The QWERTY keyboard is like a decent pair of denim: everyone, and I mean everyone, just has to have one. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a world without jeans or the boxy QWERTY keyboard, which has been a central part of the computing experience for decades.
But what makes the traditional keyboard so special? Is its appeal really limited to the fact that we all know how to use it?
Some people would argue ‘yes’. Those same people might prefer one of the five alternatives listed below. But given some of the odd designs you see here, there’s probably a good reason for the endurance of that rectangular hunk of plastic sitting in front of our computers.
1. Minuum Keyboard Project
The key here is simplicity: it’s a touch-screen keyboard application for your tablet computer or smartphone. Rather than presenting you with several levels of keys, the Minuum squeezes the standard QWERTY design into a single, long bar. The advantage: it opens up more space on your touch screen device. The disadvantage: it’s not particularly useful for non-touch screen devices.
2. The Virtual Laser Keyboard (VKB)
This thing is just wild: it projects a keyboard onto a flat surface. The VKB is smaller than an Apple iPod and is positioned on a desk just in front of where you want the virtual keyboard projected. It’s an odd sight, but whipping this thing out at a board meeting might just set you apart — in a good way.
3. Wolf King Warrior
Ever thought of using a round keyboard? No? Oh, you like being relatively productive? The Wolf King is designed for gamers looking for an edge when playing first-person shooters like Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. For that purpose it’s quite useful, since it packs all of the necessary buttons into a compact frame and layout. But it’s unlikely anyone else will find the circular device even remotely practical.
4. Dvorak Simplified Keyboard
The Dvorak design is supposed to provide you with easier access to the keys you use most. In that way, it doesn’t force you to move you fingers around as much, which not only saves time but can also prevent the onset of painful cramps. The Dvorak has been around almost as long as the QWERTY, though, and hasn’t yet staged a successful coup, so don’t expect it to pass into common use.
5. Optimus Maximus Keyboard
This Russian-made OLED keyboard is designed to dynamically change the appearance of keys. For example, press shift and the entire keyboard switches to upper case, automatically. It’s highly customizable and can switch between distinct keyboard layouts (like English and Cyrillic) in an instant. The drawback: At $1,500 and up, it’s ludicrously expensive.