New keyboard layouts

Ed McNierney ed at
Wed Jun 23 06:54:37 EDT 2010

Sridhar -

There are a few things happening at once here, and we should distinguish between the general case (what's been enabled in the design) and one particular instance of that case (machines for Spanish-speaking high-school students).  From an engineering perspective, we have:

1. Redesigned the lower housing and keyboard assembly so the keyboard itself goes from being the hardest part of the laptop to replace to the easiest.  Remove two screws, pop it out, pop in a new one, replace two screws.

2. A mechanical keyboard has been designed to fit this new removable-keyboard format.

3. Spanish and International English keyboard legends have been designed for this new mechanical keyboard.

We also plan to implement updated rubber-membrane keyboard units to also fit this new removable-keyboard format, but that hasn't happened yet.  By the fall we expect to be only producing XO-1.5 machines with this new lower housing and new keyboard format, for membrane and mechanical keyboards.  One of the things we need to work out before doing that is the continued availability of the spare parts that will be obsoleted by this change.

These changes allow considerably more flexibility in machines (e.g. it's now quite reasonable to swap one membrane keyboard for another, as it takes about a minute to do so).

> Are these keyboards the ones that are going into the XO-HS?

The new keyboard layout and the Spanish-language legend will be used on the mechanical keyboards going in to high school machines being ordered for Spanish-speaking users.

> Are they ruggedised?

By their very nature, mechanical keyboards are less rugged than membrane keyboards - that's why there's a membrane keyboard in the XO in the first place!  I expect that the mechanical keyboards will be more prone to keycap breakage and loss, but will obviously not be subject to membrane tearing.  While the entire keyboard module will be easily replaceable, it is also possible to replace individual keycaps, something that cannot be done on the current keyboard.  In summary, I'd say it's less rugged and more repairable.  It will be less water-resistant as there are spaces between the keycaps, but there is little in there to be damaged other than the (more easily replaced) keyboard itself.

> Will they replace the ones going into _all_ XO-1.5 models?

If "they" refers to new-format keyboard modules, yes.  If "they" refers to mechanical keyboards, no.  For our primary audience of younger children, we still think the more rugged membrane keyboard with smaller keycaps is a better choice.  We are making those keyboards more repairable, as the difficulty in replacing damaged keyboards is a real problem for deployments.

But once we switch over to the new lower housing format, it's simply a question of which keyboard you would like to order.  You can get a membrane keyboard or a mechanical keyboard for any key-legend graphic, and you can switch between one and the other in the field.  I think we'll still pretty strongly recommend the updated membrane keyboard for the vast majority of our deployments.

	- Ed

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