Thinking Tech

Fingers or thumbs?

Posting in Technology

If there is a great Chinese conspiracy out there, I doubt it has anything to do with politics or economics. I think it has to do with keyboards. I think they're a nation of thumbers.

As we approach the middle of 2009 the key technology question has become one of fingers or thumbs. (Illustration from learn2type.com.)

I'm a finger guy myself. I learned to type when I was 8, in one hour, from a record. My late father gave it to me for Christmas because I was getting a "U" in handwriting.

I am a pretty quick typist. It was the best tech training I could have gotten, coming up in the 1960s.

I was thrilled to learn that the standard QWERTY keyboard layout makes the typewriter one of the few products that works best for left-handers. The most-used keys were placed on the left to slow early typists down.

Anyone, the big innovation of this decade has been thumb-based user interfaces. If you heart your Blackberry, or your iPhone, if you would rather Twitter than blog, chances are you're a thumber.

We are entering a golden age for thumbs just as finger folks reach a fork in the road. That fork is called the Netbook. Because it has no moving parts, because it weighs just two pounds, your typical Netbook lacks real estate below its screen for a decent 10-finger keyboard.

So when SmartPlanet launches I'll be in Taiwan, reporting from the CompuTex trade show. CompuTex is where Chinese and Taiwanese OEMs go to show their wares and capabilities. It's where your technology really comes from.

I will be there as a one-man finger lobby. It's something I call the Campaign for Real Keyboards.

If there is a great Chinese conspiracy out there, I doubt it has anything to do with politics or economics. I think it has to do with keyboards. I think they're a nation of thumbers.

I'm going to see if there is any real hope for us keyboard artists, any new breakthroughs that might lets us have new technology and type on it too. I will report on what I find, even if it's disappointing, and I will answer any questions you have, now or later.

See you from Taiwan.

Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure