How old are ergonomic keyboards? About as old as the Web. The World Wide Web was launched in 1991. A year later, in 1992 Kinesis Corporation started selling the very first ergonomic keyboard, The Model 100. The pic above is the very first one off the line, serial number 0001 (found via their tweet)! In other words, ergonomic keyboards are about as old as our Interwebs.
What I find fascinating is this first model was not a minor improvement over the existing standard keyboard. Rather, it was a complete revisioning, an innovative leap forward. I don’t see this type of layout being super popular so maybe it was too ahead of its time? I can only imagine the types of manufacturing hurdles they overcame to produce a curved keyboard. I found this post of someone who took one of these apart fascinating (the tinkerer in me would love to take one apart).
I’m grateful to the inventors, engineers, and other people who have devoted countless hours to bring us a host of ergonomic keyboard options. I wish I had bought one of these when I first got started in Web development back in 1995. It wasn’t until 1997 or so that I got my first ergonomic keyboard, a Microsoft model.
In 1994 Microsoft launched their first ergonomic keyboard, their Microsoft Natural Keyboard, which is probably one of the first ergonomic keyboards that sort of looks like the ones we commonly see today. This model was made for Windows 95 and Novell Netware. I bet not many people have even heard of Novell Netware! If you look at the latest Microsoft keyboards, they don’t appear that different from this very first model (versus Kinesis which tested and launched radically different models).
No doubt the next 25 years we’ll see radical improvements in the way we enter text into a computer. My prediction is that we’ll use keyboards less and less and use voice input more and more. When I ask voice directions to Google Maps for instance, Google even understands and correctly converts Hawaiian street names! When voice input becomes more pervasive, perhaps our keyboards will be morph into quick edit keyboards to fix voice dictation and enter special commands with a secondary piece of hardware you only use when you need to type out words.
Interested in a model a bit more modern? Check out our guide to ergonomic keyboards currently on the market.
Update on June 22, 2017. We got a response tweet from Kinesis. This model sold for about $800 in 1992. That’s just over $1,400 in today’s dollars. Prices have come WAY down 🙂