Doug Engelbart’s Chorded Keyboard as a Multi-touch Interface from Teague Labs on Vimeo.

As the devices we find ourselves typing on get smaller, a one-handed keyboard is becoming more relevant. Most people don’t realize the idea began in the late 60’s, during Douglas Engelbart’s presentation introducing futuristic ideas like the computer mouse, hypertext, and video conferencing. The one-handed keyboard fell through the cracks, until now.

Adam Kumpf, from Teague Labs, laments that “our ability to input information into computers (and to others via the Internet) is currently limited by our interfaces.” So he rebuilt the chorded keyboard for touch-screen devices. (You can demo it for yourself right here in iOS or Android.)

“I remember hearing Doug Engelbart give a talk a few years ago at MIT and discuss his disappointment that the chorded keyboard was quickly overlooked after his 1968 demo of the NLS,” Kumpf tells us. “There have been many variations on his one-handed keyboard since by researchers and hackers alike, but the specialized hardware and steep learning curve has kept it from being accessible to most of the world.”

The original chorded keyboard was an unlabeled box of five skinny buttons–an approachable but quietly complex design that would be several times harder to decipher than an unlabeled QWERTY keyboard.

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