Contoured Keyboards 


DataHand Systems
DataHand Pro II
Contoured Keyboard
PCD  Maltron
Maltron Keyboard

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Contoured Keyboards do more than simply cut the standard keyboard into pieces and angle them. They place the keys in curves that closely match the natural movement of the fingers, thus reducing finger travel to the keys. Several keys are relocated to be operated by the thumb, a stronger digit. Due to their more unique design, these keyboards take a little more effort to learn, but have the potential to provide more relief than some other alternative designs. Their designs are radical enough that many people are turned off on them at first sight and some training on it should be provided with it and time allowed to get used to them.

The DataHand is probably the most unique keyboard design short of Chording keyboards. Its, looks, cost, and increased learning curve to use has being purchased and used by those most severely injured by RSIs. The DataHand is attached to this category as it attempts to accomplish the same goal with a different design approach, and to place it elsewhere would reduce its visibility in this FAQ.

DataHand Pro 2DataHand Systems, Inc.
3032 North 33rd Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85017-5201
(602) 233-6000, Fax: (602) 233-3434

DataHand Professional II

  • Compatibility: PC, Mac, RS/6000, Sparc, IBM 3270
  • Estimated Price: Professional II - $2,100.00
  • Availability:  Resellers

Each hand has its own "pod". Each of the four main fingers has five switches each: forward, back, left, right, and down. The thumbs have a number of switches. Despite appearances, the key layout resembles QWERTY. The idea is that your hands never have to move to use the keyboard. A finger-mouse is also built-in.

No longer will you be pounding a flat keyboard that is pounding you back. DataHand users actually preserve energy on the DataHand System because their hands are comfortably supported in a natural, restful position. Due to a dramatic reduction in repetition, reduction in finger workload and complete touch typing capability, you can increase your speed and accuracy. The result is a payoff in increased productivity.

Using the DataHand System is faster because hand movement is eliminated, finger movement is dramatically reduced and the keys have less travel. No more awkward reaching for the mouse or searching for keys and then repositioning the fingers on the home row. Each finger rests in a finger well, surrounded by five keys. Even the mouse is controlled by the index fingers without moving the hands.

Only the DataHand System gives you five-way tactile feedback. You don't have to wonder if you hit the right key. Typing is performed by minuscule finger motions in one of five directions -- north, south, east, west or straight down.

(see website given above for more manufacturer product information)

datahand-kbmap.gif (180528 bytes)
(a picture of the key layout is also available)

Product Reviews

Ergonomic Sciences Corp's Review of the DataHand II Professional Keyboard System


From Princeton's TIFAQ FTP Archive:

detailed opinions of the DataHand
follow-up to above
another review of the DataHand
description of the DataHand's appearance

(Information last checked:  Dec'97)

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Kinesis Corporation  
22121 17th Avenue SE, Suite 112, Bothell, WA 98021-7404
800-4-KINESIS (800-454-6374) or 425-402-8100
Fax: 425-402-8181

Kinesis Contoured Ergonomic Keyboard

  • Compatibility: PC, a Mac/PC switchable version and Sun with an interface box.
  • All keyboards (even the non-programmable Essential) has QWERTY/Dvorak switching
  • Prices:
    • Essential Model (PC = $225)(Mac/PC = $265)(w/Sun Interface = $345)
    • Classic Model (PC = $275)(w/Sun Interface = $395)
    • Professional Model (PC = $355)(Mac/PC = $395)(w/Sun Interface = $470)
      • Includes a single action footsitch and Keyware utility software
    • Foot pedals and other accessories are extra.
  • Availability: Through keyboard resellers and some computer stores
  • Sun interface boxes are now sold separately for $125
  • Mac interface boxes are new--sold separately for $133

The layout has a large blank space in the middle, even though the keyboard is about the size of a normal PC keyboard - slightly smaller. Each hand has its own set of keys, laid out to minimize finger travel. Thumb buttons handle many major functions (enter, backspace, etc.).

The keyboard supports remapping, macros, and adjustable repeat rate.

Foot pedals are also available, and can be mapped to any key on the keyboard (shift, control, whatever).

The keypad is "embedded" in the right hand, and a toggle button (or foot pedal) changes between normal and keypad mode for your right hand.

Software is newly available that lets you split the Kinesis into multiple personalities so you can have more than one set of macros and remappings available. This software runs on your PC and downloads the data to the keyboard. For more info, contact the company.

Kinesis has adapters boxes which can be used to connect the Kinesis (or other PC keyboards) to a Mac or Sun.

(see website given above for more manufacturer product information)


TIFAQ Archived Commentaries:

One user's testimonial about Kinesis:

(Information last checked:  Dec'97)

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Maltron KeyboardPCD Maltron Ltd.
15 Orchard Lane, East Molesey,
Surrey, KT8 0BN. England.
Tel/Fax 0181-398-3265 UK.
" " +44 181 398 3265 International
" " 07000 MALTRON from anywhere.
Email sales@maltron.com or shobday@cix.co.uk
WWW: http://www.maltron.com


  • Compatibility: PC and Mac
  • Estimated Price: $395 + shipping in the USA
  • Contact PCD Maltron for European sales

U.S. Manufacturer & Distributor
TelePrint Systems, Inc.
#4 Henson PL., Suite #5, Champaign, IL 61820
Phone: 217-359-9690
FAX: 217-352-8233
E-Mail: teleprint@teleprint.com
WWW: http://www.teleprint.com/

U.S. Distributor: Jim Barrett
Applied Learning Corp.
1376 Glen Hardie Road, Wayne, PA 19087
Phone: 610-688-6866

Canadian Liason
Robert Vellinga
Humansystems, Inc.
111 Farquhar St., 2nd Floor
Guelph, Ontario, CANADA
N1H 3N4
Phone: 519-836-5911
Fax: 519-836-1722
E-Mail: vellinga@humansys.com

The MALTRON keyboard has been shown to relieve the symptoms of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) and allow RSI sufferers to resume work. Straight wrists and minimal palms down rotation of the hands reduces strain in the wrists, arms, shoulders and neck. It is the sustained strains required by the flat keyboard that can lead to fatigue, then pain and finally disability. The fully ergonomic MALTRON fits the shape of hands and the different lengths of fingers to reduce movement and tension.

  • Split design eliminates wrist twist and allows a central number cluster which can be used by right or left hand as preferred.
  • Tilted keys and pads minimize palms downward movement (Pronation) to further reduce muscle tension.
  • Straight vertical key columns eliminate tens of thousands of finger and wrist twists in a day's work.
  • Thumb keys for Cursors, Return or Enter, Space, Backspace and other frequently used keys reduce hand and arm movement. Versatile thumbs are used far more effectively.
  • Built in palm resting pads allow immediate hand and arm relaxation during "Thinking Time".
  • Shift Lock as well as Caps and Num Locks provides more options.
  • Funtion keys may be placed either along the back of the keyboard or directly above the number row.

The advanced MALTRON letter layout is available at the touch of a special key. The most used letters are on the center (Home) row reducing finger movement and learning time. Operators who have been badly hurt by the flat keyboard often prefer to learn the MALTRON layout when adapting to the new shape. Key caps are fitted to suit either layout, or may be dually engraved in different colours as an option.

We have fitted a trackball in the wrist rest area of the central number pad of our most recent design (not shown). In this position the ball may be easily moved by the thumb with the fingers cupped and the hand resting over the key thumb group. The top of the ball is slightly below the wrist rest surface so that it does not interfere with normal keyboard use.

(see websites given above for more manufacturer product information)


Maltron has four main products - a two-handed keyboard, two one-handed keyboards, and a keyboard designed for handicapped people to control with a mouth-stick.


From TIFAQ's Archive:

a comparison of two similar keyboard alternatives
maltron-flyer and maltron-letter
marketing info on various Maltron products
one user's personal opinions

(Information last checked:  Feb'99)

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Last Updated: 01/18/02