Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The gap in Apple's imagination

Regular readers of this blog will be aware I have become increasingly enthusiastic about Apple products. I had a Mac SE as a toy at work circa 1990, but at the time, most things about Apple irritated me. Now, though, after being eased in by iPhone and iPad (with a touch of Apple TV) I have gone all-Apple.

The great thing about Apple products is that they combine style and function so well. They look good and they are a  delight to use - an irresistable (and sadly rare) combination. But there is one thing I have to seriously criticize them for, an essential for usability that they have repeatedly ignored.

For years now I have used a series of ergonomic keyboards. The picture shows my last one - Microsoft's robust battleship of a board, the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. I didn't go for this kind of thing because it looks funky. When I switched to writing most of the time, I found that I increasingly suffered from painful wrist strain after a typing bout. I can easily type 3,000 words or more in a day on a manuscript, without even counting blog posts, emails and all the other typy things I do. The ergonomic keyboard solved the problem overnight.

If you look at your wrists when you use a normal keyboard, what happens is that your arms are heading inwards from either side of your body towards the keyboard. Then, at the wrist, they angle outwards to make the hands parallel at the keyboard. This twist is where the strain arises. The split keyboard means that your hands are positioned in a straight line with your arms. It takes a little getting used to, but I've been touch typing on them for years now.

So, when I moved to Apple, surely this innovative, clever, aware company would have an ergonomic keyboard? No they don't. Of course you can buy a third party one, but it won't have the style of the Apple keyboard, nor necessarily will it have the special Apple keys. It's a real pain. Literally. Get your act together, Apple. Ergonomics is part of usability.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more. In fact, I'm using exactly the same keyboard with my MacMini for a few years now. :)

  2. It's not just keyboards, but also mice that are affected. Prior to using a Mighty Mouse, I didn't have RSI but when I changed jobs and an employer kitted out every G4 with Mighty Mice it was only a few weeks before I was getting excruciating pain in my right hand.

    I guess the majority of Apple customers are more concerned with their Starbucks mochawhatacino and hipster hat to worry about ergonomics.

  3. I use a Magic Mouse which I find if anything better than my old MS mouse - it's usually my left wrist that struggles.

    You're probably right about majority of Apple customers, though if you're into design, ergonomics should be part of it (I think ergonomic keyboard look much sexier in design terms than conventional ones).