Ergonomic keyboards are input devices which are marketed to be more ergonomic than conventional keyboards by various means, such as a wavy, curvy or split layout. The better keyboards of this category are adjustable in the way that 2 halves can be moved more or less freely apart. Ergonomic keyboards reached their peak in main-stream popularity in the 1990s. Nowadays many ergonomic keyboards are valuable collectible items.
Ergonomic keyboards usually feature ergonomic designs that benefits the touch typists who spends several hours at the computer. Like 60% Keyboards, there are no standards in terms of what would be defined as ergonomic keyboard except as otherwise explicitly stated by the vendor/manufacturer or otherwise the design differs from the conventional keyboard shape.
Conventional keyboards are usually one rectangular board. While there is nothing wrong with the standard/conventional keyboard layout for those who do not need to spend hours typing away in front of the computer, ergonomic keyboards are designed to benefit those who spend a significant amount. Ergonomic keyboards are designed to minimize strains and/or injuries related to hours spent on typing away repetitively. However, having an ergonomic keyboard does not mean that one is immune to strains and/or injuries when spending several hours with the keyboard if not following the proper ergonomics when it comes to using computers in general.
The idea of minimizing strain and injuries along with methods to tackle such issues has been explored far and wide. Some think switching to a certain keyboard layout would reduce the strains on their hands, such as Dvorak or Colemak, which are intended to increase efficiency. The idea of ergonomic keyboards instead intends to keep the QWERTY layout but have the keyboard itself reduce strain.
One of the most common types of ergonomic keyboards is the split keyboard. A split keyboard is broken into two parts where each hand is responsible for their own respective sets of keys. Another approach is raising or "tenting" either the keyboard and/or the keys on the keyboard on a slope to reduce strain. There are several other applications including:
- Moving unneeded keys such as function keys somewhere else.
- Using chorded keyboard design. Chorded keyboards heavily require the host machine (usually the computer) to interpret the keys the end user intends to input. For example, the BAT keyboard.
- Shaping the keyboard into something with more comfortable hand positioning. For instance, Alphagrip's iGrip.
- Using a mixture of different weights such as the Topre Realforce variable weight keyboard range.
- Mixtures of any or all of the above.
IBM Adjustable Keyboard (M15)
Tenting is the act of tilting the halves of a split ergonomic keyboard so that it resembles a tent. Only a few keyboards allow this, such as the IBM Model M15.
See ergonomic keyboards for a list of known ergonomic keyboards