- Microsoft is discontinuing most ergonomic keyboards, even though the first keyboard came out about 30 years ago.
- The news brought grief to believers.
- Jeff Atwood, co-founder of programming question-and-answer site Stack Overflow, refers to the original Microsoft Natural Keyboard from 1994, saying, “It was really comfortable to use.”
Brittany Matter’s home desk features a mouse, keyboard, and numeric keypad from the discontinued Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop set. I keep my keyboard in my backpack when I travel because I want to work comfortably.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: memo When it was announced in January that there were “changes to our hardware portfolio,” the news had serious and alarming implications for people like Brittany Matter.
A freelance writer from Olympia, Washington, Matter is a fan of Microsoft’s ergonomic keyboard, which the company began selling the first version about 30 years ago. She also took a keyboard and mouse with her when she traveled to Hawaii for a few days earlier this month.
Nadella’s sentence spelled the end of her beloved accessory.
“Have you ever experienced fainting symptoms?” Matter said in an interview. “It’s a crawling pain in the back of my neck. I can’t move my neck from side to side and it completely reduces my mobility. This is the pain I experienced when my mouse and keyboard were not ergonomic. ”
Keyboards were never big business for Microsoft. Microsoft rose to prominence with its ubiquitous PC software and then entered gaming in a big way with Xbox. Much of Microsoft’s business today consists of the use of cloud services by businesses, schools, and government agencies.
But since entering the keyboard business in 1994, four years ahead of the current market leader, Logitech, Microsoft has won many fans with its ergonomic products. The company will continue to produce keyboards, but will end production of its more well-known ergonomic products as part of a broader effort to prioritize growth categories.
The beige Microsoft Natural Keyboard splits the letter keys into two clusters so that the typist’s left hand tilts slightly to the right and vice versa. Windows keys were placed on either side of the spacebar.
“It was a real pleasure to use,” said Jeff Atwood, co-founder of programming question-and-answer site Stack Overflow. “It looked cool. I could see they were going to do something. It wasn’t just beauty. It had a purpose.”
Matter discovered ergonomic keyboards about 10 years ago while working at Zulily. Her e-commerce company provided her with her ergonomic keyboard and mouse, which reduced the pain in her wrists.
Then she went Apple’s way and used the laptop’s built-in keyboard. And she found out four years ago that she was doing a freelance role at Marvel, but Marvel wouldn’t give her her equipment.
“We needed something under $100,” Matter said.
Wirecutter, the New York Times product review website, recommended Microsoft’s keyboard. She went to her Best Buy and bought her Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop, which includes a mouse, keyboard, and a separate numeric keypad that sits next to the keyboard.
Two key tops came off in less than a year.
“I kept wearing it and was dealing with it,” she said. “But I remembered that I have this guarantee.”
Matter returned to Best Buy and was given a replacement. I have kept the new set ever since. And now Matter keeps the keyboard in his Chrome Industries backpack when he travels.
“It’s kind of tall, so it fits right in there,” she said.
When the Microsoft Natural Keyboard hit the market, it caught the attention of Matt Steinhoff, who worked as a system administrator for a Florida newspaper. People in the press were concerned that certain keyboards could cause repeated stress damage. To Steinhoff, Microsoft’s keyboard seemed strange to him, but he found a coupon and bought it anyway.
“It was a learning curve,” Steinhoff said. “I got a lot of weird looks, but once I got used to it, it was comfortable. Logically, the better wrist position made perfect sense.”
Steinhoff has become an evangelist for this product. He changed newspapers in 1998 and purchased a new model, his Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite. His mother, a former librarian in West Palm Beach, Fla., got one too.
Retired bookkeeper Laila Steinhoff still uses the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite, released in 1998.
Still, the Natural Keyboard Elite wasn’t a widely loved product.
The arrow keys are arranged in a diamond shape. Hugh MacLone, a senior user experience researcher at the company, said Microsoft designed it that way because people complained that traditional keyboards took up too much desktop space.
But the updated layout “made it impossible to play games or avoid spreadsheets,” Steinhoff said. “They just aren’t in the right place.”
Addressing those who criticize the Diamond Arrow Cluster, McLone said: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
By 2005, Steinhoff had a new job. He purchased his Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 from Microsoft. This reverted the arrow keys to the more traditional inverted T direction.
Mr. Macron has been working on the design of the 4000 model for seven years.
The new keyboard had a tall ledge in the middle, and certain keys were placed inward and upward so that users didn’t have to stretch their fingers too far. It wasn’t just about being comfortable. McCrone also cared about performance and appeal.
According to the survey, 22 out of 23 people preferred the shape of the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 over the old Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro. According to the company, it has become the best-selling aftermarket wired keyboard in the United States. circana data.
“I am overjoyed!” writes Atwood. coding horror Post-purchase blog.
Steinhoff used for 11 years. The exchange lasted another six years. In 2022, he purchased his Microsoft Ergonomic his keyboard for his home in his gardens in Palm Beach, Florida, and another one for when he works in a client’s office.
From top to bottom, Matt Steinhoff’s home collection includes the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard he uses every day, a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000 keyboard someone gave him, and an old Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 he keeps as a backup. I’m here.
None of the models were perfect for Steinhoff, but he appreciates their affordability. And relying on them for years may have been a kind of precaution. His brother recently underwent surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.
“I’ve definitely put off using an ergonomic keyboard,” he said.
As for the mother’s keyboard, the Steinhoff family knows they shouldn’t touch it, even if they update her computer every ten years.
“I really, really like my keyboard,” she wrote in an email to her son. “No, I can’t have it.”
Many software developers at Microsoft also like them, Edie Adams, the company’s director of ergonomics, said in a 2022 interview.
“I think it’s because people are used to it,” she said.
Atwood said he understands why Microsoft chose to exit the market after so many years. One is a video posted on his social media of people building keyboards as keyboards explode in popularity. In the 1990s, ordinary people bought a PC and just used the keyboard that came with it.
Atwood’s desk in his home in Berkeley, Calif., has a rainbow keyboard that someone made for him.
“The industry is mature and we want to focus on other things,” Atwood said. He announced in 2013 that he had collaborated with WASD Keyboards to develop a bare-bones mechanical keyboard. code. “They really deserve a lot of kudos when it comes to hardware. In my opinion it was underappreciated. They really pushed things forward.”
A Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC in an email that the company is “focused on its portfolio of Surface-branded Windows PC accessories.”
McLoone owns a Microsoft Wireless Comfort Desktop 5050, whose keyboard features the curved design he pioneered before leaving Microsoft in 2009. The keys are set to encourage good posture and have a large central key. Microsoft’s latest Sculpt Comfort desktop kit includes a similarly styled keyboard.
The keyboard is out of stock on Microsoft’s website, but it’s still in stock. Available on Amazon. A person in Japan heard the news that Microsoft would stop manufacturing the product, so he bought 10 of them on Amazon.
What does Mr. Macron suggest?
“I don’t know. I’ll buy the next good one and stock up,” said McLone, now senior manager of user experience research at T-Mobile.
Other versions of Microsoft’s older keyboards are similarly out of stock, but you can find them elsewhere online for the time being.
Microsoft still sells the Surface Ergonomic Keyboard that it launched in 2016. Although it’s out of stock on the company’s website, it “remains part of its line of Surface-branded PC accessories,” a company spokesperson said. This model costs $129.99 on Amazon, which is double the price of his discontinued Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard.
Other companies, including Logitech, still make ergonomic keyboards. But for people like Matter, that is of little consolation.
“I am so devastated,” Matter wrote in an email. “I have to buy another set as a spare before they are discontinued.”
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