While thoroughly cleaning my home office – something I know I haven't been alone lately – I had to blow away some forgotten items. In my house, this included a number of electronic devices that I haven't used in years: an Amazon Echo Dot, an Ouya, a burner phone full of Google Apps, and so on.
Among them was a surprise: an additional 10-key pad for my wireless, daily driver keyboard. This model, a wireless Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard, disassembled its 10-key part into a separate wireless part that I had apparently put away and forgotten. I mentioned it on the Ars for Funsies employee chat channel, with a sarcastic version of "Who uses these things anyway?"
What followed was an explosion of 10-key opinions that I hadn't expected but should have expected. After all, that's Ars Technica. If something accepts some form of electrical current, we can find a way to make it a topic of conversation that "stops everything, let's get this out". And we did it with employees who remember decades of 10 key anecdotes and memories.
What follows is a series of 10 key feelings from Ars that range from "indispensable" to "available".
Mavis didn't teach me to type
I start with my own setting, which contains a personal PTSD (the "T" stands for "10 keys" of course).
As a child in the American suburbs in the 1980s, my earliest keyboard memories come from computer labs in public schools that are rinsed with fresh Apple computers. I spent much of my adult life assuming that these were supplied directly by Apple, in order to bind students not only to computers in general, but also to Apple's machines, software, and operating systems. However, my fleeting research only points to a clear move from Apple to schools in the 1980s that focused exclusively on California – since Apple had trouble getting federal lawmakers to move the needle for nationwide tax credits on computer donations.
No, I didn't write that in primary school. The History sidebar provides information about the context of this IBM 031 alphanumeric duplication stamp.
The 10-key pad was arranged at an angle and placed its numbers in a telephone sequence, not in a modern 10-key sequence. However, the placement next to a QWERTY keyboard was the first of its kind.
I can't say how my Texas elementary school got their fleet of Apple IIe machines. But I was trained in third grade, perhaps earlier, in a software suite that I had never discovered in the past few years. While the first version of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing was debuting at this point, our school used a rudimentary monochrome application that simply instructed me to type words and phrases over and over without any hand placement tutorials to help. (I always thought the name was "PRIMR", pronounced "prim-her", but I can't find a trace of this software anywhere. Readers, if you know what I'm talking about, please direct me to whatever archive. org entry I missed.)
I address all of this because I don't remember whether my elementary school had 10 keyboards on the keyboards or not. Instead, I remember that this writing software trained me to type without taking my hands off the front row. I'm not sure how the software could have explained that in a plain text interface. So I never really reached for the 10 key in my youth, not even when video games tried to move in that direction. (That would have been quicker than trying to brutally force my Gravis gamepad to work on more software.)
Only after I graduated from college did I rely on a 10-button pad and got my first formal job: customer service and technical support calls for a phone line reseller who had just filed for bankruptcy. (Early 2003 was not a great time for the job search market.) It was an anal wart of a strict job that we would never forward angry phone calls to a manager unless we were able to grunt at the front line with problems like Failure or seemingly fraudulent contractual terms to help. (It was getting bad.) Each disgruntled call or report about a failed service included the required heading to fill out a support ticket and tick the 10 buttons to fill in details such as customer ID numbers and collocation points.
So, of course, I did it pretty damn quickly when I clicked a 10 key by ordering numbers in reverse, and it's my preferred numbering order when I get into a data entry crisis. But when I was released through the bankruptcy process, I took it as a clear mandate from all the powers that determine my fate with the keyboard to skip the 10 keys whenever humanly possible. The thought of a 10-key takes me back to the gloomy wasteland of the cabin, where disputes over stolen break room fridge meals were weekly conversation feed. So I prefer keyboards without the need for 10-key pads, and I want more laptop manufacturers to offer their 10-key parts as optional, broken-out devices.
Ars 10 key defender
What follows from now on are answers from my colleagues at Ars Technica about 10-key keypads.
Ron Amadeo, Reviews Editor: Is this a serious question? The keyboard is an integral part of my computer experience, and I'm completely at a loss when I don't have it on my laptop. It's perfect for quickly using the calculator app and entering sequences of numbers into a specification table. Really, when I type more than two numbers in a sentence, I move my hand over. I also need it for the ton of special character altcodes that I saved like ALT + 0215 for the "×" in "1920 × 1080", ALT + 0151 for a hyphen (-) and ALT + 0128 for the Euro "€ . " Spelling out the ALT code numbers for this item was actually difficult because I don't usually think about entering them. It's all muscle memory now!
I have never tried a laptop with a keyboard because laptops are used for mobility. My laptop has to fit on my lap in an airplane, train, and cramped live blogging area, and the 10-key models are just too big. I'm pretty committed to miserable levels of productivity on a single screen laptop anyway.
Eric Bangeman, Managing Editor: As a high school student in the early 80s, the opportunities to learn coding and other aspects of computing were limited. One possibility for me was the vocational school in the region. In addition to some BASIC programming courses, there was a course called Data Processing and Computer Operations, which was a strange mix of COBOL learning and simple data entry (remember, this was 1983). The data entry section had a heavy 10-key component, including typing tests that consisted only of a series of 6 to 8 digit numbers, and I had to become competent to pass the class.
Since then I have always been interested in keyboards with a numeric keypad. The only exception was when the second-generation Apple wireless keyboard came out. I bought one because I hate cable clutter on my desk, but even then I bought a matching third-party Bluetooth keyboard. When Apple came back and added a 10-key option to its wireless line, I bought one and have been using it happily ever since.
Although I can type well, it is still easier for me to switch to the numeric keypad when you need to enter a series of numbers – to the point that when I am on my laptop, I will do some tasks, until I'm back on my desktop.
Enlarge /. Kate Cox’s preferred option for entering special characters quickly using the 10-key keypad.
Kate Cox, reporter for technical guidelines: Oui, il faut l & # 39; utiliser quand écrire dans une langue utilisant des signes diacritiques.
Thank you Windows for not changing these commands in at least 25 years.
Jim Salter, technology reporter: If it doesn't have a 10 key, I don't want it. If we're honest here, I probably only use a 10 key once or twice a week. But it just doesn't feel like a "real" computer without one.
Nate Anderson, deputy editor: I can tolerate the lack of a 10-key key in a smaller laptop, but if you reach 15 inches, I'll be right back asking for one. Admittedly, it is a little annoying when the keyboard is offset from the screen … but not as annoying as when I have to enter some numerical data and the keyboard is missing.
For most people, 10-key keypads are useless – but I still have two keyboards with them on them. That's because my old, wired, extended Mac keyboards with 10 keyboards also contain full-size arrow keys, up / down keys, and home / end keys. As a writer and editor who has to move in text-based documents, these are all lifesavers. So I always buy keyboards with 10 keys … only not for the keys with 10 keys.
Lee Hutchinson, Senior Technology Editor: I have to go with Ron's attitude: A keyboard without 10 keys is like a pair of pants without an ass. I bought a nice custom Varmilo keyboard without 10 keys (or "TKL" for "tenkeyless") with white illuminated caps and tried it honestly, but I kept hitting my fingers on the part of the desk where the 10 keys are located would be several times a day for days. Apparently I type all of my numbers on the 10 key and have been doing it for so long that it would be painful to release the entire muscle memory.
I have better things to do with my time than learning how to write numbers in a long, straight line like a plebe.
You can also see which employees grew up with Sierra adventure games in the 80s, who likes 10-key keyboards and who doesn't. Your TKL keyboards are worthless if you ever feel the urge to start DOSBox and play parser-based adventure games. How are you going to move your little character? CHECKMATE, FILL!