What iPad keyboard layout does Wayne Westerman use?

I have been rather disappointed by the iPad’s apparent exclusion of the Dvorak keyboard layout. But the other day, I had a funny idea. That the creator of the iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad touch technology, Wayne Westerman, originally developed the technology for use in keyboards. These keyboards were sold by his company Fingerworks. The acknowledgements section in Westerman’s dissertation provides evidence that his own repetitive stress injury (RSI) was the driving force behind developing a keyboard that did not require a finger to exert any pressure to press a key. He specifically thanks several individuals that he had type for him, until he was able to “[perfect] less fatiguing forms of data entry”.

Furthermore, the shinning star of the Fingerworks product line up, the TouchStream, supported a multitude of firmware enabled keyboard layouts. One of these was an experimental layout, named Qwerak. It was meant to be a modified version of the Dvorak keyboard layout with the hope of addressing two problems. (1) The difficulty involved when typing on a surface with no tactile feedback, and (2) the steep learning curve that is involved in switching from Qwerty to Dvorak. (<bragging>Although, it can’t be too steep, because Andrea was able to pick it up in about three weeks. But then again, she is super smart.</bragging>)

Did Wayne Westerman use the Qwerak keyboard layout himself? I don’t know; I can only speculate. But as an RSI sufferer myself that types in a non-Qwerty layout, I can confidently state two facts. (1) Without a doubt, typing with Dvorak induces less pain than typing in Qwerty, and (2) when forced to use the Qwerty keyboard layout to interact with a computer, my productivity becomes dramatically reduced. I estimate that my productivity when using Qwerty is about 1/5th of my productivity when I am using Dvorak. From these two pieces of data, I speculate that if Mr. Westerman found Qwerak to be even easier to type with than either Qwerty or Dvorak, then it would be very painful, frustrating, and counter-productive for him to type with any other keyboard layout.

So this brings me back to my original question: When Wayne Westerman turns on an iPad, launches the email app, touches the compose email icon and then touches inside the address bar, what keyboard layout is displayed on the screen? I’d be willing to bet a whole bunch of donuts that it is not Qwerty.

Hopefully, one day, when I repeat those same steps, I’ll be presented with a Dvorak keyboard layout. Until I can assure that I will, I won’t be spending a dime on an iPad. Who knows, maybe Google will come out with a Android based tablet device. If so, I’ll flock to that. On that platform, developers have the ability to write custom input methods, including alternative keyboard layouts.

What do you think Google will call such a device, if they develop one? I like Nexus Prime. But, since I name my computers after Transformers, I might not be the best person to ask about potential names.

Leave a Reply