Chorded keyboard – the Frogpad

I have one of these! I’m a righty, but I bought a left-handed bluetooth Frogpad for my phone. It works pretty well, I just wish there was more phone-related controls, like selecting menu options and such.

First foray into the chorded keyboard scene! It’s been pretty good, so far. Took me very little time to learn most of the key locations. I’m not breaking any speed records, but it’s really comfortable to type one-handed, and it’s pretty cool to not have to move my hand from the keyboard to the mouse. I can do both at once!

Once the Twiddler goes wireless, though – I’m there.

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I’ve said this forever

I’ve said on more than one occasion that I’d really like to use my smartphone as my main computer. Having dumb terminals all over the place that I could slot my phone into to instantly give it a keyboard, mouse, and display. Everything I access is through the phone, and anything I save or do would be on the phone itself.

 

Thad Starner is one of the patron saints of the wearable computing movement. He uses a display that mounts onto his glasses and a Twiddler to operate a box running Linux. Check out the videos to see what he looks like from the outside, and what he’s seeing.

While I would personally prefer a solution slightly less intrusive (there’s got to be a better display available, and Mr. Starner carries a messenger bag full of batteries for his computer), I would love to see this sort of thing take off. I don’t see why a display embedded into my glasses couldn’t connect wirelessly to my smartphone, which is in turn connected to a Bluetooth Twiddler.

From the outside, it’s a guy playing with a small device. From the inside, it’s everything I need.

I want one of these.

Fossil, Sony, and even a few independent companies have been toying with the concept of the watch-as-second-screen. I love the idea of not even having to take my my phone out of my pocket. The watches are connected via bluetooth, and can display information from the phone, as well as functioning as a control surface.

Now if only we could make truly excellent bluetooth headsets, and put the cell phone IN the watch.

iPhone 4

The science fiction trope of the box into which you jack your brain directly (Neuromancer, Shadowrun, countless others) has taken shape in modern society in the form of smartphones. What’s awesome, though, is that Gibson kind of predicted these, too, in Idoru:

“Masahiko undid the top two buttons of his tunic and withdrew a six-inch square of something black and rigid, no thicker than a pane of glass. He brushed it purposefully with the fingers of his right hand, beaded lines of colored light appearing at his touch. Though these were fainter here, washed out by the train’s directionless fluorescents, Chia recognized the square as the control-face of the Computer she’d seen in his room.

He studied the display, stroked it again, and frowned at the result. ‘Someone pays attention to my address,’ he said, ‘and to Mitsuko’s.’

‘The restaurant?’

‘Our user addresses,’

‘What kind of attention?’

‘I do not know. We are not linked.’

-Except by me.”

Smartphones function as windows into the digital world in a way that desktop computers (or even laptops) simply can’t. They are portable, intentionally designed for communication. They interact with our environment through cameras and microphones and wireless modules – and they do this cheaply and effectively. The iPhone, in particular, has sort of create a platform/enclave out of its app store. Businesses now offer “iPhone apps.” Sometimes they’ll have an android app, sure. But for the most part, people are offering iPhone apps. It’s like having a URL, nowadays.

 

 

Sandbenders

“I like your computer,” she said. “It looks like it was made by Indians or something.”

Chia looked down at her sandbenders. Turned off the red switch. “Coral,” she said. “These are turquoise. The ones that look like ivory are the inside of a kind of nut. Renewable.”

“The rest is silver?”

“Aluminum,” Chia said. “They melt old cans they dig up on the beach cast it in sand molds. These panels are micarta. That’s linen with this resin in it.”

Mitsuko was getting her computer out. It was one of those soft, transparent Korean units, the kind that looked like a flat bag of clear white jelly with a bunch of colored jujubes inside. Chia unzipped her bag and pulled her Sandbenders out.

‘What is that?” Mitsuko asked.

“My computer.”

Mitsuko was clearly impressed. “It is by Harley-Davidson?”

“It was made by the Sandbenders,” Chia said, finding her goggles and gloves. “They’re a commune, down on the Oregon coast. They do these and they do software.”

“It is American?”

“Sure.”

“I had not known Americans made computers,” Mitsuko said.

Chia worked each silver thimble over the tips of her fingers and thumbs, fastened the wrist straps.

“She went out,” Masahiko said. “May I look at your computer?”

“Computer?” Chia stood, confused.

“It is Sandbenders, yes?”

She poured some of the tea, which was still steaming. “Sure. You want tea?”

“No,” Masahiko said. “I drink coffee only.” He squatted on the tatami, beside the low table, and ran an admiring fingertip along the edge of the Sandbenders’ cast aluminum.
“Beautiful. I have seen a small disk player by the same maker. It is a cult, yes?”

“A commune. Tribal people. In Oregon.”

“Tell me about Sandbenders,” Masahiko said, putting the control-face away and buttoning his tunic.

“It started with a woman who was an interface designer,” Chia said, glad to change the subject. “Her husband was a jeweler, and he’d died of that nerve-attenuation thing, before they saw how to fix it. But he’d been a big green, too, and he hated the way consumer electronics were made, a couple of little chips and boards inside these plastic shells. The shells were just point-of-purchase eye-candy, he said, made to wind up in the landfill if nobody recycled it, and usually nobody did. So, before he got sick, he used to tear up her hardware, the designer’s, and put the real parts into cases he’d make in his shop. Say he’d make a solid bronze case for a minidisk unit, ebony inlays, carve the control surfaces out of fossil ivory, turquoise, rock crystal. It weighed more, sure, but it turned out a lot of people liked that, like they had their music or their memory, whatever, in something that felt like it was there. . . . And people liked touching all that stuff: metal, a smooth stone. . . . And once you had the case, when the manufacturer brought out a new model, well, if the electronics were any better, you just pulled the old ones out and put the new ones in your case. So you still had the same object, just with better functions.”
Masahiko’s eyes were closed, and he seemed to be nodding slightly, though perhaps only with the motion of the train.

“And it turned out some people liked that, too, liked it a lot. He started getting commissions to make these things. One of the first was for a keyboard, and the keys were cut from the keys of an old piano, with the numbers and letters in silver. But then he got sick . .

Masahiko’s eyes opened, and she saw that not only had he been listening, but that he was impatient for more.

“So after he was dead, the software designer started thinking about all that, and how she wanted to do something that took what he’d been doing into something else. So she cashed out her stock in all the companies she’d worked for, and she bought some land on the coast, in Oregon-”

And the train pulled into Shinjuku, and everyone stood up, heading for the doors…

(the above from Idoru by William Gibson)