Outlook & Opinions

Computer keyboards

by Kara Swisher

The prototype of the first computer mouse -- which got its name because of the wire that trailed it -- was invented by Doug Engelbart in 1963.

Yes, nearly 50 years ago.

But it's only a toddler compared with the keyboard, which is a direct descendant -- via punch-card and teletype technologies -- of the typewriter, patented in 1868 by Christopher Latham Sholes.

In other words, it's long past time for a change in the way we interact with the digital devices that have proliferated in our lives. While the keyboard and the mouse have introduced billions of people to the digital experience, they have become antiquated obstacles to the kind of computing that is now emerging.

This new computing is immersive, augmented and completely social. As sci-fi movies predicted, our digital devices are poised to become even more ubiquitous. They will surround us, responding to our expressions, emotions and gestures.

From wearable devices to sensors that will envelop our world to 3-D screens that will react to us, personal computing is about to get a lot more personal. Internet-based television now in development will recognize a viewer and deliver customized entertainment.

And it will do this without the trusty keyboard and mouse. We're already phasing them out, thanks to the increasing popularity of touch screens -- including the patron saint of all this, the Apple iPhone, and a spate of copycat smartphones. All of these devices allow users to navigate without physical buttons or input devices.

Thus, with a flick of the finger, the era of the mouse and the keyboard will soon be over.

Kara Swisher is the co-executive editor of the technology Web site All Things Digital.

© The Washington Post Company