Computer de-evolution: Features that lost the evolutionary war

Today's tools may be more powerful, but many lack some useful features of their forebears.

By , ITworld |  Software, keyboards, Linux

John Hedtke, a consultant, author of 27 non-fiction books, and president of JVH Communications, says "The main feature I miss on today's keyboards is having FUNCTION keys (F1, F2, etc) on the left of the main key area, and a CONTROL key in the middle of the left-side column of keys (so it goes from top to bottom: ~/TAB/CTRL/SHIFT/ALT). There are a number of CTRL+F-key and ALT+F-key combinations that can quickly and easily done with one hand in this configuration without looking, whereas having the CTRL key at the bottom and the function keys at the very top requires you to use two hands to create a combination and you have to look at the keyboard. If you're a touchtyper like me, you loathe anything makes you stop looking at the screen and moving into a real-time mode. The flow is broken and it's slow."

Fortunately, reports Hedtke, "There is a programmable keyboard available -- the CVT Avant Stellar, which has the F-keys to the left AND the top. It also lets you reprogram the locations of the CTRL, ALT, and CAPS LOCK keys. (They ship their keyboards with keycaps for those keys, in fact. They know their audience.) The keyboards have that deep stroke and click that the old IBM AT keyboards had. The tactile and auditory feedback adds 20wpm to my typing speed when I'm really cruising."

This keyboard isn't cheap, Hedtke concedes: "They were nearly $200 when CVT was making them directly, and the current Avant Stellar keyboard is around $325. But for many of us, it's more than worth it."

(If you've got one of these keyboards, you may want to have it reconditioned at some point, notes Hedtke.)

Termination, terminating, terminated

Ken Greenberg, owner of Krypton Neon LLC, has done programming in PERL, Visual Basic, and PBASIC for some of his neon scenic and environmental art and what he misses is the convenience of DOS's CONTROL-C and CONTROL-Q "which could kill an accidentally triggered program, along with the Unix Control-C and kill -9 <pid> for command line Unix. I'm not sure if anything exists that can do that as quickly at the GUI level. Windows TaskManager takes a few clicks to do it, for example... but by then the unwanted program is already open."

Bill Cattey, a senior analyst programmer with a Computer Engineering degree from MIT, says "There are two features I REALLY miss whose loss powerfully impacted computer usability for me:

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