Finally got my Emacs setup just how I like it

"A futuristic office composed of a typewriter, television screens, a video recorder and a photocopier are presented at the exhibition of Hanover in Germany, 1969."

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32 Responses:

  1. Dude says:

    The space in-between is really convenient, whether you're going to the kitchen or bathroom, or just need to stand up and rage-shout at what you see on the screen(s).

    • jwz says:

      This is a very early appearance of a split keyboard! Now I wonder when the first appearance was.

      • Carlos says:

        > First split keyboard design is often attributed to Klockenberg (1926
        > in Germany), but actually a split keyboard was used in a typewriter
        > built in 1886 (Louis Crandall, Syracuse, NY).

        I have to admit, I did not think it would go back to the 19th century.

        I'll never give up my Kinesis Ergos.


        • Erin M says:

          Oh, I used to have the "Advantage" I think they call it. That really took some getting used to, and I never really quite got used to it. I had some problems w/ tendinitis so it seemed like a good idea at the time. I since migrated to the "das Keyboard" (this one: but with the "quiet" keys) and love it. Built like a tank and it fits on my desk.

          My other keyboards are a 1959 Hermes 3000, a 1956 Smith-Corona Silent-Super, a 1967 Olympia SM9, and a 1955 Remington Quiet-Riter. I'm having some trouble getting the IP addresses set on those though :(

          • phuzz says:

            I've got the same dasKeyboard, it definitely measures up in the "could I beat someone to death with this?" stakes. It's base seems to be a solid slab of aluminium.
            I wasn't 1337 enough to buy the dasKeyboard Ultimate with it's "stealth" keycaps.

        • jboy says:

          Yes, Kinesis Ergo Advantage forever! Nothing else comes close, without the vertically-aligned keys, concave keywells, and thumb-keys for the most commonly-used keys (modifiers, Space, and Enter). Been using Kinesis Ergo Advantage keyboards for about 15 years now... Don't ever want to go back.

          [In fact, it's even more pleasant to use than a regular keyboard, because I also remapped it to a non-QWERTY layout using an unholy combination of Advantage Pro & Xmodmap. A gilded cage of my own making.]

          • Carlos says:

            I'm pretty sure that when I bought my first one, they were just called the "Kinesis Ergo", though the current models are indeed labelled Advantage 2.

            The concave bowls are really nice to help prevent carpal tunnel and whatever, but for me the biggest advantage is that they keep my hands about ten inches apart, avoiding the excessive pronation of the forearms that resulted in RSIs for me.

            I wore my first two, home and work, out. Then I started working from home and wore out my third. I'm on my fourth and it's only about 3 years old so it's got a long life ahead of it.

            To everyone out there: if you're still using a standard-layout keyboard, and especially if you're still using some nasty cheap $20 rubber-dome one, try a real ergonomic keyboard for a week. You'll never go back.


            • jboy says:

              I'm not far behind you: currently on my third Kinesis Advantage Pro; bought my first in 2006 for work while suffering from hand pain, followed shortly after by another one for home -- both worn out by now.

              I've always bought the Advantage Pro model for the key-remapping. Looking at in 2006, I see that there appear to have been a variety of names besides Advantage and Advantage Pro: Classic and Essential at the very least.

              I agree that hand separation is also important (if you don't have a V-shaped keyboard). The bending of wrists required by regular keyboards is a pet peeve of mine -- cramped laptop keyboards are the worst.

              The reason I emphasised the vertically-aligned keys, concave keywells, and thumb-keys of the Kinesis Advantage was to differentiate it from another Kinesis family of split keyboards: the Freestyle / Freestyle Pro keyboards, which I know are a favourite of @jwz (after Kinesis discontinued their Evolution model).

              I tried a Kinesis Freestyle keyboard years ago; I just couldn't get past the absence of the vertically-aligned keys, concave keywells, and thumb-keys of the Advantage.

            • Erin M. says:

              "You'll never go back."

              I went back. Don't get me wrong, I really liked my circa 2009 Kinesis (and also wore mine out). But, in order to get it setup right with my desk, I needed the keyboard tray for it as well to get it to the right height. Well, I'd started working from home and got a new desk that wasn't really suitable for mounting the tray on. So, I just went back to a standard keyboard (the aforementioned "das Keyboard").

              Turns out my tendinitis issues had more to do with my mouse than anything else, and I still have to be careful of the things. Trackballs just made it worse.

              I'm able to keep my wrists neutral on the standard keyboard - no angling. I just follow the natural curve of my fingers on the home row and my wrists are straight. But then, I don't have really big hands, so that might be why. My adjustable-height standup desk might also play a role in getting my emacs setup just the way I like it.

              One particularly nice thing about the Kinesis keyboard was that it kept visitors to my desk at work from comandeering my keyboard to "show me something"; they couldn't figure out how to type on it. If only I could've found a similar solution to keep them from putting their yucky bacon-double-cheeseburger-greasy fingers on my monitor to "point something out". blech...

              • Carlos says:

                The desk thing is a problem. Very few regular office desks - the kinds you find in Staples or whatever office-supply stores - and pretty much zero intended-for-home desks are capable of getting the keyboard down low enough to be ergonomic, and as you found, keyboard trays/drawers such, and keyboard arms aren't well-suited to a lot of desks either. I fought with these things for years.

                The right solution for me turned out to be a "desk" that Ikea sold. It was really just a table, three-quarter-inch-thick wooden top, about 3 feet deep and 5 feet wide, a couple of widthwise metal braces underneath in the middle, and adjustable-height metal legs on each side. I have a couple, and you can adjust it so that the desktop sits right on top of your thighs (if you haven't joined the standing-desk revolution, I guess).

                So my keyboard sits 3/4" above my thighs. It's the perfect height. Unfortunately, Ikea doesn't seem to sell it anymore.

                The arm pronation caused me to develop RSI in my shoulder(s), and mouse use didn't help. Moving the hands apart completely fixed it, though I still don't use a mouse (and indeed, use a left-handed trackball).

                To drag this back to the neighbourhood of on-topic, our esteemed host prefers a more "normal" keyboard, but split - if I recall, he has the two halves mounted to his chair arms?

                jwz, I'm curious, if you'd care to elaborate - how did you come to prefer your setup? What was the driving force behind it, and what alternatives failed to work for you? Was it ergonomics?


                • jwz says:

                  It's all trial and error and probably always will be.

                  I've never liked the "bowl" keyboards, or anything that veers too far from the standard QWERTY layout. I've been using exclusively two-piece split keyboards because using a rectangular keyboard for more than 20 minutes invariably makes my hands hurt.

                  These days I'm still using the Kinesis Gaming Freestyle Edge.

                  And I'm using a standing desk, which I cannot recommend highly enough. My first halfassed attempt at that is documented here. These days it is still that basic layout, except that instead of that terrible floating platform, I just found a 3'×1.5' table with 1' legs that sits on top of my 29" high "real" desk. Getting taller legs for the real desk might have been more sensible, but that sounded like a hassle.

                  Once it's eventually time to upgrade my iMac, I dread discovering what new hoops I'll have to jump through to get one that has a VESA mount. Sigh.

                  • Carlos says:

                    Thanks, jwz - informative as always.

                    I may have to try the standing desk thing. But with two big-ass monitors it's going to be kind of a pain.


      • Dude says:

        That inspired me to do a quick search before I hop on a business call. There aren't a lot of photos or even diagrams, but this Cornell U page claims that Klockenberg tried to claim invention of the split keyboard in 1926 Germany (also mentioned in this white paper), but that a New Yorker named Louis Crandall actually made a split-board typewriter in 1886.

        Again, images are tough to find, but given the date, I think they might mean this one? Didn't find much computer-related specifics in the quick search I did.

        • グレェ「grey」 says:

          There are certainly a wide range of alternatives to QWERTY, some of which are older. Japanese mechanical typewriters (as rare as they are) are, as far as I have ever been able to discover, drum based for example given the nature of how many characters are used in their orthographic systems.

          I can't help but wonder how much of the Hanover exhibition's design was influenced by Engelbart's Augment group at Stanford Research Institute? The so-called "mother of all demos" is from 1968, and already they were utilizing a chorded keyset in the left hand, with a mouse in the right hand, and the QWERTY keyboard in the center typically seemed to be not as heavily utilized by sophisticated users. Herman Miller collaborated on the design, and there are images of the ARC Lab utilizing such things in practically meditative pillows on ground poses from around that era too. Albeit, The Engelbart Hypothesis is one of the better resources for images of the ARC Lab, as the interwebs continues to get more difficult to search effectively mostly "thanks" to SEO sorts destroying much of any semblance of effective indexing. Of course, unlike the Hanover exhibit, SRI's systems were functional, but for props, the Hanover stuff looks awfully neat.

          • Jim says:

            Well there are at least three knobs, or two knobs and a trackball or double knob on the left. If I were to guess, I'd say the one knob under the CRT has two degrees of freedom for positioning: counter/clockwise for horizontal and perhaps push/pull for vertical.

          • Jim says:

            ...(2/2) I meant to suggest to you that the central component on the right could be a joystick or light-pen holder for horizontal-vertical positioning on the CRT.

        • Jim says:

          ...or perhaps a recessed joystick on the right?

  2. Ghost_Ina_Jar says:

    Put exercise bike pedals in the middle for that all-day workout.

  3. cmt says:

    Hannover Fair, the Fischbrötchen Fair (yes, that was 20 years earlier).

  4. Landa says:

    The right monitor looks like a very flat-fronted CRT but the left one seems to be completely outside the white plastic enclosure. Is that some kind of early flatscreen or just a fixed clipboard to mount documents on?

    • Ben says:

      The left one slides so that you can get out. Which also makes the whole thing asymmetric, so you'd be looking slightly to the right all day. Both are fake displays for the model.

      • jboy says:

        Yeah, looking slightly to the right all day will eventually give you neck pains or posture problems. Shame that they stumbled on the final hurdle.

        ... Unless the monitor on the right is intended more for occasional 1960s-era short video-messages (Jim Kirk telling you to meet him in his quarters) rather than all-day 2020s Zoom meetings? and you're mostly looking forward to the document you're reading or typing up?

        • MetaRZA says:

          It's impossible to tell, but I suspect both screens can slide out into the middle.

    • Jim says:

      The left screen looks like a microfilm/fiche reader to me.

  5. kfringe says:

    Strong Project Cybersyn vibe.

  6. Louis says:

    A quick google says LCD (for pocket watches) was invented in 1964, and TN panels in 1969. I guess this was more of a mock-up of what's possible "in a few years".

    If they had a working model they probably thought "Computers don't need color screens.".

    • グレェ「grey」 says:

      It definitely has that look. More in alignment with Alan Kay's Dynabook mock up which some date to as early as 1968 (though other estimates are the early 1970s), which built on the ideas of flat panel displays, wireless packet radio, and extrapolating what could be possible eventually. Albeit, I seem to recall reading some writings of Alan Kay's in more recent years, where he referred to something such as a laptop or iPad/tablet as a Dynabook, but that everything on the market still fell far short of his vision.

      Then again, we also apparently only got approximately 3% of Engelbart's vision too. Some innovators were way too ahead of their time, and doubtlessly didn't foresee technological innovations being bogged down by spammers, analytics engines, and surveillance capitalism.

  7. jboy says:

    I'm also digging the space-age silver mini-dresses that people wear to the office in the 1960s future.

    • Michael Sternberg says:

      That makes the open middle all the more puzzling. There is a reason why the part of office tables in front of the user's knees is called modesty panel.

      • tfb says:

        Uh, it makes it more puzzling only until you think who probably designed this thing.

  8. Jim says:

    Happy Halloween, Jamie!

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