Inputs Of Interest: The Svalboard Could Be Your Salvation

You know, sometimes dreams really do come true. When I told you about the DataHand keyboard almost four years ago, I never imagined I’d ever get to lay my hands on anything even remotely like it, between the original price point and the fact that they really, really hold their value. But thanks to [Morgan Venable], creator of the Svalboard, I can finally tell you what it’s like to type with your digits directionalized.

If you don’t recall, the DataHand was touted to be a total revolution in typing for RSI sufferers. It debuted in 1993 for a hefty price tag of about $1,500 — pretty far out of reach of the average consumer, but well within the budgets of the IT departments of companies who really wanted to keep their workers working. You want minimum finger travel? It doesn’t get more minimal than this concept of a d-pad plus the regular down action for each finger.

The Svalboard aims to be the new and improved solution for something that barely exists anymore, but still has a devoted following. Although the DataHand was built on a gantry and adjustable using knobs, the smallest fit possible on the thing is still rather big. Conversely, the Svalboard is fully customizable to suit any size hand and fingertip.

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Inputs Of Interest: The Differently Dexterous DataHand Directionalizes Digits

If you had debilitating pain from repetitive stress injury in the 1990s, there were a lot of alternative keyboard options out there. One of the more eye-catching offerings was the DataHand keyboard made by DataHand Systems out of Phoenix, AZ. The DataHand debuted in 1993 with a price tag around $2,000. While this is admittedly pretty steep for the average consumer, it was well within the IT budgets of companies that wanted to avoid workman’s comp claims and keep their employees typing away.

In theory, this is holy grail territory for anti-RSI keyboards. The DataHand was designed to eliminate wrist motion altogether by essentially assigning a d-pad plus a regular push-down button to each finger. The layout resembles QWERTY as closely as possible and uses layers to access numbers, symbols, and other functions, like a rudimentary mouse.

Although if you put them this close together, you’re kind of missing the point. Image via Bill Buxton

Ergonomic to the Max

Typing on the DataHand is supposed to be next to effortless. The directional switches are all optical, which probably has a lot to do with the eye-popping price point. But instead of being spring-loaded, these switches use magnets to return to the neutral position.

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