The DataHand keyboard was introduced in 1995 by DataHand Systems, Inc. It was invented by Dale J. Retter and was produced by Industrial Innovations as early as 1992. The keyboard consists of two completely separate "keyboards", one for the left hand and one for the right, that are molded to rest the user's hands on. This allows the user to place each hand wherever it is most comfortable to them. Each finger activates five buttons, the four compass directions as well as down. The thumbs also have five buttons, one inside and two outside as well as up and down. The button modules in which the fingers rest are adjustable to best fit the user's hands—each side can be independently moved up and down, towards the palm or farther away.
This ergonomic layout allows for all typing to occur without any wrist motion, as well as without any finger extension. The keyboard layout is initially similar to a QWERTY keyboard, but the middle two columns of keys (i.e. H,Y,G...) have been delegated to sideways finger movements, and all of the keys outside of the main three rows are accessed through two additional modes, including a mode for mousing. There are three primary modes all together: letters, number and symbols, and function / mouse mode. Some practice is required. However, eventual typing speedups are possible.
Also of note is the button design—instead of being spring-loaded, the buttons are held in place with magnets and are activated using optical sensors. This was done in order to dramatically reduce the finger workload while optimizing tactile feedback.
This unconventional keyboard was seen in the Jodie Foster movie Contact (1997) as the pilot's controls for the futuristic spaceship; and the spy movie Stormbreaker (2006). The Industrial Innovations version was featured on the television series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
After the initial prototype was released in 1995, DataHand has released the Professional and Professional II with new bodies. The Professional II also has extended programming capabilities over the Professional, being able to record macros of keystrokes for convenient use.
DataHand Systems, Inc. announced in early 2008 that it was ceasing to market and sell its keyboards. The company web site states that due to supplier issues, the company will not sell the DataHand keyboard "until a new manufacturer can be identified". However, the company plans a final, limited production run to satisfy existing customers. In January 2009, the company's website started taking orders for a "limited number of new DataHand Pro II units".
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- Other innovative keyboard solutions
- Related Topics
- DataHand at Typing FAQ
- How-To disassemble and clean the DataHand
- Images of the DataHand keyboard
- A DataHand owner's experience, with photos of older models
Reviews of the DataHand Keyboard
- Review by Jan Goyvaerts (posted August 6, 2007)
- Follow-up review by Jan Goyvaerts (posted January 7, 2008)
- Review in ExtremeTech written by Robyn Peterson (posted April 22, 2003)
- Review by David Madison
- ATPM Review by Paul Fatula (posted May, 2001)
- Evaluation by G Martin (posted June 10, 1994)
- Evaluation by Cliff Lasser (posted August 20, 1992)
- Review by Bryan Rosner, BioMed Publishers (posted November 11, 2008)