Get with the times: Keyboards are outdated

In this day and age, why should I hold down the Shift key to get a very commonly used character - the @ symbol. Surely keyboards should have evolved since the Cold War? Rant
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

I've been working on campus all week in a small office which overlooks one of the many bars on campus. As welfare officer, an unpaid and voluntary role which I was elected into, every time a welfare issue arises and is dealt with, I need to report it in to the appropriate union or university authority.

At the moment, I am sending approximately 60 emails a day. That added to the "day job" which I call working on here at ZDNet has almost doubled my daily email output. Suffice to say, I am getting a little tired with the usual format of email, but a tiny, little something has bugged me more than anything else.

I use a UK-layout keyboard. Many of you use a US-layout keyboard, but this minor irritation is almost the same.

Why, in this day and age, do I need to push the Shift key to produce the @ symbol?


Back in the day when email wasn't so common, I can understand the insignificance of the @ symbol. However nowadays with most communications we send involving the @ symbol, I cannot see why we cannot give this key a little more authority in the keyboard real estate.

Think of it this way. Since we first started using the keyboard in the late 1970's but primarily the 1980's, we have since evolved our keyboard not only in terms of ergonomics but with functionality twinned with convenience. My keyboard allows me to not only open a web browser, fall the computer to sleep and open the calculator functions, but also allows me to alter music playback.

But along with this, there are keys on the keyboard which are null, void, outdated, pointless and simply not used. Even with my computing knowledge and experience, I still have yet to figure out what the Scroll Lock key does, and don't get me started on the Break key. The Break key can only be described as a relic of the Cold War and its mere ambiguity and misunderstanding quite frankly offends me.

Part of me would be content with a dedicated "www" button which added the initial prefix to web address. But then again to be absolutely honest, there are only two non-essential buttons I truly use on the keyboard. Besides the standard letters, numbers and common symbols, the only additional ones I use are the play/pause and the mute buttons.

Everything else is wasted on me. What about you?

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