A $14 "ergo" keyboard from surplus parts

or "stupid nerd hacks"....


I've gotten quite a response to this page, including many good suggestions. Dozens of people asked "Why not use two keyboards and a Y adaptor" instead of bothering to hack a keyboard to pieces?

A Y adaptor is not trivial since the keyboard port isn't designed for it, however Gerard Pinzone knew the solution: a Y adaptor circuit is posted at this web site. Very cool. This circuit works well. I use it alternate between the split keyboard and a normal keyboard. This help prevent my arms getting tired of one position. Here's a photo of the circuit board, and the complete adaptor.

I suspect a full-sized keyboard on each side would be awkward, but I haven't tried it. One correspondent believes the circuit may not work well for that purpose, because of timing issues (one keyboard is temporarily blocked when a key is pressed or released on the other). I recently noted a commercial Y adaptor is now available. I don't have a link for it, yet.

spRed suggested a safer and more accurate way to cut pcb: To cut the PCB in half, I used an exacto knife with the little saw blades (just a few bucks for a pack of them). ... they tear fairly quickly through the board, and you can make very exact cuts without wearing safety goggles.

Several people asked if I was interested in selling such keyboards. The idea doesn't appeal to me much (... at all, really). The margin would be pretty slim, and I like to spend my energy on problem solving, not production. While I'm not fond of "ergo" product manufacturers, Andrew Tannenbaum pointed out a commercial design that is completely split, and selling for one quarter of what other split designs cost. In the interest of promoting reasonable pricing, I'm linking their product . It appears that it could be mounted like mine unmodified, or perhaps requiring an easy cable extension (the cable length is not apparent in the photos).

The keyboard

After suffering symptoms of an RSI, I investigated "ergo" keyboards. It turns out that an "ergo" stamp is an excuse to charge truly absurd amounts of money of very common equipment... like $500 for a keyboard, or $200 for a mouse.

I also found that no one had quite what I wanted. Part of my symptoms were pains in my elbows from being constantly bent, and pains in my wrists from being held rotated, in the plane of the keyboard. I wanted a keyboard which allowed my wrists and arms to be in their relaxed positions, i.e. at my sides. What I imagined was, basically, a saddle-bag keyboard.

This in mind, I visited a surplus computer parts store, and bought two keyboards for $7/each. Then I took a jig saw to one of them.

I can now report that it is possible to cut pc board in two with a jig saw and still have a functional circuit. :) I used the IDE plugs from a fried motherboard, and a spare IDE cable (which came with the last hard drive I purchased) to wire the two halves together.

Some details of the process are below.

I make NO CLAIMS that this design will help any typing injuries you are experiencing, nor do I claim that this design won't hurt you if used excessively.

I find that it's comfortable for me.

The finished product:

Performing the hack: