Computer: Keyboard: Layout
Legoboard   (+16)  [vote for, against]
Physically remappable keyboard

The base is a board that holds a grid approximately 35x15, each unit being roughly the size of a keyboard key (~11/16"sq). Each of these squares would have a 8 pin connector socket and a recoil mechanism. Each key would have a unique combination of conductive pins on the underside, out of a possible 255 combinations. When a key was pressed, the board would compare the pattern of pins to an internal list, and echo the appropriate keystroke. This way, every key on the keyboard could be *physically* relocated to any position on the board.

Each of the sockets would essentially be a set of six switches. The sockets would have to be uniquely identifiable so as to differentiate simultaneous input from different keys. At any point at which any of the circuits in any socket were closed, regardless of which socket, the board would have to determine which key that was (without necessarily knowing from which socket it came). Some failsafe would have to be put in the firmware to make sure that once a key was pressed, that that same key would be locked to further input until it was released, because the possibility of having more than one of the same key exists.

It would come fully assembled as per a standard 101-key keyboard with extra space at the top.
-- absterge, Apr 27 2001

For a more-than-standard keyboard of 127 keys, why not code each key as 7-bit binary? Neat idea, though, gets my +. Saves all that software-remapping stuff that we all use now :-?
-- angel, Apr 27 2001

You will also note if you look at a regular keyboard that the keys are not in a rectilinear grid; they are staggered, for a variety of reasons (some historical, some ergonomic), and most people will probably find a non-staggered keyboard hard to use.

Many keyboards have interchangeable "key caps" (the visible part of the key with the symbol on it). Combined with software remapping (which is surely simpler than what you describe) and you're left with most of the value for much less effort... though admittedly you don't get to change the physical layout.
-- egnor, Apr 27 2001, last modified Apr 28 2001

Well, no, you're not really missing anything, I guess... it'd just be much more amusing to yank a key off and replace it where you want instantly, necessarily *without* any software tweaking.

I had considered the strict grid problem, too. What if each line of the grid could shift horizontally by as much as a whole key-space? Or, to make them truly lego-like, any socket could be connected to any other socket in any 2d arrangement by way of dimples/impressions? all that circuitry would be a big problem, then, but I'm sure that could be worked around. If each socket had it's own hardline to the central bit... that's *way* too much work, of course, but it'd make a neat little kitschy toy; sell them to the same guys that put the neon inside their cases.
-- absterge, Apr 27 2001

If we're getting all fancy, use some sort of wireless thing to transmit from each key. Then you could just stick them into a big glob of plasticine and mush it into whatever shape you wanted (imitate the Kinesis, go for a more "Natural" ergonomic style, make your own Twiddler, whatever) and then bake it into shape (or use as-is, though it might mush as you type).

The wireless thing might even be not completely implausible; each key could complete the circuit of a printed RF resonant coil with a different frequency (or a unique set of coils with distinct frequencies); the base station would be scanning for all the frequencies.

Or the keys could just be connected via a thin wire back to the base station; you could still embed them in clay, but you'd have to worry about tangling all those wires if you wanted to reconfigure it.
-- egnor, Apr 27 2001

Agh [egnor]! I was just about to suggest exactly the same thing. Each key should be a separate 802.11b client and individually IP-addressable.
If your keyboard had a 'Bell' key on (as v. old-fashioned keyboards had), you could then ping your bell... (sorry).
-- hippo, Apr 27 2001

Here at UbiquiTech, we strive to maintain the highest standards of bogosity in over-tech. We will place only the most extraneous, highest neat-o-wow-factor technology in the most ludicrous of places, where it makes the least sense, and we do all this for a fraction of the cost of manufacturing your own planet.

heh. Right, the bluetooth keyboard is the next logical step, of course, but that's so stupid I wasn't going to mention it. =)
-- absterge, Apr 27 2001

What about non-standard uses--ie playing a midi instrument using the keyboard? Be nice, I would think, to be able to position your keys so that the arrangement echoed (within reason) a musical instrument. Lego keyboard would do that nicely, especially if the grid rows could be shifted so the column aligned or not as preferred.
-- Dog Ed, Apr 28 2001

Aack! S>N=K error!

-- StarChaser, Apr 28 2001

For multiple keys being pressed simultaneously, I recommend having the keyboard alternate the signals of each key quickly.
-- nick_n_uit, Apr 28 2001 they do now....

Hey - you could add the option to add some extra keys with predefined functions. This idea would be good if aimed at GAMES PLAYERS. I'll give this a bread thingy...
-- CasaLoco, Jun 03 2001

A friend of mine had a calculator that worked like this. Had twenty buttons which could be arbitrarily rearranged in a 4x5 grid. Worked okay, though not great; some keys wouldn't work if rotated, but IIRC the zero didn't care, the 1, 2, 5, and 8 didn't mind being rotated 180 degrees, and 6 and 9 would interchange roles if flipped.
-- supercat, Feb 06 2002

You could do the wireless thing cheaply. Just make each of the keys an RF tag. For a few years, my dad has had this little plastic "tag" about the size of a type2 PCMCIA card to get into the parking garage at the office (though it makes a much better windsheild scraper). You would just wave it within a few inches of a little box on the gate. it has a chip in it and some coils for antennas. The transmitter would transmitt in pulses. It would send out a powerfull signal, then wait for a reply, etc. The coil antennas in the "tag" would receive the signal. The energy from the received signal is stored in a small capacitor and actually powers the tag (just like the signal powers one of those old "crystal radios"). The tag then uses the small amout of power that it stored while the transmitter was transmitting to transmitt a fwe bytes back. My soluton would be to put one of these chips in each key. The chips are VERY cheap (they are slowly starting to replace bar codes).each chip just sends back it's keyscan code, just like what a normal keyboard would send back you would just connect the keyswitch to the chip so that they only transmit when it's pressed. The keyboard controller would have a coil antenna that went around the entire bottom of the keyboard tray (remember, this technology only has a few inches to a few feet of range).There should be a connector on the side of the keyboard ontroller to add annother antenna or three so you can put keys far away from the actual keyboard. I would also have a small connector on the bottom of the keys and on the top of the keyboad controller (by the 3 keyboard lights) along with a small LCD display and a jog dial. You would plug in a key here and use the dial/display to change what "key" the key represents when you push it (you can buy extra keys as can even coat the entire floor, ceiling and walls of your room with keys if you felt like it...).
-- dr_photon, Mar 17 2002

I saw a home diy kit computer (SWTP i think..a few years ago!) where the key caps came loose in a plastic bag, so I guess you could map that kbd any way you wanted! but if you want a 'block swap' mode, best is an optical system where the blocks are transparent & marks on the sides interrupt light beams to show which one is pushed down.
-- pfperry, Jul 13 2002

Already been done with ergodex keyboard acatalog/info_4730.html
-- saltynay, Jan 11 2009

random, halfbakery