Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Mommy, what's a keyboard"

Even with the explosion of the QWERTY keyboard being plastered on to almost every type of electronic device these days, I’m going to go out on a limb here and now to declare that the QWERTY keyboard will be obsolete within my lifetime. This prediction is not limited to the keyboard device I’m using to type this article. I’m referring to any type of letter based data input that takes the form of QWERTY. The beginning of the end for QWERTY is not the Dvorak keyboard. Nor is it speak [mis]recognition technology. In my view, the signal of the end is predictive text input.

Predictive text input is where a person enters there first couple of letters and then is presented with a word or list of words that most likely match the author’s intent. The author keeps typing until the correct word appears, then accepts the entry. On a cell phone number pad, each number represents 3 or 4 letters. Predictive test input can quickly find the desired word, often with the push of only a couple of numbers. In addition, more sophisticated systems will learn which words are most commonly used by the author and present those as first choices to the author.

With predictive text input, a person can drastically increase their typing capabilities. I’ve seen individuals text with cell phones numeric pads faster than what is even possible on a smartphone QWERTY keyboard. In fact, I would suggest that average wpm speeds of numeric pad texters with predictive text input even exceeds that of experienced typists on traditional full size keyboard devices. That’s not hyperbole, and I’m not kidding. The QWERTY keyboard’s current Golden Age will be over soon enough.

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