“Mommy, what’s a keyboard?”

Even with the explosion of the QWERTY keyboard being plastered on to almost every type of electronic device these days, I’m going to go out on a limb here-and-now to declare that the QWERTY keyboard will be obsolete within my lifetime.  This prediction is not limited to the keyboard device I’m using to type this article.  I’m referring to any type of letter based data input that takes the form of QWERTY.  The beginning of the end for QWERTY is not the Dvorak keyboard.  Nor is it speak [mis]recognition technology.  In my view, the signal of the end is technology such as predictive text input, search assistant and other peripherals.

Predictive text input is where an author enters the first couple of letters and then is presented with a word or list of words that most likely match the author’s intent.  The author keeps typing until the correct word appears, then accepts the entry.  On a cell phone number pad, each number represents 3 or 4 letters.  Predictive text input can quickly find the desired word, often with the push of only a couple of numbers.  In addition, more sophisticated systems will learn which words are most commonly used by the author and present those as first choices to the author.

With predictive text input, a person can drastically increase their typing capabilities.  I’ve seen individuals text with cell phone numeric pads faster than what is even possible on a smartphone QWERTY keyboard.  In fact, I would suggest that average wpm speeds of numeric pad texters with predictive text input even exceeds that of experienced typists on traditional full size keyboard devices.  That’s not hyperbole, and I’m not kidding.

Search assistant is similar to predictive text input, except a little more sophisticated and low key.  Competing peripherals have a lot more buttons than they used to.  Function keys are slowing being replaced by clicks on buttons on devices such as the mouse.

All combined, the QWERTY keyboard’s current Golden Age will be over soon enough.