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Sunday, 14 February 2010

DataHand for Programmers

Filed under: Hardware & Gadgets — Jan Goyvaerts @ 16:56

The DataHand for Sale Again article I wrote over a year ago is still getting comments. Time for an update. A few months after I wrote that article, datahand.com announced they were out of stock again. That notice stayed up all year. Since a few weeks the site indicates they again have a limited number of Pro II units for sale. The price is still $995. My article from last year still sums up my opinion on the price: get one while you can.

The new units have a USB connection instead of two PS/2 connections (keyboard + mouse). That means you don’t have to buy a PS/2-to-USB adapter if your computer doesn’t have PS/2 ports any more.

Somebody asked me if the DataHand’s use of separate modes for cursor navigation, function keys, numbers and punctuation don’t make programming difficult. While it certainly takes some getting used to, I can easily argue the opposite. If you had learned to type on a DataHand instead of on a traditional keyboard, you’d throw a fit if you had to switch.

When I want to type in numbers, why would I want to reach away from the home row to the top row, or all the way to the numeric keypad, when I could just press down my right thumb? When I want to type symbols and brackets, why would I want to reach away from the home row while also holding down Shift when I could just press down my right thumb? When I want to move the cursor, why would I want to move my right hand away from the home row to the arrow keys when I can just flip the right thumb up key? When I want to use the function keys, why would I want to move my hands away from the home row all the way to the top of the keyboard? And when I want to go back to typing, why do I have to move my hands back to the home row when I could have just kept them there and flipped the left thumb up key?

Programming with the DataHand is more convenient than with a regular keyboard, because you can keep your hands on the home row just like you were taught when you learned to touch type. All of the DataHand’s keys are on its home row. Of course, it’ll take some time to unlearn the bad habits you’ve picked up when you became a programmer and needed to type far more punctuation than your school teacher could have imagined.

The DataHand’s modes are absolute. There is a specific key to access each mode. That key always activates its mode, regardless of the mode you’re in. So you never need to look at the unit to check your mode. Just push the button.

The only exception is Caps Lock, which is a toggle just like on a traditional keyboard. But the DataHand makes Caps Lock unneccesary. Simply push down your left thumb slightly to hold down Shift. You can then type in any text in all caps without straining your pinky or any other finger.

At the end of the day my speed at editing source code with the DataHand is about the same as it was when I used a regular keyboard, before I started to suffer from RSI. But when RSI kicked in, I had to pace myself on the regular keyboard to be able to continue typing at all. With the DataHand, I don’t worry about RSI any more.

4 Comments

  1. I own an older model Datahand (bought second hand) and now I’m kicking myself: I didn’t order a new Pro II last year when I had the chance, and now that my old model is starting to malfunction, the Pro II’s are gone. Aagh. If anybody reading this has one they’d like to sell, let me know.

    Comment by Austin — Wednesday, 14 September 2011 @ 20:52

  2. I have an unused Pro II – I purchased it, but found it too hard to use. So am willing to sell it. Is anyone interested

    Comment by Phil — Sunday, 30 October 2011 @ 0:39

  3. Phil, I’m sure you’ll get a very good price for it on eBay as there’s no way to buy a brand new DataHand right now.

    Comment by Jan Goyvaerts — Wednesday, 2 November 2011 @ 10:24

  4. As a software programmer, the Datahand looks like the dream keyboard that I was seeking for years. Unfortunately, It seems to be unlikely to get one in anytime soon. They should market their products to those software giant like Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook, just send several samples to them, they will get popular among programmers.

    Comment by Onefzoof — Sunday, 22 July 2012 @ 9:24

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