This piece first appeared on the Until It’s Not Fun newsletter.
It has been a couple of weeks now with my Ergodox EZ keyboard. Not only is the split design strange, I also moved every single key from the QWERTY layout. Since QWERTY was designed in the 1800’s to keep typewriter components from hitting each other (also to help telegraph operators translating Morse code and also because Remington and Sons bought the rights to a popular typewriter design) and I don’t use a typewriter, why not change it to something more ergonomic?
I went with the Engram layout. Optimized to reduce lateral finger movement and increase efficiency for common letter pairs, it seems like a strong candidate for replacing QWERTY someday. The only reason QWERTY still exists is because it is so ubiquitous. People can use any other computer and type just as efficiently as they normally do. As soon as someone tries to use my keyboard, myself included still, typing speed takes a huge plummet.
As for the keyboard itself, I absolutely love it. The design is clean and feels well made. More importantly, I like the repairability factor and its open source nature. Unlike most other tech products, companies prefer if you didn’t open up their products to fix them; they would rather you buy a new one. For the Ergodox, they encourage you to fix it yourself or write your own firmware. If mine breaks, I can replace any part myself (with Google’s help). The icing on the cake is it uses open source software to run. As a proponent for open source (our website is open source!), this is exciting. *tin foil hats on* Who knows what kinds of keyloggers are on Microsoft and Apple products? With open source software, anyone can go look at the source code. The Ergodox also allows you to add “layers” to the keyboard - holding a certain key changes other keys on the board. One of my layers allows me to hold a key with my left thumb and have a number pad in my right hand all without my fingers leaving the home row. I have similar layers for other common things like symbols and media.
The ergonomic design is the most important part. Because the board is in two pieces, it allows you to place each half shoulder width apart. This prevents you from having to bend your wrists at unnatural angles when typing. (Hack: This is also the perfect spacing to prop up your phone on the legs of the tilt kit.) My wrists would hurt after a long day of coding but now I can comfortably be on my keyboard all day without pain or discomfort.
Overall, I would recommend anyone who spends more than a couple of hours typing each day to get this keyboard. The efficiency gain is incredible, the ability to repair it is a must, and your hand and wrists will thank you.