Latest Backspace News
Sep 19, 2012
1.2k Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboard Re-Invents Backspace Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboard The Sculpt Comfort keyboard ($59.95) has a unique feature: It splits the space bar in two and creates another Backspace key on the left side of it (in blue). Since 90% of typists hit the space bar with their right thumb, according to Microsoft, the new positioning could make typing more efficient — in theory. The New Backspace The packaging label has instructions for enabling the key. Back View The Sculpt has a slight curve for comfort and ergonomics. Side View The Sculpt also has a removable wrist guard. Risers There are risers on the guard -- unfortunately, none on the keyboard itself. Wireless Transceiver The Sculpt is a wireless keyboard, adding to convenience, but you may detect a very slight delay in your keystrokes. Battery Compartment The Sculpt Comfort runs on a pair of AAA batteries. Top View Label Removed Here's what the Sculpt Comfort looks like with the packaging label removed. I've been using Microsoft 's new Sculpt Comfort keyboard for a few days now, and so far it hasn't revolutionized my typing. But that's just what it promises — to change one of the fundamental parts of modern keyboards: the backspace key. The Microsoft Sculpt Comfort keyboard ($59.95, available "soon") splits the space bar in two different size parts: a larger key that works normally, and a slightly smaller portion that can be configured to behave as Backspace. (Yes, the regular Backspace key still works the same). You have to enable the feature; out of the box, both keys work as the space bar. Although the Sculpt asks you to change your core typing habits, its rationale actually makes a lot of sense. Microsoft found that 90% of people hit the space bar with their right thumb (guilty as charged). Backspace also happens to be the third most-pressed key on the keyboard, the first two being Space and the "E" key. That said, Backspace was never a feature on the original QWERTY keyboard. It was tacked on much later, and rarely used on mechanical typewriters since it required using manual correction tape. Now that computers have made corrections effortless, touch typists' right pinky fingers are being unnecessarily stressed, and typing in general has been slowed down due to this inefficiency. SEE ALSO: Check Out Microsoft’s Brilliant Keyboard for Windows 8 Tablets [VIDEO] At least that's the theory. Personally, I've never felt that burdened by needing to use my right pinky to delete my typing mistakes (and I make a lot). But I was still excited to try out Microsoft's Sculpt for both the new key configuration and the curved ergonomic design. The Feel Both take getting some getting used to. The Sculpt feels a little curvier than, say, Logitech's K350 , which is one of my favorite designs. The keys have just slightly more resistance than you expect as well. There's a removable wrist guard, which I found annoying, so I ditched it. They keyboard has nice rubberized "feet" so it stays in place firmly, but I would have preferred some risers in back. But the extra Backspace key is where the action is. As a touch typist, I found quickly that getting used to typing a different key position for anything — let alone something as fundamental as Backspace — is terribly difficult. If you're going to be serious about using the Sculpt as your full-time keyboard, you'll need to practice, practice, practice to train your left thumb to hit the new key. I also discovered that, while I don't use my left thumb to hit the space bar when I'm typing with two hands, for those times when I'm going one-handed (typically with half a sandwich in my right), ol' lefty is all I've got. That leads to some accidental deletions — and irritation. On the plus side, I was happy to find that not only did the Sculpt work flawlessly with my Mac, but so did its extra Backspace key. That's pretty cool for a Microsoft product that hasn't even been released yet, though it probably speaks more to the built-in compatibility in Apple OS X than Microsoft's engineering. In any case, Mac users shouldn't fear the Sculpt. Is There a Market? People with multiple machines should, though, and there's the rub. The Sculpt's Backspace detour is actually a great idea, but it's coming at the wrong time. In an era where most people have both home and work computers, probably an older personal machine, and a couple of keyboard accessories, repositioning the Backspace key is a daunting mission. It needs to be an all-or nothing affair, or it's simply not worth the hassle. Still, the Sculpt Comfort is a fine wireless keyboard even without its signature trick. And for a small sect of touch typists, it'll surely create a passionate following. Can it re-invent typing in the long term? That's no small task (just ask the guys who designed Google's Chromebooks ), but all revolutions need to start somewhere. How do you like Microsoft's repositioning of the Backspace key? Share your impressions in the comments.