back to article Programmers urged to code with their tootsies

You can now employ two woefully underutilized parts of your body to speed your PC workflow: your tootsies. Keith McMillen Instruments of Berkeley, California, has released the SoftStep KeyWorx, a USB foot-operated input device that combines the company's SoftStep USB/MIDI foot controller – a musician's stomp-pad – with KeyWorx …

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Anonymous Coward

Christie Nolan is interested, apparently

and that's great but, by and large, this looks like a "marketing over reality" stupidity blitzkreig, really.

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Bronze badge

Not wholly original

You can already get USB foot-operated input devices - they're called pedals. Popular with players of driving games and with musicians (piano pedals or guitar pedal). Prices range from £50 to £150 depending on quality and functionality. Needless to say, they haven't taken off in popularity amongst office workers.

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Well,

I have 10 tootsies, not 2, but I suppose that merkins may be differently configured.

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Boffin

Learning to worx this would be

quite a feat.

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Facepalm

TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY NINE DOLLARS!?

That's the problem with all these "bespoke" input devices, they are all so fucking overpriced. That's why they are generally sold to musicians, because musicians are seen as cash cows who will pay any price for "quality" - even if it is just a piece of plastic that you step on - for fucks sake!

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Silver badge

piece of plastic that you step on ...

did you read that back before posting?

you tend to not so much to step as _STEP!_ on the thing.

it needs to be pretty well screwed together, Ive had my guitar fx board for a few years now, and tapdanced on it every day and I have never had a problem with it. In the same time I have gone through 3 <qwerty>keyboards.

Qwerty boards at about £40 a pop

Pedal board £200

so that'll be why then.

On a separate note I could easily do this with the kit I have, but I dont, for this simple reason it is an incredibly stupid idea. (okay controling my DAW with it makes a bit of sense, but not much)

a> Theres not enough feedback from the switches (a combination of beefy switches and the sole of ones shoe ) to be sure they were pressed without looking - which is a chore if you have it parked under your desk.

b>The '100's' of functions are all arranged in banks of 10 and each bank is only sequentially accesible - therefore on average 6 keystrokes per patch (see point a) or if there is a direct address mode then 2 operations (again see point a, made worse by having to find the switch before pressing it)

pah! marketing hype

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Tiny toes

Personally, I'm a bit of a defeetist.

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I fiddled with something like this years ago ... mid-late 1980s.

I used the foot switches for the control, alt & shift keys, function keys, Sun's "L" keys, and a couple other key bindings in EMACS. Was more trouble than it was worth, so I never pursued it. A friend of mine took my breadboard rig & used the basic idea for alternative input devices for disabled folks while getting his Masters at Stanford.

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Thumb Up

As soon as I saw this...

I was thinking of the disability market. A handy keyboard for the not-so-handy.

Still... there are times when having a foot-switch for various computing tasks comes in handy, and it might just provide enough leg movement to keep blood circulation going. Hopefully they'll be enough of a demand and they'll be readily available enough to keep the cost down for those who really can use them.

(Dunno about you, but I'm hopeless typing on a regular keyboard with my feet.)

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But only the right-handed ones.

For no clear reason they've made it a right-footed-only thing?

With a little redesign (rotating the numbers and putting the extra keys more centrally etc) you'd have a left-handed version.

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Paris Hilton

So like Dance Dance Revolution for data entrists?

Not sure if want

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Anonymous Coward

Real programmers ...

.. only need two fingers.

Unless they are writing in COBOL...

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Anonymous Coward

real programmers only need two fingers...

Yep, one for the CTRL key the other for 'C' or 'V'

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Real programmers...

...use butterflies. http://xkcd.com/378/

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Bronze badge

Dictation

We had some pedals knocking around that were used by legal secretaries to control the playback of voice recordings made on dictaphones. They seemed to work pretty well actually.

I did a custom configuration on them and got certain macros and key combinations running but gradually stopped using them because I couldn't be bothered! Always ended up missing the pedal or they'd have moved slightly or something that it was actually quicker just to use the keyboard.

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Bronze badge

has anybody noticed

that pianists have 77 keys for the fingers and three pedals? I never learned to play, but suspect there might be a reason.

But it reminds me of Tom Lehrer on George Murphy: "We can't expect America to win against her foes/With no one in the Senate who can really tap his toes." I guess you could scan "cube farm" as a drop-in for "Senate".

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Silver badge

Pianos & organs have any number of pedals.

And a standard keyboard has 88 keys.

I'd expound on this, but Wiki[1] has a couple pretty good articles on the subject:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_pedals

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedal_keyboard

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano

The device I experimented with started life as a Moog Taurus. The eight pedals provided (theoretically) 256 binary "cord" options[2], but in reality with only two feet I couldn't manage quite that many. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out exactly how many ;-)

[1] I almost never recommend Wikipedia ...

[2] You do know how to count to 1024 using your fingers, right?

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Vic
Silver badge

Re: has anybody noticed

> pianists have 77 keys for the fingers and three pedals?

Now go and look at a decent church organ.

They have lots of pedals. And you can tell when a convential pianist takes over, because all the bottom end drops away...

Vic.

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Headmaster

> [2] You do know how to count to 1024 using your fingers, right?

I think you mean 0 to 1023

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exactly...

church organs have tons of pedals and can only be played by a genetically mutated organis-t/m

(almost proud of that!)

It's not so much the number of limbs (although accuracy is an issue feet v fingers, more the number of cores running the show - i.e. 1.

piano aint exactly easy but seeing proper church organists at work is unbelievable.

and in his spare time hes the fastest data entry 'professional' in the cube farm!

lol.

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@Obsessive Wiki-fiddler

Only if you're a machine. I use my left big toe for the overflow bit ;-)

On a related note, why are Christmas and Halloween the same?

Dec 25 == Oct 31 ...

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Coat

[2] You do know how to count to 1024 using your fingers, right?

Yes, but everyone gets offended when I get to 132 (decimal)...

Guess that's what this orangutan is doing then: http://gallery.longlandclan.yi.org/gallery.cgi/humour/up_yours.jpg (safe-for-work).

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@Stuart Longland

I taught my daughter how to use alternative base numbering systems right from the git-go ... A little over two decades ago, when she was around 7 or eight, she started using the phrase "132 you" ... it took me almost a week to figure it out ... When I did, I busted a gut laughing.

Smart critters are a joy to train, two-footed or four-footed :-)

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@Alpha Klutz

There's absolutely no problems making a cheap bit of plastic that someone steps on. If you want them to be able to step on it *twice* and still work, though, it needs a bit more mechanical strength.

Then you make it pressure-sensitive - not just a binary on-off. Of course that's cheap, to make something that's pressure-sensitive and easily controllable with no more than ankle strength, whilst also being able to take the full weight of some 300lb bloke who steps on it? Not.

Then you put a chip in it to output MIDI over MIDI and USB interfaces, and you write Windows drivers for it. Also cheap, right? Not.

This isn't a mass-market gadget - most people won't need it. But if you need those features, $280 is not a bad price. It really, really isn't just a switch in a box.

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Joke

I don't think..

..that I'll be toeing the line on this one.

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Coat

But, but, but.....

The stench in the office will be ridiculous

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Thumb Up

Great for disabled people with limited hand/arm use

The problem is in getting the volume orders to enable low sale-price production (always has been). After that, there is the problem of setting up, etc, which would need a technically competent assistant for a short while.

This and similar devices have been 'possible' for many years but there is little incentive for volume manufacture.

For a disabled person using their feet, a foot operated trackball would seem to be a good idea, perhaps with more friction than the usual hand operated trackballs.

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Holmes

Can be used for Gaming?

"Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot."

<--

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What I did

I modded a KVM switch to work with a foot pedal so I could quickly swap between two PCs.

Don't need it now but it worked awesomely.

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Devil

Eye tracking

If you want to increase tactile productivity, the best things you can do are get a one-handed keyboard, or better but far more expensive eye tracking kit. Most data entry time in programming is spent moving your hand from the mouse to the keyboard, and having to reacquire the keys.

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Boffin

Only if..

..you don't know what the accelerator or short cut keys are :)

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shirley....

..you mean stomb noxes?

It could be vaguely useful in say.. entering phone numbers in a database, particularly on a numpad free lappy keyboard.. but I imagine I'd end up having to slow down to remember where they are much as I do when entering numbers on a keyboard, take into that the minor confusion of switching from hands to feet when going from numbers to letters or tabbing to the next field.

Then we get on to the size of the thing for it to really be tactile. F**k it, I'll make do with my keyboard thanks.

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..what about a butt pad?

that would be interesting.

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Coat

Extended Range

If you consider some tyrannical boss who is out for extra productivity then there may be an opening for the broom somewhere.

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Holmes

could be useful

for writing most blogs :-)

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Anonymous Coward

anon, because WoW

I knew a couple of smart techies that cobbled together footpedals for WorldOfWarcraft, before ZBoards and Logitechs G14 and 97-button mice became de rigeur. they'd use them for simple [shift] and [ctrl] on-off toggles and reckoned it gave them a competitive edge, so that 4-5 years, right there.

though if you're genuinely interested in different input devices, everyone I have spoken to thats tried ones loves Datahands (google it) they're a little hard to get hold of (kind of like genuine cherry reds) right now due to some manufacturer migration or something, but they seem pretty awesome.

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Mouse substitute

I could really do with a mouse substitute tbh - have a permanently sore shoulder these days from 20 odd years of constant mousing (I'm guessing here - but it seems to be worse when I finish work so makes sense). I probably should just force myself into using shortcut keys instead of the mouse but a foot operated mouse wouldn't be an entirely bad idea for office work.

I'd probably just end up with a sore hip though :(

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Joke

ideal for an iPad

at last, a useful input device for an iPad; all users should carry one of these around

:-D

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