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What would be the ideal layout for a 4-fingered usage of a keyboard? I thought about making keyboards square and and have less keys.

Here is the alphabet : 28 characters total. The alphabet is supposed to link letters.

The species are a kind of anthropomorphic dragons, but their script has remained the same. Although they have 4 "fingers" thet could use their palms to enble CAPS LOCK. They also speak other languages (like english as they coexist wiht humans), but ther is no need fo caps lock in their one.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ The modern keyboard isn't ideal, just the most common. Which is directly derived from the limitations of mechanical type writers. To even answer this we'd need to know what keys the keyboard will feature. What language and script are these creatures using? $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Jun 25 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ I can still type just fine without my pinky. They keyboard already has more columns that fingers anyways. Also, there is more to hand physiology and configuration than just number of fingers. For, example our radially symmetric hands would probably benefit from radially symmetric keyboards. Human hands are biased laterally so our keyboards are too. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Jun 25 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ It may surprise you, but most people don't use all ten fingers when typing. Most people use only six to eight fingers, and a suprinsingly large fraction use only two to four fingers. (And the phrase "ideal layout" is woefully undefined. Ideal for what? Less keys than what?) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 25 at 14:52
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks! I unchecked the answer $\endgroup$ – AnewAnimator Jun 25 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ I think the title should be changes to show the emphasis on keyboard design. When I read it my first thought was that the difficult trick is adapting computers to creatures with 5 digits on each hand. That leads to messiness like binary coded decimal. Powers of two would be much more natural for 4 digits on each hand. $\endgroup$ – Patricia Shanahan Jun 25 at 16:18
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Keyboard layout is a function of the alphabet, or more precisely, the characters used to represent language. That is going to be a major part of your design.

For example, Chinese has lots of characters that can make up the written language and is somewhat pictographic (as I understand anyway). Russian and English have much more phonetic alphabets with a lot fewer symbols. Multiple characters are lined up to form the phonetic equivalent of words. It is ultimately the language that determines how we write and therefore, how we type (generally speaking).

The number of fingers is going to maybe add afterthoughts. If the written component of the language has the concept of capital letters, then maybe the shift key locks down and then you press the letter you need, instead of our standard of holding the shift key and pressing the letter at the same time. That's about the only thing I can think of.

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    $\begingroup$ "The shift key locks down and then you press the letter you need": that's why God created the Caps Lock key. And Chinese is input on the normal keyboard with Latin letters, using one of the Romanization schemse -- Pinyin in the People's Republic; then software called an input method converts the Romanized words into Chinese characters, or proposes a short menu if disambiguization is needed (rarely). (For info, Chinese characters are not more pictographic than Latin letters. It's just that instead of having symbols for phonemes, the Chinese script has symbols for lexemes.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jun 25 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ All hail the great CAPS LOCK :) For me, Linguistics was long ago, and viewed through a filter of beer and College Age Hormones $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Jun 25 at 16:53
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For starters, your people might use a base 8 number system instead of base 10. From Wikipedia: "Most people think that we most often use base 10 because we have 10 fingers." You'd be better suited starting with what language your people use and then let the keyboard design follow from that. As the comments indicate, the QWERTY keyboard layout is not optimized for people with ten fingers.

If you still want to come up with something fun and different, you could base your design on the ErgoDox. The split design fits what you describe in your question.

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ The imaged split keyboard is actually for four fingers and an opposable thumb, and the index finger still covers two columns. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme the Second Jun 25 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ They have opposable thumbs, and I think it is a pretty good design to go with. I'll see how I can fit all the characters into the keys. $\endgroup$ – AnewAnimator Jun 25 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ I briefly worked a cash register and since then have done a fair bit of numerical data entry. Personally, I tend to use 3-4 fingers on number pad, which on my keyboard has 16 keys. Maybe add one more column (~5x5), make another with the remaining symbols and you've got 50 keys in a 4-finger-friendly arrangement $\endgroup$ – Punintended Jun 25 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Punintended I like that suggestion $\endgroup$ – Andrew Brēza Jun 25 at 20:00
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    $\begingroup$ @AndrewBrēza +1 just for the photo, which didn't really make sense to me at first because of how many keys are on each side. Then I stopped to look at my own keyboard, which has way more keys than there are letters in the alphabet. Plus, your photo has what I assume are modifier keys in the thumb regions. Chop off an outer column or two and you're done! $\endgroup$ – Punintended Jun 25 at 20:07
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What matters is not just the number of fingers, but how easily they can move their fingers and in what directions. And which fingers are stronger and which are weaker.

For example, if they can easily flex the left most finger to the left and the right most finger to the right, then you could have a keyboard with at least 12 keys across: They normally position their left hand over columns 2 through 5 and their right hand over columns 8 through 11. Then they reach column 1 by moving their first finger slightly to the left, etc.

If moving fingers left and right is hard but they can readily move forward and back, then make it just 8 columns wide but have as many rows as you need.

If they have very limited movement of their fingers in either direction, maybe the keyboard has to be divided into 2 "banks". Have an upper bank of, say, 8 columns and 3 rows, and similarly a lower bank. To switch between banks they have to move their hands up or down rather than just moving fingers.

Other option: Have shift keys or other multi-key combinations. Lets suppose they can only easily handle 8 columns by 3 rows = 24 keys. Assuming they need more than 24 characters, make one or more of those keys shift keys, and you need to use shifts to get to the less common letters. Life if they are trying to type English, maybe make "Z" be "shift-S" and "W" be "shift-V". I mean a different shift from the capital letter shift, just something to get you to an alternate set of keys.

The other obvious possibility is that they don't "touch type". The keyboard is too big for them to put their hands in one position and reach any key, so they just hunt and peck all the time, like human beings who never learned to type.

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