Friday, January 13, 2006

Miserable background behind the Optimus Keyboard:

I deeply regret that I cannot provide references for the story I'm about to tell you. Please consider the Optimus Keyboard, in which every key has a display to show what that key can do at the moment. It's a neat idea, but it would have been much more valuable when the concept was invented, back in the early 1980's. In 1985 I worked with a good graphics programmer named Michael something who was despondent. He later committed suicide, partly because of this invention.

He had invented the idea of the LED keyboard, and had designed programmable keys to go with it. (For many years, I had three sample LED keys, each supporting a very small mono display). I believe that any patents on illuminated keys that he filed have expired by now.

Michael connected up with a Japanese entrepreneur who agreed to provide funding to commercialize the keyboard. Their exclusive agreement specified that if the keyboard was a failure after some time, the entrepreneur would acquire 100% rights over the invention.

It soon became clear that the entrepreneur would not provide any capital for the invention, preferring to wait until it belonged entirely to him. Our graphics friend felt he was missing the opportunity of a lifetime. In the early 1980's, every program used different keyboard conventions; dynamic LED settings on the keys would have been terrific then.

The new Optimus keyboard will apparently be quite expensive, but if I were using a computer to write in multiple languages, I would be desperate to own one.

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