A farewell to Star Trek

I seem to be fond of brilliant technology that is no longer available. Similar to my Psion pocket computer that I recently mentioned, a FingerWorks keyboard is probably another advanced device you aren’t familiar with, except possibly through my rantings.

ST_hands_oblique

I’m sure Star Trek would have used keyboards like this one.

As you can see, there are no buttons – it’s just one giant touchpad! In fact, it’s two giant surfaces at a comfortable angle, one for each hand. A FingerWorks keyboard is not so much a keyboard as it is a touch surface. It works as a keyboard when you do typing motions on it, and when you slide your fingers over the surface, it’s a mouse! You can also do any number of gestures: scrolling, cursor movement, cut/copy/paste, zoom, open/save/close, and so on. Works on Windows/Mac/Linux, and can be customized to handle any kind of complex input.

Early in 2005, the company silently closed down, everybody got a gag order, and they “ceased operations as a business“. Customer support ceased without notice and the user community was baffled. The community eventually figured out that Apple had bought the business to get at the technology and patents. Without this, the iPhone could never have been – and yet, Apple touted this as “their” “revolutionary” “invention”. Not impressed, Apple, not impressed.

I’ve had these amazing devices for a decade. I didn’t use them very much but they are so special that I simply could not bring myself to sell them.

But now I have. Sold them. Both.

This was not an easy decision for me, but I was recently contacted by two separate people who also use these keyboards and needed replacements. Knowing that my devices will go to a good home, I finally decided to part with them. I’m moving on. I’m still admin and moderator of the community website, though.

The saddest thing about this whole story is that Apple killed an awesome product (one that RSI victims still rely on!) and in a full decade they still haven’t released anything half as useful as this. Recently a coworker bragged that his iPad could now understand two-finger dragging as a cursor-key gesture – meh, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much lost that would be useful, and no real reason for Apple to withhold that.

I’d be pleased if something similar would appear again one day. Given Apple’s track record, I am not optimistic about it. Even others will have a hard time offering this because of software patent laws.

This was good as long as it lasted.

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