Personal computing in the future: of mice and keyboards

Summary:It seems the keyboard and mouse are under attack right now and I don't like it one bit. Here's why I think they're here to stay for countless years to come.

Credit: CBS Studios Inc.
Credit: CBS Studios Inc.

We've all read about it at some point within the past year or two, what with the proliferation of tablets, Windows 8, etc.: "The PC is dead!" "DEATH to the mouse and keyboard!" "Anyone who prefers to use a mouse and keyboard on a PC that has anything less than the latest-and-greatest Windows 8 on it is an idiot who refuses to accept change!"

Well, contrary to what these pundits and proclaimers seem to be pushing for, the future of computing sans mouse and keyboard sounds like an empty prospect in many ways. Why do I say that? Read on, thou who dares to question questionable progress!

According to the mouse and keyboard haters, in the future, we will all be controlling our computers by some combination of touch, gestures, and speech -- the latter of which supposedly being the ultimate eventuality as we, (cue the grandiose Wizard of Oz voice), RID OURSELVES OF THE CUMBERSOME BURDENS OF PHYSICALLY INTERACTING WITH OUR MACHIIIIIINNNNEEEES!!! *DUN, DUN, DUNNNNN!*

Yes, the future of computing is filled with sunshine and rainbows as we use computers like Captain James T. Kirk and everyone in Minority Report. Uh, no thanks.

Now, before I carry on to the dismay of those of you already DYING to lambaste me in the comments, let me be clear with what I'm not addressing here. I'm not talking about the use and utility of many (though not all) of the concepts imagined in futuristic videos like this:

There's some cool stuff therein that really seems like it would be useful, enjoyable, and contributory to one's productivity.

No, what I'm talking about is the notion that a mouse and keyboard are useless, cognitive burdens that the tech industry can't usher out fast enough. What a bunch of nonsense. Personally, I view the mouse and keyboard as timeless necessities of computing: things that don't need to be done away with and replaced by gimmicky offerings of touch, gesture, or speech. I don't care if those things supposedly save me .039849282 nano-seconds-worth of neuronal activity in certain scenarios; that's not worth the MASSIVE trade-off of everything I get from a mouse and keyboard.

And again, before those of you motivated to blast me in the comments do so, I'm not against change. Not even a little bit! As a matter of fact, I want change. I embrace change. YES, I want better products and advancements in computing; YES, I think all avenues of interaction SHOULD be researched, implemented, and made available to those who might enjoy such things. But don't try to force terrible usability options on an entire industry because you think the mouse and keyboard are outdated.

For starters, nothing makes me want to hug my keyboard and mouse more than the fact that writing and Internet research are major components of my daily life. The writing part is obvious as to why I want a keyboard (it's not so much the writing itself as it is the editing, formatting, modifying, etc.), but the way I perform research would be RIDICULOUSLY burdensome without a keyboard and mouse. For instance, let's see you touch/gesture/speak the following query into a search engine: inurl:ftp -inurl:(http|https) site:gov | site:mil filetype:pdf | filetype:ppt | filetype:doc "Top Secret" | "Classified Information"

Oof! It gives me a headache even trying to consider the prospect of doing that. And I search like that for HOURS on end, multiple times a week. Apparently, though, I'm supposed to want it to take 3-5 seconds just to get "great job" written into an email response. Seems legit.

Related: 10 Google search secrets
Related: 10 Google search secrets

Next, we may be a smaller demographic these days, but PC gaming absolutely requires at least a keyboard. Trust me; I love all the games I play on my iPad and mobile phone, but nothing --  not even a console gaming system -- will ever account for the enjoyment and accuracy a mouse and keyboard affords me in infinitely more enjoyable games, like Crysis, Borderlands, Skyrim, Quake Live, etc., etc., etc. Oh, and PC gaming is far from dead. Just sayin'.

Now, I know this next point of mention might seem humorous, but someone's got to say it: PORNOGRAPHY!

Let's face it... porn is a real thing enjoyed by countless people around the globe. So, for those of you who enjoy a naughty online expedition from time to time, I want you to imagine doing what you do to find the content you find, except, imagine doing that with only touch-, gesture-, and/or speech-based computing. Seems like a lot of whispering and frantic flailing about of one's limbs would be going on. (Go ahead... I know this paragraph is just begging for one-liners.)

And let's not even get started on the workforce. I've just assumed up to this point that people downplaying keyboards and mice aren't including computers in the workplace, because that would just be absolutely preposterous.

Obviously, I could go on and on with examples, but suffice it to say, it's things like these that make a Star Trek-like future of computing, while cool-looking, seem halfhearted and incomplete. A keyboard-less and mouse-less future seems quite bleak, and to get rid of them seems like a thoughtless sentiment that exercises change simply for the sake of change -- that, or to justify the salaries of those who seem to think the computing world should be devoid of keyboards and mice.

In conclusion, I'd like to make it absolutely clear that I'm not saying it's keyboards and mice vs. everything else. On the contrary, I think the computing world should be inclusive of every type of input method available to us. At some point, I'm sure we'll be able to just think of what we want to do with a computer and it'll happen; but that comes with its own set of ramifications and consequences, and I'm really not counting on that happening in my lifetime. Regardless, there's room for all types of users, and no one group of them should be singled out to be done away with -- not yet, at least. So, let's open up the floor for discussion here.

What do you think about all the pundits and talking heads who say the keyboard and mouse need to be done away with? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Topics: Tech Industry

About

Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.