Optimus: from science fiction to fiction to frustration to geek porn, in just 24 months

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/08/16 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/08/16/8871262.aspx

At first it was exciting though there was fear it was science fiction (ref: The so-called Ultimate Keyboard).

Then later reports suggested it was perhaps just fictional (ref: Is the Optimus keyboard just a myth?).

I did a lot of hinting about how complicated it would be to truly make a hardware keyboard layout that would dynamically change the key faces based on what the key would produce when typed.

That is even before you deal with real world issues like mirroring and the difficulties that it introduces (ref: Mirroring and Keyboards are complicated).

Since that time I even did a series that describes how to do a lot of the interrogating for a single layout (ref: Getting all you can out of keyboard layout).

And then described a whole different architectural methodology for language input in another series (ref: Behold the Table Driven Text Service).

Of course geeks have dreams just like the rest of the people in the world.

And perhaps the most famous geek to lust after the Optimus Keyboard is Chris Pirillo.

Yes, the guy I have mentioned before who has pointed out all of the font usage inconsistencies in Vista (ref: Why the Windows Shell can't provide the ultimate font solution for everyone - or even anyone! and You say ĭtalics, I say ītalics. It is much more complicated in Cyrillic....).

Now Chris has been lusting after this keyboard for some time.

The $1600 price tag did not bother him; in fact the main thing that did bother him was the way they would not let him order it and then canceled the orders without a reason when they did let him (ref: Optimus Maximus Keyboard: Horrible Customer Service).

But then, seven months after that post, everything changed.

On August 12th, before over 1000 of the people who love watching what Chris does and how he does it got to witness Chris Pirillo receive his Optimus, plug it in, and take the first look at it (ref: Optimus Maximus OLED Keyboard Unboxing).

And three days later, the video of the live session was ut up.

I felt almost self-conscious watching the video, it was almost like watching the technical/geek equivalent of masturbation. If you watch you'll see what I mean.

Chris himself said it all when he said:

I think I'm about to blow a nut, though. That's a compliment, you know.

Anyway, he had a lot of fun with the unboxing. I admit I'm curious about how it deals with some of the various language keyboard layouts in the box in Windows or via MSKLC, or the various IMEs or Table-Driven Text Service profiles.

Not quite enough to blow a nut, of course.

Or to spend the $1,589.99 that Think Geek (the place Chris finally got it from) wants for it.

Not that it is in stock at the moment (it isn't now, maybe they had a run after that video!).

The copy on the page itself is hilarious:

Yep. Time to take a second mortgage on your home or break into your kid's college fund. With the singing of angels and a ray of sunlight parting the clouds, the fabled Optimus Maximus Keyboard has descended from Russian design studio Art Lebedev like an orgasm of geekiness. As you should know by now this amazing keyboard features a tiny screen on each key... that's 113 screens in all. What can you do with these tiny screens, you ask? Well, each key can change its image dynamically depending on what you're doing.  Hold down SHIFT and all keys go uppercase. Run Photoshop and you can set it so each hotkey has an image representing its function. Set a key to monitor your CPU usage or display what iTunes track you are currently playing. You can make a key into a tiny clock with moving hands and play animated gif files or even quicktime movies. Of course all this futuristic technology is going to cost you a pretty penny... but we figure you'll just expense the Optimus and tout its "incredible increased efficiency when using PowerPoint hotkeys" in your expense report summary.

Kind of says it all, you know?

So there you have it (assuming you can afford it, justify it, and of course find it) -- from science fiction to fiction to frustration to geek porn in just 24 months!

Anyone who does pick one up who wants to try out some of these harder language issues, drop me a line and let me know how it works. Extra cool points for pictures! :-)

This blog brought to you by 𐠄 (U+10804, aka CYPRIOT SYLLABLE U, one of many characters that I wonder if it would be able to find the fonts to show it on the keyboard!)

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referenced by

2008/08/25 In the name of God, St Michael, and St. George, I dub thee the SUBOptimus keyboard

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