Keyboards Must Die

The computer of the future is almost here. It’s a small handheld device with some pretty good built-in muscle and storage, and that depends on the network for most of its functionality. But it won’t really be practical until the keyboard goes away and we can talk to our computers.

Handhelds won’t really be practical for everyday mass use until we can talk to them. The biggest obstacle to truly mobile computing is the keyboard. Even if you like tiny keyboards you need both hands, and they force devices to be too large and cumbersome. Imagine replacing all the real estate taken up by keyboards and keypads with a large, high-quality screen.

Even in the Linux and FOSS world, voice recognition software has a long way to go. It’s a complex problem for a number of reasons: the software has to differentiate between commands and dictation, and it has to learn to recognize how you pronounce words. English is a particular nightmare; we can’t make reliable spellcheckers because of homonyms, and those same little words also give voice software fits.

Way back in the olden days (around 1999) I had copies of Dragon NaturallySpeaking and ViaVoice to test. They ran only on Windows, of course, but they weren’t bad. The main problem was a lack of computing power- our state-of-the-art PCs were Pentium II 166s. So I spent a fair bit of time waiting for the computer to catch up.

Computing power is no longer a scarce commodity, but voice recognition has not advanced very much. I think it would be wonderful to have a small device that I can dictate articles into, tell it how I want them formatted, upload and publish them, make hard copies; check messages, play games- whatever needs to be done.

Of course this has its downsides. The hordes of phone zombies that roam the Earth with Bluetooth phones stuck in their ears and yakking non-stop, or the poor insecure obsessive texters that can’t be out of touch for more than 10 seconds are bad enough. Imagine the sounds of peaceful typing being replaced by more torrents of mindless blather. There will be no peace, and then normal people will go insane and start slapping the daylights out of them.

Ok so maybe that’s not a negative. Still, I think the keyboard must go.

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