back to article Laptop option on the way for ortholinear keyboard hipsters in form of MNT Reform add-on

Enthusiasts of radical ergonomics, high-speed coders, and keyboard hipsters have cause to rejoice: the market will soon boast the world's first laptop with an ortholinear keyboard layout, thanks to not one but two aftermarket upgrades. The ortholinear layout, named for the Greek "orthos" meaning straight or rigid and the Latin …

  1. Iain

    Wow! They've re-invented the Sharp MZ80-K (and others)

    Never knew I was nearly 40 years ahead of the game, shouldn't have sold it years ago!

    Although I don't recall it being particularly ergonomic...?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      The original Commodore PET was the first ready-to-use home computer, the Sharp copied the form factor.

      And on the note of ergonomics, the offset keyboard is better IMHO because from the home keys you can easily reach the two above and the two below with minimal finger movement. With a "straight" keyboard, you can reach one key above and one below marginally easier, but the keys to side involve much more lateral movement. The finger joint doing all the aiming work is a ball joint, so using offset keys is more natural.

      I'm just surprised they didn;t decide to go for broke and get rid of the whole QWERTY[1] idea at the same time!

      [1] Other language specific QWERTY-alike layouts are available.

      1. Iain
        Thumb Up

        Ahh, just looked at the images, and the original Commodore PET was ortholinear, but at school we had the later ones with the more normal looking black keyboard

        Indeed, I'm typing using the Dvorak layout on a Qwerty keyboard.

        Makes it interesting in technical tests when I go all hunt & peck if I have to use Qwerty...

  2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Hunt & Peck

    I've written milions of lines of code during my career. With two fingers. While all the touch typist, CS educated developers sitting around me whined about not having the ideal language, IDE or keyboard, I just started typing. And beat many of them in terms of output. So, enjoy your ergo keyboard. Just as long as it's not an excuse for not getting work done.

    And I've never sufered from RSI either. Possibly because I alternate which finger I use to press any key. It keeps my hands flexible.

    1. mechkbfan

      Re: Hunt & Peck

      Being close minded about your development practices isn't exactly a good behaviour for the software development industry unless you want to stick with legacy applications that no one else wants

  3. iron Silver badge

    If the keys were in a standard layout, just ortholinear then maybe but with the wierd layout pictured no way I'd use this. The placement of Home, End, Pg Up, Pg Dn and the arrow keys on a normal laptop keyboard causes me enough problems without doing stupid things like moving Ctrl, Esc and the punctiation used for programming!

    1. Paul Kinsler

      but with the wierd layout pictured

      Hmm. Actually it's the non-weird -- i.e. very regular -- layout of the ortho keyboard that makes me think it might be annoying. It occurs to me that the stagger and the various sizes of key on an ordinary qwerty probably help with subconcious navigation & key-finding; a regular grid of keys doesn't have all those little location cues.

      But no doubt I'd get used to it ... but probably only if I was forced to :-)

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "If the keys were in a standard layout, just ortholinear then maybe"

      I have a miniature one of those on a remote for an OSMC box. It's a pain although admittedly it doesn't help that numbers and punctuation are shift characters indicated by being printed in minute dark blue characters on a black background.

  4. gitignore

    cost saving

    I assume the main driver for this is around ease of manufacture and cost saving rather than any ergonomic benefit.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      ease of manufacture

      Indeed the staggered layout of the typewriter was itself due to ease of manufacturing, as each key was connected to a long lever running away from the operator to the mechanism that flipped the type bar. The stagger allowed the levers to be straight and lie neatly side by side. If the "ortholinear" layout had been used (as it was on the early Chinese keyboard) all the levers would've had to have multiple bends in them, making them harder to manufacture and less rigid.

  5. Ken G Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Logic doesn't matter

    It's not worth learning a new fingering technique.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: Logic doesn't matter

      That's what she--ah, never mind.

      1. Ken G Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Logic doesn't matter

        That's why the Paris icon.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Logic doesn't matter

      There are little raised bars or dashes on the F and J keys... no such tactile assistance for the G key although I've searched and searched for the supposed spot there.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It sounds like somebody's PET idea.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Innovation is essential

    Bringing new ideas to market is always a Good Thing (TM), but I can't bring myself to find this idea interesting for me.

    I've been banging keyboards for almost 40 years. No RSI, I have a rather good word-per-minute score, and I am seriously used to the AZERTY layout and staggered keys.

    It doesn't matter to me that staggered keys are an artifact of typewriter fabrication constraints. My fingers know the distances now. I'm okay with it.

    It's the same reason that keeps me from trying those ergonomic, split-in-half keyboards with that entirely different layout. Or the Dvorak layout. I just can't be bothered to spend a few years getting used to an entirely new key disposition.

    I'm good with what I'm used to, and if ain't broken, don't fix it.

    But if the younguns find it good, go ahead, try it.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Innovation is essential

      "It's the same reason that keeps me from trying those ergonomic, split-in-half keyboards with that entirely different layout. Or the Dvorak layout. I just can't be bothered to spend a few years getting used to an entirely new key disposition."

      The other show stopper for me is that I use more than one keyboard. Work laptop, home desktop and laptop, and all the other devices with standard QWERTY layouts. It can be bad enough at times just switching between standard layout keyboards with different pitch and rake, or flat laptop and raked, full key travel desktop. Not to mention the different layouts of "special" keys.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: Innovation is essential

        This is what I thought, my muscle memory is perfectly ok having learned normal key layout, and its frustrating enough swapping between US and UK keyboard layouts. I don't want to confuse the issue by having one special no standard key layout on one device for no particular good reason.

  8. jake Silver badge

    No, thank you.

    Adjusting to my Linotype keybr0ad is bad enough.

    Mine's the one with etaoin shrdlu embroidered on the back.

    1. W.S.Gosset

      Re: Linotype

      Reminded me I referenced ~decade-ago some great links for any nostalgia heads. Part of overhauling some wikipedia stuff that was later hijacked by typesetter-religioustypes. I found a couple of them:

      Of limited general interest: Linotype keyboard operation; methods of study and procedures for setting various kinds of composition on the linotype.

      Of interest for young'uns, tho probably boring for experts: A "Silesian Vocational and Technical" (1960) training video for Linotype machines, notable for its clarity regarding the technology's strengths and limitations etc

  9. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge


    Very surprised they didn't ditch QWERTY

  10. TVC

    All this new fangled stuff

    I started my I T career 50 years ago using a Teletype machine with a roll of paper for a screen. It did at least have a small speaker so you could tell if your program had stopped. Never did learn to touch type but I was a very fast two finger typist even though I was also very inaccurate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re: All this new fangled stuff

      Ditto on the age. But I started learning typing on an IBM Selectric and did most of my program input on an IBM 029 keypunch.

      Given the opportunity, I'd choose an IBM Model M (with a separate number pad, since I also learned 10 key touch typing).

      Nothing is going to tempt me away from a flat, staggered, QWERTY keyboard.

      1. W.S.Gosset

        Re: All this new fangled stuff

        IBM Model M is still being (re)made if you want one.

        A v.close runnerup for everyone's "best ever" keyboard (and less noisy) was the old apple extended kbd II -- which is also being remade (eg Matias' Tactile Pro, which started off using the original apple switches)

    2. W.S.Gosset

      Re: All this new fangled stuff

      And ctrl-G really did ring the bell! Immediately!

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