Apple iPad, Microsoft Courier and the death of the keyboard

Editor's Notebook: Time to wave goodbye to Qwerty?

With the iPad soon to launch and Microsoft's Courier touchscreen device also rumoured to be hitting the shops this year, what does this mean for the humble keyboard, asks editor Steve Ranger.

I'm typing this column using a keyboard. It's a pretty standard keyboard, albeit with a higher than average amount of crumbs quietly going mouldy in its inner workings.

But, despite it having sat on my desk for the last three or four years, regions of it are still a mystery to me - the desktop equivalent of the old maps that say "there be dragons".

I reckon I've used about two-thirds of the keys on it; some of them I don't think I've ever even touched since the keyboard took up residence on my desk.

Just what is Scroll Lock I wonder (it sounds like a martial arts move you'd use against an angry librarian), and why would I want to do it?

What mysteries are unleashed by pressing F6 through to F12?

And why, until now, have I never noticed, let alone used Num Lock?

As far as I know these keys might not even be wired up - or pressing them might open up a trap door which will deposit me in a tank of ravenous sharks. I don't think I'll take the risk.

From the advent of the commercial typewriter back in the 1870s - the Qwerty layout was created in 1874 - to the laptops of today's knowledge workers, the keyboard has been the primary tool of the office worker.

It's done pretty good service as the standard data input device for the last 140 years but it might not be around for much longer.

The most hyped device of the year - the Apple iPad - should be hitting the shops next month. Touch, not keyboard, is the key to the iPad.

And it's not just Apple doing away with the keyboard: photos of Microsoft's Courier device started leaking out late last year, showing a device that bears more resemblance to a booklet than a tablet, sporting dual seven-inch screens. Rather than a keyboard, Courier uses a pen interface and handwriting recognition.

courier ipad death of the keyboard

Are the days of the traditional keyboard numbered?
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

According to a recent post on Engadget, which has photos of a prototype device, it's less than an inch thick, weighs a little more than a pound and comes with a built-in camera. It will also serve as an ebook reader - and could arrive sometime in the second half of this year.

Until pretty much now, if you were...