Author Topic: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.  (Read 14529 times)

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Offline ideus

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On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« on: Thu, 03 December 2015, 07:47:10 »
What do you think about the size of space bars?


Vintage PC key boards can be found with space bars that almost covered the entire width under the alphanumeric area; over the years they were made smaller, first, down to 7u, later to 6.25, some more recent key boards got even 6u space bars, found mainly on Topre's. Under the argument of having more modifiers, some have advocated Japanese style bottom rows that have even smaller space bars, in sizes of 4u and even some smaller. With a different argument, some people have proposed that the space bar should be splitted, to allow one thumb to be use for other purpose, besides allowing to insert a space between words.


The availability of splitted keyboards and under the theory that they have better ergonomics has provided further reasons to have small thumb keys for the purpose of inserting spaces between our words.


In an slightly opposite direction, the proponents of using the space bar as a function key may require instead the larger space bars.


There are even some arguments related only with the aesthetic aspects of a keyboard that may support the idea of a "traditional" space bar; however, some people think that a "long" space bar is only a reminiscence of the typewriter era.


What do you think.

Offline kurplop

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #1 on: Thu, 03 December 2015, 07:49:26 »
Whoneedsaspacebaranyway?

Offline ideus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #2 on: Thu, 03 December 2015, 07:51:33 »

Offline kurplop

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #3 on: Thu, 03 December 2015, 08:12:29 »
I was going for mildly amusing, not that.

Offline jdcarpe

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 03 December 2015, 08:23:10 »
Small space bars, you say?




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Offline azhdar

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #5 on: Thu, 03 December 2015, 08:26:00 »
I should use split spacebar since I press it down with left thumb on the same 1.75-2u Potion anyway, haven't bring myself to build boards like that yet tho.
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Offline nephiel

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #6 on: Thu, 03 December 2015, 13:11:39 »
Split it.
Stop wasting space! Chop your spacebar into bits!
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Offline Findecanor

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #7 on: Thu, 03 December 2015, 15:16:14 »
You need the space bar to be where you tend to press your thumb - and different people have learned to type in different ways so they tend to press in different places.
Some people may have their hands move left and right over the keyboard while typing letters, so they may need 2u of space bar because the hand's position when pressing the space bar "key" is not entirely consistent.

But I have never heard of anyone ever saying that they alternate between using the left or the right thumb. It is always one or the other.
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Offline rowdy

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 03 December 2015, 19:57:39 »
Small space bars look cute, but I prefer a long space bar.  Maybe 'cause I grew up using terminal keyboards that had extra long space bars, and then in the pre-Windows days where there was just Ctrl and maybe Alt either side of the space bar so more room for space bar goodness.
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Offline ideus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 03 December 2015, 22:23:09 »

Offline mivanov

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #10 on: Sat, 05 December 2015, 09:19:17 »
You need the space bar to be where you tend to press your thumb - and different people have learned to type in different ways so they tend to press in different places.
Some people may have their hands move left and right over the keyboard while typing letters, so they may need 2u of space bar because the hand's position when pressing the space bar "key" is not entirely consistent.

But I have never heard of anyone ever saying that they alternate between using the left or the right thumb. It is always one or the other.

I do alternate :)

As for the debate - imho, when splitting a keyboard, one half should be space, the other - backspace. 1u-3u per half is fine. 4u is too much.

As for old terminal keyboards,  I think it's reasonable to sometimes use both thumbs for a faster action since it takes a lot of force. If the force is small, short space is the way to go.

Offline e_l_tang

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #11 on: Sat, 05 December 2015, 21:21:27 »
You need the space bar to be where you tend to press your thumb - and different people have learned to type in different ways so they tend to press in different places.
Some people may have their hands move left and right over the keyboard while typing letters, so they may need 2u of space bar because the hand's position when pressing the space bar "key" is not entirely consistent.

But I have never heard of anyone ever saying that they alternate between using the left or the right thumb. It is always one or the other.

I do alternate :)

As for the debate - imho, when splitting a keyboard, one half should be space, the other - backspace. 1u-3u per half is fine. 4u is too much.

As for old terminal keyboards,  I think it's reasonable to sometimes use both thumbs for a faster action since it takes a lot of force. If the force is small, short space is the way to go.

How do you decide which thumb to use every time you hit your spacebar?


Offline GL1TCH3D

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #13 on: Sat, 05 December 2015, 21:36:53 »
http://imgur.com/a/UrkPu

That's just what makes the Topre JIS version even better

Offline Niomosy

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #14 on: Sun, 06 December 2015, 00:51:33 »
You need the space bar to be where you tend to press your thumb - and different people have learned to type in different ways so they tend to press in different places.
Some people may have their hands move left and right over the keyboard while typing letters, so they may need 2u of space bar because the hand's position when pressing the space bar "key" is not entirely consistent.

But I have never heard of anyone ever saying that they alternate between using the left or the right thumb. It is always one or the other.

I would be someone that uses both.  When typing, I use the right thumb exclusively.  When gaming, it's the left thumb exclusively (given the right hand is on the mouse).

Offline nephiel

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #15 on: Sun, 06 December 2015, 04:04:45 »
I use SpaceFn, and a split spacebar allows separation. Space on the left thumb, and Fn on the right.
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Offline Oobly

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #16 on: Sun, 06 December 2015, 08:40:06 »
1u spacebar in the natural resting position of your thumb, or even better, 4 buttons curved in such a way as to contact the thumb surface when it's in natural resting position Thumbs are severely underused in traditional board designs, but most "ergonomic" designs require too much movement of the thumb. See my avatar for details, right side is a mirror image.
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Offline hasu

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #17 on: Sun, 06 December 2015, 21:14:15 »
I like split space idea, like Erase-Ease. But how to split it depends largely on one's preference.

Instead of spliting space bar physically, there is an idea, with installing touch/proximity capacitive sensor under space bar controller will be able to know how the key is pressed, like with left thumb, right thumb or both. I think lowpoly have this or similar idea on his miniguru.

Offline vvp

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #18 on: Mon, 07 December 2015, 04:54:58 »
If it is not physically split then you cannot feel by touch which button is the proper one for the desired action.
I would say it is obvious that physically split is better. It may not be so cool but it is better. Well provided the non-split space bar does not have added some bumps to the keycap to indicate the split locations.

Offline btacju

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #19 on: Mon, 14 December 2015, 20:07:14 »
I just recently purchased a HHKB Pro JP, and I'm loving the smaller spacebar actually. I got used to it really quick and realized I didn't actually need the larger spacebar. I ended up rebinding the key on the right of the spacebar, to backspace, and I really like having backspace right next to spacebar.

Offline jacobolus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #20 on: Tue, 15 December 2015, 04:06:14 »
No key should ever be longer than about 3u for any reason. Anything from 1–3u is reasonable for spacebars, and anything from 1–2u wide is reasonable, depending on the rest of the keyboard shape and layout.

I think Matias’s 2.5x1.5 spacebar keycaps are a pretty nice size for mainstream keyboards designed to accommodate a wide variety of hand sizes and typing styles.


Offline SamirD

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #21 on: Mon, 21 December 2015, 06:15:46 »
I never thought about the size of the space bar or my thumb usage of it until this thread.   :thumb:

I notice that I'm always using my right hand for the space and that it is in relatively the same place on the bar when looking at the dirt or lack of dirt on the key, lol.  I think a key about the size of the M's right shift key would be all I would need for a space bar.

Offline Bromono

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #22 on: Mon, 21 December 2015, 06:18:12 »
#AllSpaceBarsAreBeautiful

Offline ideus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #23 on: Mon, 21 December 2015, 11:41:13 »
The use of small space bars should go along an argument on what would be use the spare space for, for example, moving other modifiers to the bottom row.

Offline SamirD

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #24 on: Thu, 24 December 2015, 04:56:02 »
I think the most common use that seems to be logical is to use the other half as backspace.
« Last Edit: Sun, 27 December 2015, 06:13:25 by SamirD »

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #25 on: Thu, 24 December 2015, 06:38:03 »
My shiny area is probably 1.5u under N-M so a split spacebar with backspace sounds a great idea, but the lack of caps has always put me off (not a fan of blanks so they'd have to have shift legends)
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Offline ideus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #26 on: Thu, 24 December 2015, 11:48:06 »
My shiny area is probably 1.5u under N-M so a split spacebar with backspace sounds a great idea, but the lack of caps has always put me off (not a fan of blanks so they'd have to have shift legends)


I personally really like the aesthetics of a long space bar, now the 7u is the available limit and I like it a lot. I understand well the arguments on functionality, but I always wonder who needs more keys at the bottom if everything required can be fit in sixty keys or less.

Offline davkol

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #27 on: Tue, 29 December 2015, 12:42:01 »
60 keys are fine, the problem is placement. For example, obra's keyboard.io has about the same amount of keys, but they're more accessible.

Offline SamirD

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #28 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 11:56:14 »
And to add to the discussion, check out this board made by NMB back in the day:


According to the site that it was for sale on (zero stock now), the part number is 121422-001:
http://www.stifflerssurplus.com/p-12756-nmb-rt8255cw-121422-001-121422001-computer-keyboard-with-5-pin-connector.aspx

Offline jacobolus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #29 on: Fri, 01 January 2016, 00:04:03 »
I highly recommend NMB Erase-Ease boards to anyone who can find one. Black “space invader” switches are quite fun, and the split spacebar is great.

Offline ideus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #30 on: Fri, 01 January 2016, 01:02:51 »
And to add to the discussion, check out this board made by NMB back in the day:
Show Image


According to the site that it was for sale on (zero stock now), the part number is 121422-001:
http://www.stifflerssurplus.com/p-12756-nmb-rt8255cw-121422-001-121422001-computer-keyboard-with-5-pin-connector.aspx


It is very interesting to know that there were splitted space bars on old designed keyboards.

Offline SamirD

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #31 on: Fri, 01 January 2016, 07:29:32 »
And to add to the discussion, check out this board made by NMB back in the day:
Show Image


According to the site that it was for sale on (zero stock now), the part number is 121422-001:
http://www.stifflerssurplus.com/p-12756-nmb-rt8255cw-121422-001-121422001-computer-keyboard-with-5-pin-connector.aspx


It is very interesting to know that there were splitted space bars on old designed keyboards.
Yes it is.  I ran into this while searching for something else and it took me a day to find this thread again to post it here, lol.


Offline jacobolus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #32 on: Fri, 01 January 2016, 11:37:23 »
Some other geekhack threads about NMB "erase ease"/"erase eaze" boards:

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=5134
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=13064
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=13295 (this one has great doodles on it)

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=59324
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=69076 (this one has a picture of the instructions on the back)

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=69887

Apparently the original MSRP of these NMB boards was $70 in 1995:
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/-a017469433

Quote
NMB introduces Erase-Ease back space feature for Right Touch Windows 95-compatible keyboard; Enhanced key functionality provides improved comfort, speed and efficiency.

CHATSWORTH, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 25, 1995--NMB Technologies Inc., the world's highest volume computer keyboard manufacturer, is now shipping its Right Touch Professional Series keyboard with Erase-Ease, model number RT-8200WIN.

This clicker mechanical keyswitch keyboard is designed to save keystrokes in operating Microsoft's Windows 95 software using the three Windows 95 function keys. NMB recently introduced its first standard Windows 95-compatible keyboard with a membrane keyswitch version, model number RT-6600WIN.

Erase-Ease

The backspace key is one of the most frequently used keys; yet it is located in one of the hardest to reach places on the keyboard. Erase-Ease tackles this problem by moving the backspace key from its traditional location in the upper right to a split space bar, easily accessible by the thumb.

The right part of the space bar is used by the right thumb for normal spacing; the left part is used by the left thumb to backspace/erase. The user's eyes and hands never have to leave their accustomed places, resulting in improved comfort, speed, and efficiency.

"With Erase-Ease, we've added functionality to our Right Touch Windows 95-compatible keyboard product line to enhance user productivity," said Myron Jones, president of NMB Technologies. "The Erase-Ease, coupled with our Windows 95-compatibility and special keys, makes this keyboard a strong productivity tool," Jones added.

Customized Windows 95 Keys

In addition to Novell Netware compatibility, the RT-8200WIN is approved by Microsoft Compatibility Labs. The keyboard's function keys are: application, left Windows, and right Windows. These keys simplify existing combination keystrokes like Alt, Tab, Ctrl-Esc, or right mouse button clicks to single key operations when using the Window 95 software.

The application key brings up the content (pop-up) menu at the current select position. This is the equivalent of pressing the right mouse button in some applications today. Pressing the application key will not disturb the current mouse pointer position.

The lift Windows key sets focus to the Windows 95 user interface. The right Windows key has the same functionality as the left Windows key.

Price and Availability

The Professional Series Windows 95-compatible keyboard with Erase-Ease is available for the 1995 holiday season through Ingram Micro and Almo Distributing, and at retailers nationwide. With a three-year manufacturer's warranty, the RT-8200WIN model of the Professional Series carries a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $69.99. For further information regarding availability, call the NMB Information Hotline at 800/662-8321.

NMB Technologies is a subsidiary of NMB (USA) Inc., the North American headquarters and operating center of the Minebea Group of companies. NMB Technologies offers its customers a full line of state-of-the-art products including keyboards, fans, step motors, audio speakers, and other electronic components.

NMB's Right Touch keyboards are available in OEM quantities and through the reseller/distribution channel.

NOTE: Microsoft is a registered trademark and Windows is a trademark of Microsoft Corp.

CONTACT: NBM Technologies Inc.
« Last Edit: Fri, 01 January 2016, 11:42:52 by jacobolus »

Offline SamirD

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #33 on: Fri, 01 January 2016, 12:33:08 »
Very cool.  Thank you for the links!  Good reading!

Offline ideus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #34 on: Fri, 01 January 2016, 15:17:05 »
Erase easy is an interesting name for a board, while the main purpose is to write easy, isn't it?

Offline jacobolus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #35 on: Fri, 01 January 2016, 17:52:29 »
“Erase–Eaze” (sometimes spelled “Erase Ease”) was the name of the split spacebar feature , not the name of the specific keyboard (NMB made at least a couple models of their Right Touch keyboards with the feature, the RT8200WIN and RT8255CW+, and possibly others).

A little company (“Keyboard Advancements, Inc.”) got a patent for the idea of a split spacebar, and then licensed it to various keyboard vendors (IBM, NMB, maybe Keytronic, etc.). Personally I think it’s stupid that the idea of having extra bottom row thumb keys should be patentable, and it’s quite possible that a prior art defense could have been mounted with reference to various designs from the 70s or typewriters from the early 20th century, but that’s all kind of academic now, as the patent is expired.

So everyone should feel free to make keyboards with split spacebars, and end the stupidity of the standard >6u long spacebar. The Matias ErgoPro is a nice start. Would be great to see other vendors build Matias’s 1.5u x 2.5u keycaps into a the bottom-row design of a 60% keyboard.

Patent links:
http://www.google.com/patents/US5711624
http://www.google.com/patents/EP0467960B1
« Last Edit: Fri, 01 January 2016, 18:01:03 by jacobolus »

Offline ideus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #36 on: Fri, 01 January 2016, 19:05:47 »
I am not sure if the 1.5u tall keys serve a purpose, though. How fat a finger should be to not accommodate well on a regular 1u tall key?

Offline jacobolus

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Re: On keyboard design philosophy: Small space bars.
« Reply #37 on: Fri, 01 January 2016, 22:45:08 »
The standard spacebar is substantially too close to the rest of the keyboard, if it is supposed to be used as a thumb key while the other fingers mostly type near the home row. If you move the spacebar a half unit closer to the body, typing is much more comfortable for the hands. The width of the spacebar doesn’t particularly matter, it would also be fine to have it be 1u wide with a .5u gap between the spacebar and the bottom letter row. That would look weird though, and there are certain people who use their index fingers for space who wouldn’t appreciate it. A pair of 2.5u long by 1.5u wide spacebars is a pretty good compromise: More comfortable without compromising the basic aesthetic concept of the standard keyboard.