Pico Chording Keyboard Is Simultaneously Vintage And New

On paper, chording — that’s pressing multiple keys to create either a single character or a whole word — looks like one of the best possible input methods. Maybe not the best for speed, at least for a while, but definitely good for conserving the total number of keys. Of course, fewer keys also makes for an easier time when it comes to building keyboards (as long as you don’t have to code the chording software). In fact, we would venture to guess that the hardest part of building your own version of [CrazyRobMiles]’s Pico Chord Keyboard would be teaching your fingers how to work together to chord instead of typing one at a time.

[CrazyRobMiles] took inspiration from the Cykey chording design used for the Microwriter and later, the Microwriter Agenda that also featured a qwerty blister keyboard. Both featured small screens above the six keys — one for each finger, and two for the thumb. While the original Microwriter ran on an 8-bit microprocessor, Pico Chord Keyboard uses — you guessed it — the Raspberry Pi Pico.

We love that [CrazyRobMiles] went with four 14-segment displays, which gives it a nice old school feel, but used transparent keycaps over Kailh switches. This is actually important, because not only do the LEDs show what mode you’re in (alpha vs. numeric vs. symbols), they also teach you how to chord each letter in the special training game mode. Be sure to check it out in the video after the break.

Isn’t it cool that we live in a world of relatively big keyboards with few keys and tiny keyboards with all the keys?

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It's a keyboard!

The Charachorder Keyboard Is Too Fast For Competition

We interrupt the flow of Keebin’ with Kristina to bring you this special bulletin. When three different people alert you to a keyboard within 48 hours or so, it calls for more than just a paragraph in the roundup column. So here are several paragraphs, an animated GIF, and some extended commentary about the Charachorder, a new kind of input that came up through Kickstarter in 2021.

Driving this hype train are some short viral videos that show the founder hitting 500+ WPM on this crazy thing. FYI, that is fast enough to get you banned from typing competitions, including the monkeytype leaderboard. Those apes forbid chorded input altogether, and automatically throw out entries above 300 WPM. It acheives these insane speeds through clever mechanical design and, of course, firmware.

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An open-source chording keyboard with trackball support.

Chordie Chording Keyboard Speaks No Qwerty

What is the fastest way to get thoughts out of your brain and into relative permanence? Well, yeah, probably a voice recorder. But after voice recorders comes typing in a distant second. Typing, especially QWERTY-style, has its limitations. The holy grail method it comes to typing quickly has got to be a chording keyboard, hands down. How can court reporters possibly keep up with everything that’s uttered during a trial? When you can press a few keys at the same time and type entire words, it’s not that difficult. It just takes a whole lot of memorization and muscle memory to get to that point.

An open-source chording keyboard with trackball support.So if you’re going to go for the glory, check out Chordie, a snazzy little chording keyboard that does it all with just 14 keys. [kbjunky] based Chordie on the Ginny, a cute little bare-bones bat-wing chording keyboard that uses the ASETNIOP chording engine originally built for soft keyboards.[kbjunky] added open-face trackball support via printed cradle, but it’s not necessary to use a trackball since there’s a pair of rotary encoders and a mouse layer.

This keyboard looks fantastic with its rocket ship MCU holder and its flush-mounted I/O expander breakout boards. Apparently [kbjunky] used polyimide tape to keep the solder from making blobs. It’s all there in the nice build guide.

We would probably argue that chording is not totally ergonomic. Sure, you barely move your hands or wrists, but chording itself can be hard on the digits, especially the pinkies. To that end, [kbjunky] used low-profile switches with light springs. Totally ergonomic or not, we have to admit that we love the idea of clacking along at 300 WPM someday far, far down the learning curve of ASETNIOP. Take a look at the key map, and check out [kbjunky]’s follow-up post if you want to see a demo.

Maybe you prefer a completely different typing experience. Well, ASETNIOP works with digital pianos, too.

Via r/ErgoMechKeyboards

The Keyboard You Really Don’t Need Or Want

Most people think of a keyboard as a flat, vaguely rectangular thing with around 100ish different keys. A mechanical keyboard enthusiast would heartily disagree and point out various tenkeyless, 75%, 60%, or 40% keyboards that strip down the idea of what a keyboard is by taking keys out. [Stavros Korokithakis] takes that notion and turns it on its side by creating the five-button vertical keyboard known as Keyyyyyyyys.

This keyboard, or keystick, is designed to be onehanded and to be eye-contact-free. With just five keys, it makes heavy use of chording to output all the characters needed. It has a maximum of 32 possible states and taking out pressing nothing as a no-op leaves 31 possible key combinations. So [Stavros] had to get creative and laid out the letters according to their frequency in the English language. The brains of Keyyyyyyyys is the ubiquitous ESP32, emulating a Bluetooth keyboard while being wrapped in a simple 3d printed box. The code is hosted on GitLab.

If you don’t know how hard it is to learn a five-key chording keyboard from scratch, definitely check out [Stavros]’ video embedded below. “C’mon h.” We have heard reports that you can learn these things, though.

While this five-button keyboard may seem small, this two-button keyboard still has it beat by three keys. A one-button keyboard is just a morse code keyboard, and we are looking forward to a wireless Bluetooth version. Continue reading “The Keyboard You Really Don’t Need Or Want”

Inputs Of Interest: The Infogrip BAT Chording Keyboard

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that by researching weird and interesting keyboards, I would uncover more weird and interesting keyboards. This is the BAT personal keyboard by Infogrip, and it’s something I came across while researching the DataHand keyboard and mentally filed away as something cool to look into.

When I came across a used BAT for a reasonable price, I snagged it, even though it didn’t come with any of the manuals or software, not even a cord. Like I said, reasonable price. I looked these keyboards up and found out that you can buy them new for a lot more than what I paid.

My gently used BAT in all its angular glory.
The lowercase letter chords use either the middle thumb key or no thumb key. Image via Infogrip

So what is this thing? It’s a chording keyboard that’s meant to be used a standard PC input device by anyone who either can’t use a regular keyboard or has a need for speed. Years of research went into the BAT’s chording scheme, which was developed in conjunction with NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

Instead of stretching your fingers all over a regular keyboard, poking keys one at a time to spell out words, you press combinations of keys simultaneously, like playing chords on a piano.

You’re meant to use your thumb for the red, grey, and blue keys, and lay the other four on the rest of the keys. All of the alphabet keys are chorded with or without the gray thumb key, and all the number, symbol, and modifier keys are accessed through the red and blue layers.

Why would you want one of these? Well, given enough time to learn the chords, you can do anything a standard 104+ keyboard can do with only seven keys. You would never need to look down, not even for those weird seldom-used keys, and the only finger that ever travels is your thumb. All of this reduced hand/finger/wrist travel is going to be easier on the body.

The BAT lets you CAD like a madlad. Via Bill Buxton

The BAT is also part programmable macro pad, and from what I can gather, the main selling point was that you could quickly input shortcuts in CAD programs and the like, because you could keep one hand on the mouse.

The BAT came in both left- and right-handed versions that can be used either alone or together. Imagine how fast you could type if you chorded everything and split the typing duties between both hands! The only trouble is learning all those different finger combinations, although they say it doesn’t take that long.

So why is it called the BAT? Legend has it that it’s because company started out in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but also because a pair of BATs sitting next to each other resembles a bat (PDF).

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