Binary Keyboard Is The Purest Form Of Input Device

You may be a hardcore keyboard aficionado whose buckled-spring switches will be pried from your cold dead hands, but there is a new model on the street that relegates your blank-key Das Keyboard or your trusty IBM Model M to the toy chest.

The new challenger comes from Reddit user [duckythescientist], who has created a minimalist three-key binary keyboard. It features a 0 key, a 1 key, a return key, and nothing else. Characters are entered as ASCII or Unicode, and the device emulates either a QWERTY or Dvorak keyboard layout to the host computer’s USB interface. It couldn’t be a simpler layout to learn, though we’d concede that not everyone has the entire binary Unicode table memorised.

The keys are mounted in a custom 3D printed case, and the electronics come from the creator’s own “tinydev” board based on an ATtiny85. All the code is available in a GitHub repository, and there is a very short video of its Unicode ability below the break.

We’ve never had a binary keyboard here before, but we have ventured into the world of classic high quality keyboards several times. This feature on IBM capacitive keyboards for example, or a look at IBM terminal keyboards.

47 thoughts on “Binary Keyboard Is The Purest Form Of Input Device

    1. Or two and forget the clock as the enter-key is redundant. The entire interface can be a tree traversal system where you start at the top of the tree and can see yourself selecting nodes on lower branches by clicking 1 or 0 (L or R) until you get to “leaves” then that character is selected and you find yourself at the top of the tree again.

      Obviously there are more efficient systems where you select entire concepts rather than individual symbols, a tree of depth 20 will give you just over 1 million concepts that you can express. The trick is the system you use to order/enumerate the concepts in a useful way so that you can navigate the tree and know where you need to go to express an idea. One helper method is to have the default concepts showing, i.e. for any given point in the tree the two concepts you would express if you just continued with a string of 1 or 0, then you always have a sense of your position within the concept space.

          1. Gee thanks, now I’m going to have to spend all morning reviving a 9 pin dot matrix and finding fanfold paper for the authentic pinup experience.

            Though morse isn’t ascii, not even 7 bit ascii, it’s only single case, though thinking again, it’s not even full 5 bit baudot, call it four and a half bits :-D …. though interestingly Baudot was originally sent with a 5 bit binary keyboard! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baudot_code

          1. I saw a close friend of mine the other day… He said, “Steven, why haven’t you called me?” I said, “I can’t call everyone I want. I bought a refurbished phone and my new phone has no five on it.”

            He said, “How long have you had it?” I said, “I don’t know . . . My calendar has no sevens on it.”

  1. I learned to program on a bigboard by ferguson (z80 cp/m single board computer), and we used parallel ascii keyboards. they were 7 bit keyboards on a 8 bit bus (the keyboard driver thought they were 8bit), The eighth bit was usually tied to zero in the keyboard, except in one keyboard, it had a programmable key. There was an 8 position dip switch. you set the dip switch to the value of the key you wanted to press, then pressed the programmable key and that keystroke was sent. Oddly useful.

  2. I have another idea, maybe you could fit some kind of motion sensor underneath and use it to move a special character on the screen which can be used to interact with items displayed on the screen. Like an indicate and press interface.

  3. In the western world the left is lower and right is higher, tinkle a few piano keys.
    It’s backwards. On left of off, backward. Found increasingly more and more.
    It irks me when standards are swept aside because of AADHAD and “whatever”. If frequency of use dictated what is first, then alpha-order would start with etaonirsh etc.
    A “bug” key has 2 paddles and should do nicely. Vibroplex is the name.

      1. I think he means Stephen Hawking’s talk box, that predicts his next words and offers him up a choice. Next level on from auto-complete.

        I once met a guy in a wheelchair, who was severely disabled. He had a talker using Blissymbols, Charles Bliss’s idea for a new way of writing. Had a large LCD screen, and I think altered the display to bring the most likely symbols towards where was easiest to hit, as he typed on it. I’d heard of Blissymbols before but didn’t know they’d found a use anywhere, but apparently they’re popular for things like speaking machines. Faster than typing, important if you’ve got limited motion.

        1. None of those systems is rational, they are not unlike a typesetting keyboard for Asian languages. The position on the board does not mean anything, usually it is arbitrary with no conceptual clustering so you need to map the entire thing in your head to know where to reach for the next key.

  4. Philosophical question. If you have one infinite group of monkeys with this, one with a qwerty keyboard and one with a dvorak, which group types a work of Shakespeare first?

      1. Nah, out of an infinite number one will not only mash keys in correct sequence but at the maximum physiologically possible rate and since there’s no brain stumbles because they’re not actually thinking about it, qwerty and dvorak should finish at exact same time for the first copy of hamlet, however, it will be around 8 times as long getting copy out of the binary kb batch.

        1. The only logic of 8 times is if the monkeys for some reason do hit the ‘enter’ after typing 8 times randomly on the 1 and 0.
          In fact the chance that they will hit 8 1 and 0’s then enter is probably insanely small and it would take a million times longer.

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