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    That damn Spacebar is so annoyingly long!

    • Started by DreymaR
    • 10 Replies:
    • Reputation: 184
    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 5,239

    Yes, that's right. A post on this forum started me thinking and now I'm thoroughly annoyed.

    On laptops I've seen, the Space bar is about 5 keys long. On stationary boards, about 6 keys give or take a little. I've noticed that only a little area of my space bar gets worn (I don't have labeled keys so I easily see usage!). And holding my hands in position I see that the thumbs rest exactly 3 keys apart on the middle of the bar. There's room for an Alt-sized key on each side!

    I immediately started wanting a new board with a shorter space bar. Then I wanted something else in its' place. Now I'm getting close to Kinesis land, I guess - but I'm still not quite abandoning the old board type since I'll still be using other boards so damn much and I can't afford to be confused by them. Maybe I'm just chicken; that, and the Kinesis costs good money of course (but so would my special idea too!). What about matrix-type (pun intended!) boards? Can you put a short space bar on any of them, or just put a bunch of regular keys where it used to be?

    Now, I'm not off to create total chaos either, but I think that there are a few keys I'd love to have a lot closer while typing! And the prime suspects are the arrow keys. If the space bar were chopped up into regular keys I could fit in the right and left arrows on each side of it for really easy access while typing: It'd mean releasing a tiny bit of Vim-type magic on every keyboard session! That would bring the space bar down to 3-4 keys' width which would still be lavish for my tastes. I'd like to get the up and down arrows in there too actually; maybe in the middle of a further chopped-up space bar?

    The former 6-char long space bar would then look like this:
    | <- | spc | up | dn | spc | -> |
    This wouldn't introduce any new scan codes or anything like that, just put a few keys in a much more convenient position at the expense of a big fat key that I've never seen the need for keeping that fat.

    The only time I can think of when having a chopped-up space bar would be less convenient, is when I'm not touch typing but want to hit the space bar in a jiffy from doing something else. But I'm not really concerned about that.

    Are there keyboards I could rebuild like this? I think I read something in a post  a little back but I can't remember where.

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    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 5,239

    The optimum would of course be if someone hardware-savvy found a way to manhandle a run-of-the-mill keyboard into an extra-keys-on-the-thumb-row one! Cannibalizing other boards of the same make would be permitted, to get the extra keys required.

    I don't think that'd be anywhere near easy to do though. I've no idea myself how to create keyboard scan codes and get them to the circuitry. It's just a fascinating thought.

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    • Registered: 08-Mar-2008
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    I wouldn't put the arrow keys apart; they really should be next to each other. But breaking up the spacebar is a good idea. One possibility is to break it in two, with space on 1 side and delete on the other.

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    • From: Belgium
    • Registered: 26-Feb-2008
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    SpeedMorph said:

    I wouldn't put the arrow keys apart; they really should be next to each other. But breaking up the spacebar is a good idea. One possibility is to break it in two, with space on 1 side and delete on the other.

    Or Enter, since we already have Backspace on the home row now.  With modern computers (esp. when using command line interfaces or programming), Enter is used a lot more than with typewriters.

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    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    I don't know - if the right and left thumb handled the right and left arrow respectively I think it'd work just fine.

    A simple broken spacebar can be found on the TypeMatrix board for instance; I think you can map that to different scan codes if desired. But I want more than that, I think.

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    DreymaR said:

    I don't know - if the right and left thumb handled the right and left arrow respectively I think it'd work just fine.

    A simple broken spacebar can be found on the TypeMatrix board for instance; I think you can map that to different scan codes if desired. But I want more than that, I think.

    Most of the time when I use arrow keys I'm playing a video game, so I want all the arrow keys to be together.

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    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    But you wouldn't lose the old arrow keys, so if you're intent on using those in your game then you could. You'd instead gain another set for text browsing without the hassle of moving away from the typing you were doing.

    I usually use WARS in video games.

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    • Registered: 08-Mar-2008
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    I modified my keyboard by shifting everything upward, like Arensito http://www.pvv.org/~hakonhal/keyboard/. Because the number keys were then gone and I wasn't using some key positions, I had to make a bunch of dead keys. Also my key remapping software can't remap modifier keys (like shift or control), so shift actually works dead key style. You press it once, and then the next time you hit a key, it's capital. Here's the layout.

    qwfpgjluy;-=
    arstdhneio'[]
    zxcvbkm,./\
    !   *#^@&()

    hit by thumbs:
    * = shift
    # = delete
    ^ =  return
    @ = space
    & = shift

    The / key is used as a dead key to access the numbers, and the characters that are normally shift-number are right below the numbers.

    The main advantage is that the thumbs are used a lot more, and also the j is under the hardest to reach key (6) and b is easier to reach.

    I'm currently at 25 wpm, versus 40 on a normal layout. This is mainly because it takes forever to fix errors because I keep losing the backspace.

    Last edited by SpeedMorph (01-May-2008 19:24:33)
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    • Registered: 03-May-2008
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    Good ideas. I think 3 meta-keys on each side of space are plenty... so how about right thumb is space, left thumb is a 4-way hat switch (D-pad with a rubber cone on top for grippiness when thumb is horizontal. You see them on top of some flight controls for thumbs. A 4- or 8-way constrained mini-joystick.) that duplicates arrow keys?

    I'd LOVE that!  Never have to leave home (row)... ;) I suppose you could use a more exotic control, but they are expensive, and besides... so many people have trained left thumb in that capacity already.

    I'd settle for a small trackball or analog joystick too, but would find the 4-way conical hat a better option because when lateral -- or even vertical like on a fighter joystick -- my thumb is more dextrous when I can press slightly down continuously and wiggle. And a 4-way constraint rather than analog or infinite because my thumb doesn't move in North, South, East, West when at the keyboard...

    More like NW -- SE (bottom joint), W --  E (top joint)... the 4-way constraint would fix that to match arrow keys function, if you aligned it correctly.

    EDIT: you can see a good example here :
    21_500.jpg

    The black thing at top that looks like one oriental style of hat is a self-centering multi-switch, hence "hat switch". For keyboard use, perhaps one a little squishier-looking, or the style that is cupped slightly instead of conical like on some game-joysticks. So many possibilities, so little real innovation in keyboard design... (other than bolting on acres of tiny, identical "media buttons" far away from where they might be useful).

    Last edited by swarmofkillermonkeys (12-May-2008 20:53:36)
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    • From: Viken, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    Wow, now you've got me going. Make a small ergonomic hinge on the keyboard, put not one hat switch but dual analog sticks and a hat into the wedge and you have - a gamepad!  :)

    That would've been fun, actually. For games it's an obvious bonus to have all the keys of the normal board while also getting the pad sticks, and I feel it'd play similarly to how a pad does now (except you couldn't put it in your lap as easily - maybe). For applications and whatnot the dual sticks could hopefully do a lot of the mouse work so that you could stay "on board" without moving your hands.

    Ah, fun thought. But how would one actually make such a board? Fusing two pieces of hardware? Duct tape?

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    • From: Jackson, Mississippi(MS)
    • Registered: 17-May-2022
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    I've been using a DAW for years, and hitting the spacebar to play/pause is second nature to me. However, as previously said, the Faderport always works. I'm still getting used to using it instead of the spacebar, but it's a good start.

    I've also had problems pushing the spacebar test to start playback after loading a session, but nothing happens. Because I'm using a Mac, I get the "bonk" sound. There are no plugins active, the mixer is closed, and there are no dockers, but to get Reaper to play, I have to "refocus" (or use the Faderport) anywhere in the arrange window. The spacebar can sometimes be restored by simply opening and shutting the mixer. When this happens, key commands can be used.

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