April 18, 1988
is a MENu-KeYboard combination. It uses only 25 keys and a
spacebar to perform all the functions of a regular computer keyboard
that is several times as large.
takes up less desktop space and can be integrated into miniaturized
portable computers. And it can be operated by only one
hand. We suggest that if you're right-handed, you learn to
operate the MENKY
with your left hand so that your right hand can be free to shuffle
papers or whatever.
only disadvantage is that with fewer keys, it might take three or
four separate keystrokes to accomplish what would be a single
keystroke on a larger keyboard. But with practice, you'll find
that this restriction doesn't slow you down significantly, since all
the keys you need lie right under the fingertips of one hand.
look at the MENKY.
As on a normal keyboard, the bar at the bottom is the spacebar.
To its right is the Enter key. These keys keep their normal
functions at all times.
the other 24 keys have LCD readouts built into their keytops,
because their functions can change. The LCD's let you know the
current status of the keyboard. Individual keys are always
labeled with their proper functions.
two blue keys let you choose the mode, either Text or Command.
The three green keys let you choose the case, either Upper or Lower
or Symbol. The three red keys let you choose the group, either
X or Y or Z. And the gold key lets you choose the Alternate
is first powered up, the LCD keys will look like this.
defaults are Text mode, Upper case, and X group. Therefore, of
the color keys, T and U and X are "lit up" in black.
three middle rows of letters are available for you to type.
These 15 letters happen to be, according to most counts, the 15 most
common letters in English.
happens if you want to type one of the other 11 letters? First
press the gold key; the "A" on it lights up. Now the MENKY
looks like this. An Alternate set of letters, including four
punctuation marks, has appeared.
you've typed one of these letters or pressed the gold key again, the
middle rows will revert to the primary set of letters (CDHLM, etc.)
only necessary to press the gold key before each uncommon letter or
punctuation mark. The 15 most common letters can be entered
with single keystrokes. As an example, the first sentence of
this paragraph contains 90 characters. To type it with the MENKY
requires just 100 keystrokes, where
represents the gold key:
TO PRESS THE GOLD
EACH UNCOMMON LETTER OR PUNCTUATION MARK.
this is all in capital letters because we're still in the default
Upper case. We can fix that with one additional keystroke,
following the first character of the sentence.
the middle green key. The "L" lights up for Lower
case, and the MENKY
looks like this.
you were to press the gold key now, you'd see the remaining 11
Lower-case letters, plus the same four punctuation marks that you had
in Upper case.
you've learned to touch-type text, this one-handed system should be
very efficient, requiring only about 10% more keystrokes than the
traditional two-handed method.
third green case key is marked "S," for Symbols. It
gives you this menu of choices: the numbers, plus a few
punctuation marks. The arrow is the Backspace.
that the hyphen and period from the Alternate Upper and Alternate
Lower cases are here as well, to serve as a minus sign and a decimal
point if you're entering a series of numbers. This case was
designed that way to reduce the number of keystrokes you'll need.
punctuation marks are in the Alternate Symbol case, as you see here.
there are still more inside the MENKY.
now, we've been in the X group, represented by the first red key.
the second red key to enter the Y group, where you'll find some
additional symbols. And it goes on and on.
actual symbols you'll find in the Y and Z groups may vary according
to the model of your computer (and printer). See your manuals
for what's available.
from the Symbol case to the Upper and Lower cases, you'll find that
the Y and Z groups contain accented letters, Greek letters, and so
on. Again, refer to your manuals for full details.
the duplications of punctuation marks, each of the three groups
contains 30 characters in Upper case, 26 new characters in Lower
case, and 28 new characters in Symbol case. So using all three
groups, 252 characters are available to you.
now, we've merely been typing characters in the Text mode. Now
let's shift to the Command mode by pressing the other blue key, the
one marked "C."
note that as soon as we change modes, the case reverts to Upper and
the group reverts to X.
we find 15 commands. Many of these happen to relate to moving
a cursor around the screen; their actual functions are spelled out in
detail in your computer manual. Many more commands are
available by using the gold key or the various cases.
Y and Z commands are also available (90 per group). These are
defined by the particular software that you're running. So if
you're using a spreadsheet, to recalculate a column you might want to
go to Command mode, Upper case, Y group, and then press a certain key.
years after I wrote the above description, I discovered that a
one-handed keyboard based on the concept of the 15 most-used letters
was actually being manufactured!
the FrogPad, it measured about 5½ by 3¾ inches.
1994, a Japanese-English comic book translator, Kenzo Tsubai (left),
was trying to type with one hand while holding copy in the
other. This led him to sketch a one-handed keyboard, more than
six years after I had done the same.
in Tsubai's case, his wife knew a Houston businesswoman who helped
him test and develop and market the product. Its design is, of
course, much more sophisticated and complete than my initial
idea. From the company's website:
FrogPad mobile keyboard provides the first practical
implementation of a full function keyboard for use in an anywhere,
anytime, with any device mode of information access and input.
It is a one-handed keyboard which enables its user to hold documents,
tools or other items while entering information on a PDA, Pocket PC,
smart phone, laptop or other mobile device.
the layout and use of full-size keys contribute to overall ease of
use and small size to deliver the ultimate in portability.
While presenting a unique key layout, the ergonomics have been shown
to significantly shorten learning time compared with the traditional
QWERTY layout (university studies indicate new users can reach 40
words per minute in 10 hours versus the 56 needed with QWERTY).
Since over 75% of all users do not touch type but use a "hunt
and peck" approach, the FrogPad presents an opportunity
for faster keyboard input.
FrogPad has been designed for fast data entry. The
letter layout is based on the percent usage of each letter in the
English language. Fifteen letters that are used 86% of the time
by typists are placed in the most efficient locations on the
keyboard. Overall layout uses the natural drumming motion of
the hand to further optimize performance and enables international
scalability for other languages.
principal concepts underlying the FrogPad initial product
concepts were conceived in September of 1994 by Kenzo Tsubai.
The Patent application was filed in April 1997 and U.S. Patent #
5,793,312 was issued on the keyboard technology invention on August
11, 1998. After four years of research and development the
first FrogPad prototype was released in April of 1999.
for a link to another article on the FrogPad.