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by Richard Millwood published Sep 04, 2010 12:30 PM, last modified Apr 05, 2011 10:35 PM
A 'chord' keyboard intended for one-handed typing by holding down combinations of fingers

This chording keyboard was derived from one of the earliest personal digital assistants (PDA), the MicroWriter, which was battery operated and incorporating a one line LED screen. MicroWriters were used by the directorate of the UK's Microelectronics Education Programme (MEP) in a brave attempt to 'walk the talk'!


The Quinkey was a cheaper version, up to four of which could be plugged in to a BBC microcomputer. Its use was proposed to share the then expensive BBC microcomputer amongst four users and software was developed to support this. There was also pedagogic innovation:

"In the early days of the use of IT in schools in England and Wales, things were somewhat different given the scarcity of the available hardware. Thus, much of the early literature about the use of computers in schools argued their value in group work and the development of collaborative activity (Chandler & Marcus, 1985; Robinson, 1985). One experiment in writing, reported by Adams in Chandler & Marcus, describes the extensive use of a set of ‘Quinkey keyboards’ which were designed so that four pupils could address the same screen at the same time. Originally, the intention with such keyboards was that the screen should be divided into quadrants so that four pupils could use the same computer though working individually. In this experiment all four pupils were working to the same screen though each had individual control of a keyboard. The object of the research was to investigate the talk processes of the pupils, how they learned to negotiate the situation and to what extent they developed a collective sense of ownership of their work.

Such conditions were relatively easy to establish when schools were using a computer specifically designed for educational purposes such as the BBC Computer, in combination with specifically designed input devices such as the Quinkey keyboard or concept keyboards."

Adams, Anthony and Brindley, Sue(1998) 'Information technology and collaborative writing: fundamental pedagogy and theoretical considerations', Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 7: 2, 179 — 188

Games such as 'Spooky Manor' by Acornsoft exploited the hardware to create an early multi-user role-playing game - this and more to read about in this scan of a Quinkey advertisment from a 1984 edition of Acorn Magazine.

Bellaire Electronics continue to market a keyboard using the same typing system.