A keyboard design

Nils Klarlund

AT&T Labs

December, 2001



A keyboard design that better supports scrolling is presented. A rubber belt, or similar traction mechanism, is placed along the side of a keyboard so that it can be operated easily in a multitude of ways, including being pushed by the hand, while it is being supported by both the table and the belt, or being pushed by fingers that grab protrusions on the belt.

Moreover, it is proposed that the belt be placed in an angle of say 20 degrees from the vertical so that it can be better manipulated with the hand resting on the table next to the side of the keyboard. Also, it is proposed that mouse buttons and common keys may be placed below or above the belt, perhaps at an angle of say 20 degrees from the horizontal, so as to facilitate common operations.

Finally, a rearrangement of the keys of the usual keyboard layout is suggested so that the total width of the keyboard design does not exceed that of the already wide standard 101-key keyboard. The rearrangement entails placing the numeric keypad above the arrow keys, which are placed according to the traditional arrangement. The editing and window manipulation keys usually found above the cursor keys are moved to the right side of the keyboard, where they can better be manipulated by a hand resting on the table, especially if placed at an angle of say 20 degrees from the horizontal.


The recent popularity of the scroll wheel, invented by Microsoft, is unfortunate from a computer ergonomics point of view. The scroll wheel is used to page up and down in a window -- a common operation since more and more people are reading information directly from the screen. But many computer users already suffer from injuries related to mouse use, so it is worrisome that this function is now being standardized as belonging on the mouse.

In the present disclosure, it is suggested that the scroll functionality be placed on the keyboard as a belt or continuous tread, made out of rubber or plastic, which largely increases the available surface for hands and fingers to grasp.


The new keyboard design is shown in Figure 1. The main claim of the invention is the existence and placement of a belt (which could also be a continuous tread similar in shape to those found on Caterpillar vehicles) along one or both sides of the keyboard so that the movement of the belt, via a connection to a computer, results in a proportional movement of some object displayed on the screen (such as the part of the document shown (scrolling) or cursor or sliding control (e.g. for volume)).

In figure 1, the placement of the belt is shown to the left of the keyboard according to the top view indicated. The belt may also be placed to the right, or perhaps on both sides of the keyboard. The front view shows that the belt may be placed at an angle so that it can be better operated when the hand rests on the table beside the keyboard. This side view shows how the belt may be fastened to two wheels, labeled Wheel A and Wheel B. In addition, a set of roller pins (not shown) may be used to support the belt between the two wheels. The belt may be made out of a variety of materials, in rubber as one piece, or in plastic or metal, where separate pieces of material are hinged together to form a flexible band. It is envisaged that the belt be equipped with protrusions so that a finger may easily grasp the belt. A mechanism for measuring the rotation of a wheel (or roller pin), like the one used in scroll mice [roller-mouse], is used to communicate the movement of the belt to a computer.

The design also postulates a new arrangement of the right hand side of the keyboard. This arrangement is independent of the rest of the innovation, and may be useful on its own. A small number of keys are suggested to be made "low-profile"; this means that the key is not as high as surrounding keys and that its footprint is smaller -- this is a common technique employed on laptop computers.

The purpose of the new arrangement of the keyboard is to make it less wide. It is proposed to keep the cursor keys to the right of the main area of the keyboard that comprises the alphabetic keys (along with modifiers and some special keys, like the "insert" key). But the usual six keys ("insert", "delete", "home", "end", "page up", and "page down") above the arrow keys ("left", "right", "up", and "down") are removed. Instead -- and this is main claim of the keyboard arrangement proposition of this invention -- the area above the arrow keys is used for a numeric keypad, which is usually found all the way to the right of the keyboard. Moreover, the numeric keypad is slightly changed from the usual layout in the preferred embodiment so that the four keys corresponding to the usual arithmetic operations are placed in a column next to the standard 11 keys representing the 10 digits and the decimal point. It is proposed that a distance of the size of a standard key separates the cluster of keys constituting the numeric keypad and the "up arrow" of the arrow keys. In that way, the right hand may rest in the area around the arrow keys.

It is further proposed that the "delete" key is moved to the area above the "backspace" key and that the "insert" key is moved to a place right above the "delete" key, perhaps in a low-profile version. Similarly, it is suggested to make the rarely used keys "print screen", "scroll lock", "num lock", and "pause" into low-profile keys. The resulting space reduction will enable the numeric keypad to be kept at the proposed distance from the arrow keys without extending the depths of the keyboard.

Finally, it is proposed to move some or all of the keys ("insert", "delete", "home", "end", "page up", and "page down") to the far right hand side of the keyboard, so that they can be placed in a column along the side. That enables a user of the keyboard to easily manipulate these commonly used keys while resting part of the hand on the table. Such arrangements are already present on existing laptop computers.

Note that the present proposition for rearranging some common keyboard keys is entirely independent of the scroll belt idea. It is of independent interest is the purpose is to keep the functionality of the common keyboard, which has slightly more than 100 keys, while making it is wide.

To make the mouse buttons operable with pointing devices that possess no built-in buttons, it is suggested to place mouse buttons along the sides of the keyboard. In particular, we claim that a placement next to the scrolling mechanism is new and useful.

To make buttons and scrolling mechanisms more easily used with hands resting on the table, it is suggested in this invention to make the area next to the side of the keyboard slope down towards the table as opposed to horizontal. For example, the slope may be 30 degrees from the horizontal. In that way, the scrolling mechanisms and the buttons close to the edge may easily be depressed by a hand that is close to or resting on the table. Alternatively, buttons on the surface of the scrolling mechanisms may be shaped with oblique angles to achieve a similar effect.


[roller-mouse] US Patent 5530455: Roller mouse for implementing scrolling in windows applications.