Fitaly in the Press

Keyboard History
by Brandi Jasmine

TUCOWS Grazing Grounds August 1998

A few weeks ago I was reading an article that pointed out that the keyboards most of us type on were originally engineered to slow typists down. In the early days of typewriter technology, typists would get the keys stuck together when they typed to quickly. The designers decided to place the keys so users had to use the same hand for letters which normally follow each other, which slowed things down down.

It seems ironic that there have been little to no changes in the design of the keyboard now that keystroke breakage is no longer an issue. Aside from the Dvorak keyboard, which never caught on in the mainstream, there have been few new options offered to computer users, and even hand-held PDAs with touch- screens featured these dinosaurs ... until now. I recently received a press release touting the benefits of a new keyboard for PDAs Called FITALY, the keyboard claimed to offer much faster "tap-typing" ability to the PDA user.

The patented FITALY key arrangement minimizes pen travel: The letters "italnedors" and the space - with a combined frequency of 84% in normal text - are clustered in a central area. Remaining keys are at most two keys away from the center area and each key is positioned next to the keys most likely to follow it in English text. The Palm FITALY layout is the first keyboard allowing access to the full 220 Ansi character set. The new layout offers alternative panels allowing international users to type most characters with only two taps. All typographical symbols are fully supported such as n-dash, m-dash, the bullet, and even card suits.

The first thing I noticed of course was that FITALY takes some getting used to - about the same amount of time I figure I spent picking up Pilot's Graffiti. After using it for a week or so, I am spoiled and won't be going back to a regular keyboard. One of the handy benefits is that you can seamlessly switch back and forth to Graffiti without closing off the keyboard - a handy feature for me, because I find that Graffiti works better in bumpy conditions (like the morning commute), and the keyboard is faster during smooth patches. The second thing I noticed is that after long periods of writing on the Pilot my typing hand wasn't sore.

You can download a trial copy of FITALY for Pilot at PilotZone and there are versions for Newton and Windows CE on the developer's homepage.

See you next week!

Brandi Jasmine

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