards require the thumb to be in extension at rest, position with extension / flexion (and sometimes ALSO twisting the wrist to move "up" or "down") and press with abduction while extended. The movements don't really correspond 1:1 with muscle and tendon groups and particular joints and their movement abilities and limits, but only define movement directions with respect to the rest of the hand / wrist. Still, long term testing is showing lots of promise for my cluster design. The movements required are small and don't require tension to be introduced in awkward ways.

I hope he doesn't mind me quoting him here, but this is what jacobolus has said about thumb movements in the Nexus / Axios thread:

Quote
A standard keyboard, as well as the ergodox, kinesis, maltron rely mainly on the main direction of carpometacarpal movement. Of these, I haven’t tried a Maltron, but in making prototypes of my own with plastilina and cardboard, and from just holding loose switches in one hand with the other hand sitting in a neutral position and trying to press them, I believe that the Maltron has the best angle for taking advantage of the natural direction of motion for the strongest type of thumb motion. The Kinesis Advantage is in my opinion is a less effective angle, and the ergodox has a still less effective angle.

Oobly’s DIY keyboard, for example, relies on a different, inward movement of the carpometacarpal, plus an assist from the metacarpophalangeal joint. This is in my experience a less easy/powerful joint movement, but he gets away with it by having all the keys very easy to reach, which more than makes up the difference compared to the poor placement of Ergodox thumb keys.

Figuring out the proper height and direction for the thumb to move though, such that (a) the motion takes as little effort as possible using the biggest muscles and aligning with the movement as closely as possible, and (b) reaching all the keys is easy and natural is a quite non-trivial problem. And figuring out something that will work for very large or very small hands is difficult indeed.

I still have to really study the joints, ligaments and muscles governing thumb movement and who knows, I may change the thumb cluster design again then, but for now it seems to be at  the very least a big improvement over what's on the market at the moment and if it can help people to type more comfortably and with less chance of long term damage it'll be worth getting it out there.

another major problem is  our adherence to the antiquated (flat) desk...

As Ergonauts, we strive for that perfect mesh of our body angles and our instruments...

However this requires EVERYTHING be tuned.. desk height, monitor height, arm support height, keyboard angle, key spacing.. etc ... etc...  etc ^999..


There in lies the problem... Where do you stop... because you can not make a keyboard that goes on a static surface, and hope that it will work (ergonomically) for everyone..


As soon as the table height/ chair height/ elbow height changes...  the resting wrist angle is greatly influenced..    and this changes the game dramatically for each player..

Offline Binge

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I find the number of keys in the ergodox thumb cluster to be excessive and uncomfortable.  I often put seldomly used keys in the center of the unit.

kudos to you daerid for sharing your experience.
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Offline jacobolus

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I bought an Ergodox, and tried to use it for about a week, but I also think it has serious problems, especially with the thumb cluster (and to some extent with the finger section too).

It’s better in many ways than a standard keyboard, but a few design changes could make a big improvement for most hand shapes, IMO.

Offline Glod

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i respect you shared this daerid. it shows that people should try new things but never be afraid to stick with what is comfortable, if the hands dont hurt go with it

Personally, and i hope its ok to share my opinions here..... I've been using the ergodox almost 5 to 6 days a week for 14 months now.

 i think the ergodox design really makes it hard to be "for everyone", the thumb cluster is pretty much one size fits one and the top two keys on each hand's thumb cluster is impossible to press without moving your hands for everyone no matter how your hand's are shaped, I put mapping of keys on there that i don't really use because they are pretty dumb location. it would be better just not to have those 4 keys.

regardless it is my favorite keyboard still, and due to how much money i have dropped into mine with all my customization (most of them in the trash now) coupled with the key cap compatibility i really think the ErgoDox will just have to remain my daily driver unless there is a redesign that allows me to keep my key caps and my noko wrist rest.

One thing that ticks me off is that i don't think massdrop should continue running these drops of these revision 1.0 ergodox, it really digs a hole preventing anyone from improving the ergodox design. Im not saying that because i want the ergodox to be a "rare" keyboard, i say that because there is tons of room for improvement without completely reinventing the ergodox. Id really rather to sticking the ergodox "platform" instead of moving to an entirely new keyboard such Acidfire's project. (id like to continue to use these keycaps ;) )

i keep suggesting to people who are having problems getting comfortable to your ergodox, move the hands apart so that they are matching the width of your shoulders and put your mouse, trackpad, or trackball in the center, its really the way you should be using the ergodox.

/rant
« Last Edit: Tue, 27 May 2014, 20:08:29 by Glod »
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Online tp4tissue

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i honestly think the thumb cluster issue is a TENTING issue..

Mostly everyone i've polled including {daerid} with thumb cluster issue use a LOW tent ~15-20 degrees.

THAT IS NOT ENOUGH..   it has to be a minimum of 30 degrees for a flat surface..  if your wrist is raised by a wrist rest.. ONLY then can you make due with 15-20 degrees.

Offline Zekromtor

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I don't think it's solely a tenting issue. It's simply far from ideal to have the thumb keys on the same plane as the rest of the keys.

Offline Matias

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The Kinesis Advantage also overloads the thumb keys in the same way as the ErgoDox.  Anyone have a similar or different experience with it?


Offline plainbriny

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...or just separate thumb-cluster modules. Angled clusters would allow inward instead of awkward vertical motion.

Like this?
http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=55043.0
66322-0

I have found that I mainly use the two top keys, but the rest of the keys are easily accessible.
Some keys in the right hand side have been assigned as mouse buttons (for trackpoint).

Thus separate thumb clusters are indeed helpful, at least for me.
« Last Edit: Thu, 29 May 2014, 02:16:40 by plainbriny »

Offline jacobolus

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The Kinesis Advantage also overloads the thumb keys in the same way as the ErgoDox.  Anyone have a similar or different experience with it?
I don’t have any extensive experience typing on a Maltron or a Kinesis Advantage (about 10 minutes with the Maltron, about a day with the Kinesis, vs. a couple weeks full time with the Ergodox), but just from a bit of playing with one, I think the Maltron does rather better than either the Ergodox or the Kinesis Advantage.

My (perhaps unfair) summary goes like this:

(1) Maltron made a keyboard shape optimized for their production process: a hand-wired keyboard in a vacuum-formed plastic case. They have great flexibility when it comes to both 3-dimensional placement and orientation of every key. As a result, they can (at least for a range of average-ish hand sizes) design their keyboard so that as many keys as possible are within very easy reach, and each key is at the best height and angle that their process could manage.

(2) The Kinesis people thought that seemed like a great design, but thought they could produce a copycat for cheaper, by using a curved PCB instead of hand wiring. Because the curved PCB is much more constrained than the vacuum forming process w/r/t position and orientation of switches, they tried to compromise by using keycaps of varying profiles. This is only marginally successful, and overall the keys are not as reachable or easy to press as Maltron keys. Additionally, for my hands at least, the Kinesis seems to have much worse positioning and angling for the thumb keys than the Maltron does. I’m not sure if this is because they screwed up, or because my hands are atypical, or because their position nominally works for a broader range of hand shapes, or what. But anyway, to me it seems like a serious design flaw.

(3) The Ergodox people (Dox & friends) thought the Kinesis seemed like a great design, but thought they could produce a sort-of-copycat for even cheaper, by just using two flat PCBs/plates/cases. The downside of this is that the shape doesn’t fit a hand nearly as well. But potentially mitigating this, the two halves are separate, so they can be independently moved and reoriented to suit someone’s personal preference. Also, programmable firmware is great!

My (perhaps unfair) speculation is that at each copying step, the designers didn’t stop to think about what the optimal shape was given the constraints of human hands and their chosen production technology; instead, they just tried to copy the previous design as closely as possible and adapting it minimally to fit the new constraints. As a result, neither design comes from the same kind of understanding that the Maltron’s original creators had of the design space. [However, in getting a bunch of people who need something better away from standard keyboards, the Kinesis is still a great success. And as an inspirational collaborative hobby-project which gets people building their own keyboards and taking ownership of the whole process, the Ergodox is amazing and wonderful. I love it for that!]

I’m really sad that the DataStealth/Flinder keyboard never made it to production, because it seems like a very solid design from first principles, by about the most serious anatomy/ergonomics expert who has ever tried to design a keyboard from scratch. http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=55099.msg1236269#msg1236269

Among keyboards before 2014, I think the DataStealth, the Maltron, the μTRON, and the Cherry G80-5000 are the best four examples of ergonomic keyboards (at least, best when it comes to the keyboard shape/layout) that were designed. They have 4 somewhat different philosophies about what makes a good ergonomic keyboard, and end up in 4 substantially different areas of the possible design space, but each is a real masterpiece.

I’m really excited to see projects like ErgoPro and keyboard.io and Axios coming up in 2014; we’re seeing some real innovation again for the first time in >10 years... not just hobby projects, but real products (fingers crossed). Hopefully there is continued experimentation and invention in the next few years!

Edit: I also hope someone starts trying layouts more like this:

Split spacebar + extra thumb keys are great, even on a standard-ish keyboard!
« Last Edit: Thu, 29 May 2014, 03:05:59 by jacobolus »

Offline jacobolus

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[whoops, double post]
« Last Edit: Thu, 29 May 2014, 02:36:33 by jacobolus »

Offline xman

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Hi Daerid,
Thanks very much for the report on your experience with your ErgoDoxs.
You are not alone. Someone close to me experiences what seems like a similar condition, except with both thumbs, not just one.
Please keep us updated as to your further thoughts, findings, experiments
regarding your hand pain status. I hope you become pain-free!
 

Offline daerid

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So far my hands have been feeling great going back to the standard layout Topre boards.

As far as the space issue, I feel as though Matias hit it right on the head. The size of the space bar allows the thumb to hit it where it's most comfortable.

RealForce 87UB55 | CODE Clears 104 | CODE Clears 87 | Infinity w/ Clears | Unicomp Ultra Classic
Previous boards: RealForce 45g 87UB | HHKB 2 PRO | Leopold FC660C | Filco MJ2 87 (Browns and Blacks) | CM QFR (Blues and Reds) | Filco MJ2  Linear-R | Poker (Reds, Browns, Blacks, Ergo Clears) | Dell AT101W | Matias TP3
Other: G403 | G Pro | Rival 700 | Castor | G502 | G602 | G600 | MX Master | Zowie EC1 CL  | Sensei | IE 3.0 | Kinzu 2 | Perf MX | Imperator | G500 | Apple Magic Mouse

I write code for Stack Overflow.

Offline davkol

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That's certainly one part of the story. The other one is the spacebar shape/profile. I had my thumb hurt on some rubber domes, because of sharp edges of the keycaps and having to press them with the edge of a fingernail.

Offline vivalarevolución

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After using the Maltron for awhile at work, and then switching to the Ergodox, I am starting to wonder which one I prefer more.  The Maltron obviously has a more ergonomic design and a near perfect layout.  The advantage of the Ergodox is the programmability and more solid feel.  I really do not like owning both, so I am on the fence about which to get rid of.

« Last Edit: Sat, 31 May 2014, 13:18:35 by prdlm2009 »
Wish I had some gif or quote for this space, but I got nothing

Offline daerid

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That's certainly one part of the story. The other one is the spacebar shape/profile. I had my thumb hurt on some rubber domes, because of sharp edges of the keycaps and having to press them with the edge of a fingernail.

Yeah I was more agreeing with Matias in context of my particular case.

RealForce 87UB55 | CODE Clears 104 | CODE Clears 87 | Infinity w/ Clears | Unicomp Ultra Classic
Previous boards: RealForce 45g 87UB | HHKB 2 PRO | Leopold FC660C | Filco MJ2 87 (Browns and Blacks) | CM QFR (Blues and Reds) | Filco MJ2  Linear-R | Poker (Reds, Browns, Blacks, Ergo Clears) | Dell AT101W | Matias TP3
Other: G403 | G Pro | Rival 700 | Castor | G502 | G602 | G600 | MX Master | Zowie EC1 CL  | Sensei | IE 3.0 | Kinzu 2 | Perf MX | Imperator | G500 | Apple Magic Mouse

I write code for Stack Overflow.

Offline Zekromtor

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After using the Maltron for awhile at work, and then switching to the Maltron, I am starting to wonder which one I prefer more.  The Maltron obviously has a more ergonomic design and a near perfect layout.  The advantage of the Ergodox is the programmability and more solid feel.  I really do not like owning both, so I am on the fence about which to get rid of.

There has to be some third party software available to allow you to remap your keys on the maltron (a generic application that that works with all input). You gotta stick with the one that is most physically comfortable IMO, and force it's programming to do your bidding. Plus, isn't the maltron all wires in the back that can be somewhat easily moved from one key to another with some soldering? not that that would help with layers...

Offline jacobolus

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If the Maltron is PS/2 then it should be quite easy to stick a Teensy as a little external converter box between the keyboard and the computer, with (for instance) hasu’s firmware on it, and then program away to your heart’s content.

If the keyboard is USB, then it would be a bit harder, and the easiest approach to making it programmable might be opening it up and entirely replacing the controller.

Offline nomaded

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Thanks for your input on the ErgoDox, daerid.

Soon after getting my ErgoDox about 6 months ago, I also tried using the space (and backspace) keys on the outermost 2u key on the thumb clusters. I kept it this way for about 2 weeks, but I couldn't get used to it. My thumbs would reach for the wrong key for space (and backspace) quite often, and I would find myself consciously thinking about where to put my fingers instead of just touch typing. After the 2 weeks, I went back to my previous keyboard (TECK) and would look at what my fingers were doing as I typed, to figure out what was wrong.

I found that my thumbs would naturally rest on the space (and backspace) bars closer to my hand than the outermost 2u key on the thumb clusters, and that's where my thumbs would normally push downwards for space (and backspace) on the TECK or any other keyboard. After that, I moved space (and backspace) to the innermost key on the lowest row - where most people would put the arrow keys or some other non-alpha keys. To me (and my hands) this is the most natural position for space (and backspace).

Over the past 6 months, I have found the 2u keys on the thumb clusters work best for me as layer toggle keys and control and enter. I'm still evolving the layout of the keyboard as I type and find deficiencies in locations of some keys.
Dvorak
ErgoDox fullhand (MX Clears) w/Nuclear Green Data SA || Infinity ErgoDox (Zealios 78g tactile) w/SA Retro || Atreus62 (MX Clears) w/Chocolatier || TECK 209 (MX Browns) || TouchStream ST
Kensington Slimblade Trackball || Logitech Cordless Optical Trackman || Apple Magic Trackpad
Current Dvorak-based ErgoDox layout || Current Dvorak-based TECK layout

Offline jacobolus

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I found that my thumbs would naturally rest on the space (and backspace) bars closer to my hand than the outermost 2u key on the thumb clusters, and that's where my thumbs would normally push downwards for space (and backspace) on the TECK or any other keyboard. After that, I moved space (and backspace) to the innermost key on the lowest row - where most people would put the arrow keys or some other non-alpha keys. To me (and my hands) this is the most natural position for space (and backspace).
I suspect that the further-away thumb keys are uncomfortable even for those with large hands, and also that the weird little gap between the thumb section and the main section is pretty easy for most everyone to type.

I suspect that (assuming we want to stick to the constraints of 2 flat halves and a finger section with staggered columns all aligned and tightly packed), then something like this might be sufficient (or if it needs broad appeal, perhaps also with a number row):

Offline vivalarevolución

  • Posts: 2120
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  • Keep it real b/c any other way is too stressful
After using the Maltron for awhile at work, and then switching to the Maltron, I am starting to wonder which one I prefer more.  The Maltron obviously has a more ergonomic design and a near perfect layout.  The advantage of the Ergodox is the programmability and more solid feel.  I really do not like owning both, so I am on the fence about which to get rid of.

There has to be some third party software available to allow you to remap your keys on the maltron (a generic application that that works with all input). You gotta stick with the one that is most physically comfortable IMO, and force it's programming to do your bidding. Plus, isn't the maltron all wires in the back that can be somewhat easily moved from one key to another with some soldering? not that that would help with layers...

Yea, keyremap4macbook does the trick, but I like to have any customization on the firmware rather than through software.  I probably could slip a Teensy in there.

But the hollow feeling of the Maltron always sticks in my mind.
Wish I had some gif or quote for this space, but I got nothing

Offline Zekromtor

  • Posts: 229
    • My Setup
I like a firmware solution as well, and a teensy would be a very cool mod to achieve it. If it's betweeen a firmare solution with inferior ergos and a software solution with superior ergos, I'm picking the latter. I held off as long as I could while I tried to get my Kinesis to do everything I wanted with firmware, but broke down and went with a software solution and haven't looked back since. Momentary shifting on a primary thumb key is the way to go IMO, and I don't think I could ever go back to a flat keyboard after enjoying this sucker.

Offline RadicalRAM

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Recently decided to design my own Ergodox layout and came across this thread.

I also came to the realisation that I actually alternate between my left hand and my right when using the space bar. I also switch between my thumb and  my index fingers.

What I'm trying to say is that this proves the wide spacebar theory, because I hit the bar from the edge - the middle (maybe a little past). This allows me to just drop my fingers down, rather than stretch them to a certain point.


Offline Matias

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Re: MatiasDox
« Reply #41 on: Sun, 01 June 2014, 01:41:53 »

I suspect that (assuming we want to stick to the constraints of 2 flat halves and a finger section with staggered columns all aligned and tightly packed), then something like this might be sufficient (or if it needs broad appeal, perhaps also with a number row):
Show Image




Sorry I butchered your drawing, but I think something like this would be safer on your hands...


66623-0


This way your thumb acts as a frame of reference, and you just pivot your hand slightly to reach the inside modifier keys.

You have a nice wide Spacebar, to address the main problem discussed in this thread.  Note also that this key is upside-down, so that your thumb is not resting on a sharp edge.

« Last Edit: Sun, 01 June 2014, 01:54:35 by Matias »

Offline jacobolus

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Don’t worry about the drawing, do whatever you want with it.. if someone wants SVG files or Illustrator files or something, I’m also happy to oblige.

Anyway, I didn’t intend 'gray' to mean 'modifier key' necessarily; I just made them gray for aesthetics (all one color is boring). Also, I’d recommend someone pick whichever of those 3 1x1.5 thumb keys in my drawing their thumb most naturally rests on to be the spacebar (which might vary from person to person), and then use the other keys for whatever else they like (shift, backspace, enter, some letter key, fn, whatever..).

The general idea is that in my proposed layout, very little hand reaching would be required: every key should be pretty easily reachable without moving the whole hand at all. There are 4 keys easily reachable by each thumb, compared to the standard keyboard’s ~2 (with the spacebar wastefully shared between the hands and others requiring quite a bit of reaching). The inner keys, 2 columns over from the index finger, are actually easier to reach than a standard keyboard's 'enter', 'backspace', 'delete', 'escape', etc., and easier than the number row. (On keyboards for myself, I’d scrap the number row entirely and just put numbers on a better laid out numpad layer. But perhaps most people are too used to top-row number keys to adopt such a change.)

You’re proposing adding modifier keys which take moving the whole hand to use; personally I wouldn’t want to use such a setup if I could help it; indeed, I think it’s one of the biggest flaws with current keyboards.

One of the best places for modifier keys that I’ve ever seen proposed is the one on the DataStealth (at least, based on my guesses of what their layout was like):

The modifier keys are (I think, just making educated guesses based on the picture) the nearest-to-the-body keys for each finger. These can be reached by just flexing the finger toward the body (optionally pulling the whole hand a bit toward the body). It’s super easy and obvious how to use modifiers on one hand while typing other keys with the other hand, and it’s trivial to make arbitrary combinations of modifiers in a chord, without any of the awkward hand contortions current keyboards require.

The only problem with this is that it’s expensive to produce, because those keys can no longer be on the same plane as the rest of the keys, so you can’t just put them on a PCB. Instead you have to make separate PCBs for them, or hand wire them Maltron style.

The way I intend to approximate this in my own DIY keyboard (a flat model intended to be portable) is by having a thumb "meta-modifier" key on each hand, which turns all the home-row keys on the same hand into modifier keys (command, option, shift, control, etc.). On a hand-wired full 3d desk-bound keyboard, I can just copy the DataStealth approach.
« Last Edit: Sun, 01 June 2014, 02:35:28 by jacobolus »

Offline Oobly

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...

The way I intend to approximate this in my own DIY keyboard (a flat model intended to be portable) is by having a thumb "meta-modifier" key on each hand, which turns all the home-row keys on the same hand into modifier keys (command, option, shift, control, etc.). On a hand-wired full 3d desk-bound keyboard, I can just copy the DataStealth approach.

I am interested in how you then press a modifier plus the key character you are using for the modifier? Let's say you use A as Ctrl, how do you press Ctrl-A?

I agree that it's a great time for keyboard innovation right now and look forward to seeing the Axios and Keyboardio designs becoming products.
Buying more keycaps,
it really hacks my wallet,
but I must have them.

Offline jacobolus

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...

The way I intend to approximate this in my own DIY keyboard (a flat model intended to be portable) is by having a thumb "meta-modifier" key on each hand, which turns all the home-row keys on the same hand into modifier keys (command, option, shift, control, etc.). On a hand-wired full 3d desk-bound keyboard, I can just copy the DataStealth approach.
I am interested in how you then press a modifier plus the key character you are using for the modifier? Let's say you use A as Ctrl, how do you press Ctrl-A?

I agree that it's a great time for keyboard innovation right now and look forward to seeing the Axios and Keyboardio designs becoming products.
So, under that scheme, with a QWERTY-ish layout, you’d press the meta-modifier key with the right thumb + e.g. the right middle finger home row position (for “control”) + the 'a' key using the left hand pinky finger.

Offline EvillePanda

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I'm using a TECK right now and I find myself using my index finger for most of the middle keys. and thumb on the space bars.  I'm not sure how that will translate over to the ErgoDox.
Visit the Typing Test and try!

Offline Oobly

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...

The way I intend to approximate this in my own DIY keyboard (a flat model intended to be portable) is by having a thumb "meta-modifier" key on each hand, which turns all the home-row keys on the same hand into modifier keys (command, option, shift, control, etc.). On a hand-wired full 3d desk-bound keyboard, I can just copy the DataStealth approach.
I am interested in how you then press a modifier plus the key character you are using for the modifier? Let's say you use A as Ctrl, how do you press Ctrl-A?

I agree that it's a great time for keyboard innovation right now and look forward to seeing the Axios and Keyboardio designs becoming products.
So, under that scheme, with a QWERTY-ish layout, you’d press the meta-modifier key with the right thumb + e.g. the right middle finger home row position (for “control”) + the 'a' key using the left hand pinky finger.

Ah, I see, so they're "mirrored" so you can press any combination. Not a bad concept! :)
Buying more keycaps,
it really hacks my wallet,
but I must have them.

Offline Matias

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Also, I’d recommend someone pick whichever of those 3 1x1.5 thumb keys in my drawing their thumb most naturally rests on to be the spacebar (which might vary from person to person), and then use the other keys for whatever else they like (shift, backspace, enter, some letter key, fn, whatever..).



This entire thread was preciptated by someone injured using a 1u spacebar.  Three 1u spacebars doesn't really sound like a solution.  What if the most comfortable spot is exactly between two of them?  Which one do I press?

Of course, if you're building a custom DIY board, you can (in theory) position them in exactly the right spots, but it's not a general solution for all users.





You’re proposing adding modifier keys which take moving the whole hand to use; personally I wouldn’t want to use such a setup if I could help it; indeed, I think it’s one of the biggest flaws with current keyboards.



There's nothing wrong with moving your whole hand -- as long as the targets are big and in a natural position. 

In fact, I think you're increasing your risk of injury by *not* moving your hand periodically.  You're overloading a smaller group of muscles, whereas what you should be doing is spreading the work around as much as possible.

It's kind of like sitting in a chair all day.  You may think you're being efficient, but what you're actually doing is atrophying your leg muscles.  It's healthier if you have to walk from time to time.


Offline jacobolus

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This entire thread was preciptated by someone injured using a 1u spacebar.  Three 1u spacebars doesn't really sound like a solution.  What if the most comfortable spot is exactly between two of them?  Which one do I press?
I don’t think there’s anyone whose range of “comfortable spots” is smaller than 10mm of movement either direction.

The problem that precipitated this thread is that all of the Ergodox’s thumb keys are too far a reach, and the most comfortable region is a gap that doesn’t have any keys in it at all!

Offline jacobolus

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There's nothing wrong with moving your whole hand -- as long as the targets are big and in a natural position. 

In fact, I think you're increasing your risk of injury by *not* moving your hand periodically.  You're overloading a smaller group of muscles, whereas what you should be doing is spreading the work around as much as possible.
The problem is not moving your hand from time to time. The problem is moving your hand back and forth in an awkward and very specific way, over and over and over again in an identical pattern throughout the day, and trying to do it quickly. It ends up being both uncomfortable and very inefficient.