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Sunday, October 24, 2010

“Another interesting phenomenon of the iPhone and iPad era is that we are being transformed from producers of content into consumers. With my BlackBerry, I probably created as much data as I consumed. [...] With my iPhone, I try to avoid creating any message that are over one sentence long.”

That’s Dilbert creator Scott Adams on how typing and keyboard ergonomics affect how people approach media creation. It’s part of a larger article on The Keyboard Cult, about people who favor a more mechanical keyboard experience versus the current widespread plastic skin keypads that people use.

Adams may be overreaching when he equates every single thing we do with content creation. But there is something in the difference between creating due to technical proficiency in one format (the Blackberry keyboard), and the way the iPhone’s touchscreen approaches things.

Can people evolve from the keyboard to a point in the air Minority Report future, one free from keys? All touchscreen tech is moving towards this, and especially the iPhone as it tries to be that one thing facilitating access to your daily life. It’s not *just* a keyboard. To get to that future, hunting and pecking for letters needs to give way to a faster means of accessing and creating data, just as handwriting in schools did when it gave way to typewriters, and now computers.

If you look at it from a consumption perspective, it happens with reading too. There’s really nothing that gets in the way of you reading something. The eye captures the reflected light automatically so the brain can process and interpret the words. No hands get in the way (except to scroll the page). Basically, you read as fast as you can comprehend what’s on the screen.

Writing is different. People read faster than they can type, about 250-300 words per minute for the average adult vs. anywhere from 40-70 when typing. Texting? Ask the kids these days. But don’t you think of a point much faster than your hands can hit the keys to type it? Regardless of medium, hands have always been the bottleneck, and thoughts have always had to slow down to match the speed of the medium that helps express them.

A keyboardless sci-fi future will happen, but the only way to eliminate the need for hands to guide things is to let the brain navigate everything. (Hello Stephen Hawking and eye tracking.) I bet Jobs has probably already has a prototype for the iBrain started.



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