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OESF Portables Forum _ Cosmo Communicator - Hardware _ Keyboard layout

Posted by: Marzanna Feb 3 2019, 06:42 AM

Hello.
I found Cosmo is very interesting… BUT I noticed that it has quite inconvenient keyboard layout.
Enter button is too tall and there is nothing between Enter key and Backspace key. This kind of design is VERY annoying sometimes. Because it's very easy to miss and hit Enter instead of Backspace.
All my keyboards and laptops have Backslash key between Enter and Backspace keys.
I wonder if there will be options with sane keyboard layouts…

Posted by: mithrandir Feb 3 2019, 10:45 AM

QUOTE(Marzanna @ Feb 3 2019, 06:42 AM) *
Hello.
I found Cosmo is very interesting… BUT I noticed that it has quite inconvenient keyboard layout.
Enter button is too tall and there is nothing between Enter key and Backspace key. This kind of design is VERY annoying sometimes. Because it's very easy to miss and hit Enter instead of Backspace.
All my keyboards and laptops have Backslash key between Enter and Backspace keys.
I wonder if there will be options with sane keyboard layouts…


The only comparison we have is the Gemini. There have been some options. If I remember correctly, the US layout is slightly different to some other layouts. I think, the enter key has been located horizontally, at least there have been discussions about that. Maybe someone owning a Gemini with US layout (mine is with German layout and vertical enter key) can enlighten us... Some more information regarding the Gemini layouts: https://geminiplanet.com/exclusive-all-gemini-keyboard-layouts-finalised/ .

Anyways, a better optimized layout needs quite some more space, i.e. having some keys separated from the main keys, like we have it with most desktop keyboards. For a small device like the Cosmo or the Gemini this means smaller keys, which would result in a worse user experience than having one block of keys like we have it with the Gemini. So there might not be that many options. From my experience it is convenient to use the Gemini keyboard to type longer texts. (This also has been written on the Gemini).


Posted by: vader Feb 3 2019, 08:40 PM

I would second mithrandir - the gemini keyboard is actually quite good to type on when you get used to it. The larger enter key makes it easy to flick your right pinky and hit the enter key. The gemini (and hence cosmo) keyboards are still 5 rows high, however compared to a normal keyboard, they are at least 2 characters narrower. There is 1 char left of '1' (esc) and 1 char right of '0' (del/backspace). There really is no room for a wide enter key, the high one still makes the key area larger, without widening the keyboard. This is turn allows for the larger key sizes. Another key column would shrink the overall key size.

I've used the gemini for almost a year now, and would say that the keyboard is quite easy to type on.

Posted by: Marzanna Feb 3 2019, 08:46 PM

QUOTE(mithrandir @ Feb 3 2019, 09:45 PM) *
Anyways, a better optimized layout needs quite some more space, i.e. having some keys separated from the main keys, like we have it with most desktop keyboards. For a small device like the Cosmo or the Gemini this means smaller keys, which would result in a worse user experience than having one block of keys like we have it with the Gemini. So there might not be that many options.

Well, why not to make something like this? There is no extra space used and keys are the same size. The problem is that I can't find such layout on any photos of Gemini or Cosmo. Maybe it's not to late to convince them to produce Cosmo with this layout…

 

Posted by: mithrandir Feb 7 2019, 01:41 PM

QUOTE(Marzanna @ Feb 3 2019, 08:46 PM) *
QUOTE(mithrandir @ Feb 3 2019, 09:45 PM) *
Anyways, a better optimized layout needs quite some more space, i.e. having some keys separated from the main keys, like we have it with most desktop keyboards. For a small device like the Cosmo or the Gemini this means smaller keys, which would result in a worse user experience than having one block of keys like we have it with the Gemini. So there might not be that many options.

Well, why not to make something like this? There is no extra space used and keys are the same size. The problem is that I can't find such layout on any photos of Gemini or Cosmo. Maybe it's not to late to convince them to produce Cosmo with this layout…


This looks very much like a Gemini keyboard. Maybe the US variant. From what I can say, this might be one of the variants available for the Cosmo. Anybody out there who can confirm that this is the Gemini's US (or any other) layout?

Posted by: mithrandir Feb 7 2019, 01:47 PM

I think I got it now. The horizontal enter key seems to have been an option that has not been realized:
https://www.oesf.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=34648&view=findpost&p=284121

Maybe a possible layout for the Cosmo. Hard to tell if Planet can be convinced. At least I am unsure which variant is better.

Posted by: Marzanna Feb 9 2019, 02:32 AM

Well. I looked at russian keyboard layout for Gemini PDA and was little shocked. It is based on UK keyboard layout. It makes Gemini quite difficult to use it in Russia because we all use US keyboards in Russia.
Anyway I tried to contact Planet Computers via email. Let's wait for their answer.

Posted by: mithrandir Feb 9 2019, 04:50 AM

QUOTE(Marzanna @ Feb 9 2019, 02:32 AM) *
Well. I looked at russian keyboard layout for Gemini PDA and was little shocked. It is based on UK keyboard layout. It makes Gemini quite difficult to use it in Russia because we all use US keyboards in Russia.
Anyway I tried to contact Planet Computers via email. Let's wait for their answer.

If you use US keyboards anyways, it is possible to select the US keyboard instead of the Russian one.

Posted by: Marzanna Feb 9 2019, 07:15 AM

QUOTE(mithrandir @ Feb 9 2019, 03:50 PM) *
If you use US keyboards anyways, it is possible to select the US keyboard instead of the Russian one.

You don't get the point. I need Russian keyboard layout based on US keyboard. Just like on my laptop I'm using right now.

I got an answer from Planet Computers. I was told that they tested keyboard with horizontal enter key and concluded that vertical key is easier to press.
Regarding Russian layout they will answer later.

I'm lucky to have an old Psion lying near me. I switched it on and tried to type some text until I accidentally pressed enter key with backspace key simultaneously. Looks like we have different anatomy after all.

Posted by: vader Feb 10 2019, 06:51 PM

I experimented a bit the other day, and I can see what PC means about easier to use. With the small width keyboard on the gemini/cosmo, when you are typing with both hands, your pinky is basically at the right edge. I hold my hands roughly in the middle (vertically), so tapping my pinky down hits at the right extreme of the keyboard between the middle, and upper edge, pretty much exactly where the enter key is. If the enter key was horizontal, I would have to move my hands down when I wanted the enter so it always hit the enter key at the right edge only. I'm sure you would get used to whichever way it was, but for me (smallish hands), the vertical enter key is easier.

I wonder if the mechanics of the keyboard mean you have to have one or the other (ie. the positioning of the switches). If you needed a different mechanical layout, you would end up with 2 hardware variants. If you could achieve a horizontal enter without changing the switch layouts, I can't see why they wouldn't offer it - after all, they have different keys (etched labels) already.

Posted by: gidds Feb 11 2019, 01:17 AM

For what it's worth, I've been using Psions with the exact same layout for 20 years, and hitting Del with Enter really hasn't been a problem for me at all.

(Although the Gemini keyboard has exactly the same shape and size, the mechanics aren't quite as good as the Psions were: the keys wobble a bit more, and you have to be pretty accurate and hit them near the centre and straight down else they don't press, while the Psion keyboard was more forgiving. -- At least, on my second-batch Gemini; I know they had made improvements since the first production run, but I'm not aware of any later improvements. I'm hoping the Cosmo will be better.)

Posted by: James Shields Jun 24 2019, 12:45 PM

The Gemini/Cosmo have had exactly the same layout as the Psion 5 from prototypes to final product, right down to the odd irregular spacing around the edges (I'm pretty sure the prototypes did use a Psion keyboard). I was wondering if this was to allow the old moulding tools to be reused.

I'm generally very happy about this, but it is definitely a UK layout with a vertical return key rather than a US one with a horizontal one.

I don't know if it was essential to keep the Psion layout, but I'm not surprised that there will only be one physical layout, as varying the layout between markets would mean additional tooling, which is a significant expense on a short run product.

Posted by: MonkeyControl Jun 24 2019, 10:44 PM

QUOTE(James Shields @ Jun 25 2019, 08:45 AM) *
I don't know if it was essential to keep the Psion layout, but I'm not surprised that there will only be one physical layout, as varying the layout between markets would mean additional tooling, which is a significant expense on a short run product.

Link to Interesting video interview with Martin Riddiford: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_TybtULQVo
About 3:45 in he talks for a couple of minutes about the keyboard design and production methods. A nice little insight.
The one thing I would change on any keyboard I've used is that I've always thought that the number row should read 0 to 9, not 1 to 9 then 0, I might have a play with that when my Cosmo arrives.

Posted by: Daniel W Jun 25 2019, 03:58 PM

QUOTE(James Shields @ Jun 24 2019, 10:45 PM) *
The Gemini/Cosmo have had exactly the same layout as the Psion 5 from prototypes to final product, right down to the odd irregular spacing around the edges (I'm pretty sure the prototypes did use a Psion keyboard). I was wondering if this was to allow the old moulding tools to be reused.

No. As I recall them, the Psion Series 5 keys were a tad deeper (and had a tad more travel), which worked, since the entire device was 23mm thick. Also, I read that, for the Gemini, they had to redo the tooling for the keyboard "several times" before they got it right, which was one reason the Gemini got delayed. Even then, the Gemini keyboard had certain issues the Psion keyboard didn't and vice versa, so no, while the Gemini keyboard is made to look very much like a Psion keyboard, it is a unique design.

The Gemini mockups indeed used a Psion keyboard. In the top banner of the Planet Computers home page http://planetcom.co.uk/ one can see that there is text on the front of the space bar. They've scaled the image to make it kind of unreadable, but it says "Backlight". That's for the electroluminescent screen backlight of a Psion. They used to have the image in better quality and I have saved a copy of that, but since I don't own the image, I cannot legally make it available online. I did find this, though:

which, while pretty mangled by compression, is full resolution (if you click to view the full image) so it should be fairly readable. According to the EXIF of the version I have, the photographer is Pietro Cardoso.

<Edit> Even in the preview above, it should be possible to note that the Caps Lock LED is rectangular, not round and that the "Planet/Alt" key just has a line of text (it says "Menu") on it. Further, one can download the official Gemini User Guide, from http://support.planetcom.co.uk/download/GeminiPDAUserGuide.pdf and have a look at page 19, where the Caps Lock LED (labeled "Power LED", which is also true) also has a rectangular shape. Probably the sketch was drawn early on, before the keyboard design was finalized, so maybe they thought of using a rectangular Caps Lock LED at some point. </Edit>

The "odd irregular spacing around the edges" is probably because the Psion and Gemini keyboards approximately respects the "correct" sideways offset between the letter rows. Q is supposed to be 1/4 of a key to the left of A, while Z is supposed to be 1/2 key to the right. Many other PDA-type devices do as they please with these offsets, and some even skips them completely, putting their keys in straight columns. Even the Psion and Gemini cheats a bit, as on a "real" keyboard, 1 is supposed to be 1/2 key to left of Q, which equals 3/4 of a key to left of A, which in turn means that each alphanumeric key gets a unique horizontal position, to make room for the mechanical levers by which typewriter keys, once upon a time, were attached to the rest of the mechanism.

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