The Gadget Q&A
In search of a comfy keyboard
Is a curved keyboard key? Depends on your preference
Logitech's ergonomic keyboard is a nice, affordable choice for someone looking for something more comfortable than the typical flat computer keyboard. (Logitech photo)
Why haven't the manufacturers made the keyboard keys closer to the typewriter? Any suggestions on a keyboard where the keys are raised higher than others on a desktop computer?
A: Ted, if you're using a typical desktop keyboard, turn it over and look for a couple of tabs that flip up. These legs raise the keyboard at an angle that's preferable to a flat keyboard, but it doesn't stagger the height of the keys, like on the IBM Selectric.
Try that for a while if you haven't already, and if it doesn't work, it sounds like you'd benefit from an ergonomic keyboard by Microsoft (microsoftstore.com), Logitech (logitech.com/keyboards) and other manufacturers (amazon.com).
These $25-to-$80 keyboards don't have raised keys either. Rather the keyboard gives the appearance of being split in half, with the left hand typing on one section of the keyboard and the right typing on the other. This reduces wrist strain by placing the hands in a more natural position.
Other keyboards simply curve the keyboard so that from a distance, it looks almost as if the keyboard is smiling. The keys in the center of the keyboard are raised and slope downward to the left and the right, as if the "Y" and "H" keys were the peak of a small mound. This arrangement also is helpful.
A company called Kinesis (www.kinesis-ergo.com) takes the split literally, giving you one keypad for your left hand and another for your right so that you can move the keypads to the positions that are best for you. These keyboards cost $100 to $150.
I can't tell you which one is best for you, so I suggest you visit an electronics store to see which ergonomic keyboards agree with your body. But lots of people who use them swear by them, and companies make them available for employees to reduce days missed because of repetitive stress injury.
As an old-school typist, you probably know how to position a keyboard to prevent stress on tendons, muscles and joints. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends keeping your elbows about the same height as the keyboard and hanging comfortably to the side of the body. Shoulders should be relaxed, and wrists should not bend up or down or to either side during keyboard use. A keyboard that's too far or too close to the body will also cause problems.
Now if you want comfort AND style, Ted, check out Richard "Doc" Nagy's beautiful Victorian-style numbers at datamancer.net. Doc custom-builds these jobs to resemble manual typewriters, complete with the raise keys you might prefer. But they have the speed a touch typist needs, and they don't clack as loudly as an old Underwood.
But these handmade wonders come at a price. Like $1,100 for some models. Too rich for my blood, but they're beautiful.
Have a question about your computer, cellphone, camera or any gadget? Let us know! E-mail Eric Gwinn at email@example.com, and you could be featured in an upcoming Gadget Q&A column.