Re: Optimus keyboard in the news

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Sat Apr 28 2007 - 20:48:00 CST

  • Next message: William J Poser: "Re: Optimus keyboard"

    Don Osborn <dzo at bisharat dot net> wrote:

    > I do think that this technology has the potential to revolutionize the
    > prospects for languages with extended scripts but restricted numbers
    > of speakers ("minority language" may not be the optimal term),
    > languages that will not likely see traditional production keyboards
    > (even multilingual ones) with keys painted to accommodate their use.
    > The qwerty and azerty keyboards tend I think to be a disincentive for
    > the average and novice users to compose with characters not visible on
    > the keys. Much of the potential of having Unicode fonts installed in
    > the first place is lost if the keyboards don't convey the good news.
    > (I'll post a recent case in point to A12n-collab soon).

    This is a good point. I have a custom-mapped keyboard (courtesy of
    MSKLC, probably could have done the same with Tavultesoft years ago)
    that lets me type over 550 different Latin characters and symbols. I
    don't know anyone else in my office who uses anything other than the
    default English U.S. keyboard, let alone defines their own, and whenever
    they have to type something not supported therein, they are lost and
    have to come running to "the Unicode guy" for help.

    The problem of producing arbitrary Unicode characters is a big one.
    Even with my custom keyboard, I cannot type Greek or Cyrillic except in
    specific applications that happen to support hex input. Operating
    systems should provide easy access to a mechanism that allows arbitrary
    character input, not just hex digits but some sort of IME that allows
    lookup by name. (Disclaimer: I'm using Windows XP and don't know if
    Vista or other OS's already have such a thing.) No, I don't count "open
    Character Map, find the character, click it and click Copy, then go back
    to your app and paste it in" as easy enough for the average user, who
    doesn't know about Character Map and won't see anything not supported by
    Character Map's current font.

    William J Poser <wjposer at ldc dot upenn dot edu> wrote:

    > This is a cool keyboard, but I don't see why it is so critical to the
    > use of minority languages. We already have the capability of remapping
    > keyboards in all major operating systems.

    But ordinary people don't do it, just "Unicode geeks" like me and others
    who haunt this list.

    > What this adds is merely labelling of the keycaps. Touch typists don't
    > need this, and learners or others who don't know the keyboard have a
    > number of other approaches available, from keycap covers to miniature
    > maps of the keyboard displayed on the monitor.

    Are those solutions as easy or convenient? Actually, touch typists in
    multiple keyboards -- say, U.S. English and Russian -- could switch
    between the two with virtually no effort using a keyboard like this.
    I'd love one, but of course not for the current price.

    Doug Ewell  *  Fullerton, California, USA  *  RFC 4645  *  UTN #14

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