2150: XKeyboarCD

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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The key caps use LCD displays for all the vowels, so they can automatically adjust over the years to reflect ongoing vowel shifts while allowing you to keep typing phonetically.
Title text: The key caps use LCD displays for all the vowels, so they can automatically adjust over the years to reflect ongoing vowel shifts while allowing you to keep typing phonetically.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a LEOPARD USING AN XKEYBOARCD. Seems to be finished, could someone check it again before deleting this tag? Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

In the same vein as the xkcd Phone series, the XKeyboarCD seems to be an overly inventive and borderline ludicrous keyboard intended for some unknown audience. It has an assortment of features (some fairly normal, some more exotic) which give it a..."diverse skill set".

  • 54 Configurable Rubik's Keys

The smaller cubes on a Rubik's cube resemble computer keys, so this feature makes fun of that by adding a spinnable Rubik's cube above the keyboard.

  • Hardcoded Plastic Keys for the 5 Most Useful Emoji

This feature parodies the feature of some laptop-keyboards where it is possible to dynamically assign emojis to a small touchscreen area. Which emojis would be "the most useful" is highly subjective. For example in the comic it shows the quite popular laughing with tears emoji, along with the octopus emoji and others. Notably, the "aerial tramway" was once the least-used emoji, and remains very rarely used. The large size and central position of the keys make their usefulness even more questionable.

Emoji Name
😰 Anxious Face With Sweat
😂 Face With Tears of Joy
🐙 Octopus
🏇 Horse Racing
🚡 Aerial Tramway
  • Serif Lock

Serifs are small lines on the ends of certain characters in fonts such as Times New Roman and Georgia. It is dependent on the font, not on the key pressed; "A" is represented by the same code regardless of its font. Since a given font almost always either has or doesn't have serifs, this key seems challenging to implement. This key could be implemented, however, by simply changing between a pair of fonts when it is pressed. What's more, the button is placed roughly where left shift is on most keyboards, liable to cause frustration.

  • Unlimited Key Travel

On a keyboard, key travel refers to the distance the key moves between its unpressed and pressed states. In reality, laptop keys only move a few millimeters before bottoming out, and conventional keyboards up to about a centimeter. An increased key travel may make typing more comfortable. However, the usefulness of having unlimited key travel is unclear, and the question of how this would be physically possible in the keyboard depicted remains unanswered.

  • Diagonal Spacebar

Instead of a wide key at the bottom that typists can hit easily with either thumb, we now have a tall, narrow key that requires being pressed with the right pinkie. This would not be a good change since most peoples' pinkies are their weakest finger.

  • Arrow Key (Rotate to Adjust Direction)

Most computers have four arrow keys: up, left, right, and down. However, the XKeyboarCD just has one that can be rotated. This has the added bonus of allowing the arrow keys to point more than four different directions. While innovative, its utility is questionable given trackpoint devices which provide more intuitive joystick-like control. It also comes at the cost of compatibility with certain programs, such as older video games. It would also be awkward to operate as going from horizontally left to horizontally right, for example, would require the user to rotate the key first and then press it which wastes precious time when playing a video game. There is also the problem of allowing unlimited rotation, requiring the combination of a keyswitch and angle-selection mechanism (perhaps the keycap mounted on a long square rotatable rod, keying through dual opposing potentiometers and onto a conventional key switch). This would be mechanically complex which adds to the cost of the keyboard.

  • 15 Puzzle-Style Numberpad

A 15 puzzle is a square containing fifteen smaller squares and one blank spot, which allows the squares to be moved around. The squares are shuffled and then reassembled as a game or pastime, and are usually labelled 1-15 (as is the case here) or, when assembled properly, create a picture. A numberpad in this style would be frustrating to use for typing numbers, as they could shift (or be shifted) around, but could provide a fun feature to use as a game. How this would be used to generate numeric input is unclear, but the presence of 16 positions suggests hexadecimal input is possible.

  • Ergonomic Design

The cylindrical portion of the keyboard is advertised as being an ergonomic design. Ergonomic keyboards do tend to be curved, to follow natural arm and finger movements more closely, and some ergonomic keyboards come in unconventional form factors, such as vertical keyboards, to allow the user's hands to rest in more neutral positions or to change positions throughout the day. However, the cylinder shape presented here requires the user to lift and twist his arms to reach certain keys, which would be an even more strenuous motion than typing on a standard keyboard.

  • Title Text

The title text references sound changes in languages. Every language (and indeed, every dialect) routinely undergoes changes in its sounds and phonemes, in a mostly regular and systematic way. While not only vowels are affected, in languages with many vowels such as English, they're particularly likely to shift around and/or merge. While having dynamic keycaps that change can actually come in handy, the feature of only having vowels change in response to sound shifts is a bit less so.

First, while changes in how we pronounce words are always ongoing, the way we write words down tends to stay relatively static, and thahs wiy wuhd faynd thaet werds biykahm ihncaampriyhehnsihbuhl duw tuw now laanger biyihng spehlld aes they wer bihfaor. Second, English only uses five glyphs (aeiou) and a variety of methods to represent four times as many vowel sounds, so the software would need to have a way to handling that ("bird" and "turn", for example, have the same vowel but are represented by "ir" and "ur"). Third, vowel shifts are not ubiquitous: the Caught-cot merger, for example, is a phenomenon happening across some parts (but not all) of the US and UK. Therefore, while some people would say "caught" and "cot have the same vowel it should be spelled the same by the keyboard, but others would say they're two different vowels and should not be spelled identically. Fourth, sound shifts tend to occur over a relatively long period of time (in terms of human lifetimes), so a user would probably find the keycaps only change once or twice. All in all, this is not a very useful feature.

An alternative explanation is that the keys actually map to the International Phonetic Alphabet and converts what you type into English words (and the vowel changes). The IPA is an alphabet used in linguistics and language teaching, designed to represent every phoneme present in languages of the world unambiguously, with optional modifiers to indicate more subtle nuances in pronunciation, intonation and speech pathology. This alphabet consists of 107 letters and 56 modifiers (with some letters shared with the Latin and Greek alphabets), which would explain the large number of keys. In that case, the feature remains questionable since it only handles vowel shifts and not consonants, and anybody who'd use an IPA-keyboard would probably need to type out the phonology of other languages and appreciate not having to find a key has moved because English has undergone a vowel shift.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.

Introducing the XKeyboarCD A keyboard for powerful users and their powerful fingers®

[Arrow to the various features of a keyboard labelling them.]

54 Configurable Rubik's Keys

Hardcoded Plastic Keys for the 5 Most Useful Emoji
😰 😂 🐙 🏇 🚡

Serif Lock

Unlimited Key Travel

Diagonal Spacebar

Arrow Key (Rotate to Adjust Direction)

15 Puzzle-Style Numberpad

Ergonomic Design

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Since this is xkcd, can someone check whether this 15 puzzle is solvable? I seem to recall that 1/2 of possible permutations fail. And this is the sort of Easter egg we have come to expect from our lord and master Randall Cyclic3 (talk) 13:51, 15 May 2019 (UTC)

Unfortunately, it’s unsolvable.
If the 15-puzzle is laid out like a numpad with 1 in the bottom left and the hole in the top right it is solvable. 14:23, 15 May 2019 (UTC)
Really? I got it on my fifteen puzzle.
It's also possible to do if you just put the blank in the upper left corner, so _123,4567,etc. Source: I just Googled and downloaded a solver with a very annoying input method (Why can't I just type the numbers?) Trlkly (talk) 21:06, 15 May 2019 (UTC)
Python solver at this link Fifteen puzzle solvability, Numworks Python: >>> solvable([1,8,4,12,7,0,11,3,15,6,10,9,2,5,13,14],4) --> False Elvenivle (talk) 18:18, 18 February 2021 (UTC)

"Key travel" is the vertical distance a key moves when you press it. "Unlimited key travel" would make it very hard for it to register that a key has been pressed. 14:03, 15 May 2019 (UTC)

Perhaps the XKCD Company has partnered with ExampleName.Website.
Doesn't "unlimited key travel" mean that the key will fall out from keyboard and get lost? -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:51, 15 May 2019 (UTC)

I don't get the title. Is "XLeoparCD" some kind of typing pun I'm missing? GreatWyrmGold (talk) 14:05, 15 May 2019 (UTC)

You probably have the Substitutions filter on your computer and forgot about it. (I do too, it's great.) It's XKeyboarCD, and the capital letters spell XKCD (for if that wasn't obvious). 14:10, 15 May 2019 (UTC)
I don't think Substitutions looks for words that COULD be "keyboard" if there wasn't a letter in the way, and it definitely doesn't affect text in images. It was just a joke. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 13:36, 17 May 2019 (UTC)

What are the supposedly 5 most useful emoji? I recognize the laughing/crying one on position two and an Octopus on position three. 14:35, 15 May 2019 (UTC)

I think it's 'racehorse' & 'beer'. nachuo (talk) 14:44, 15 May 2019 (UTC)
The last one is 'aerial tramway'

A friend of mine loves Rubik's Cubes, so I immediately went looking for a Rubik's Cube shaped keyboard... Instead I found Rubik's Cubes with keys glued to them, but they aren't functional. Anyone know of a cube-shaped keyboard? A 3x3 is enough for letters, numbers, & most common punctuation; a 4x4 could include most important keys found on a regular QWERTY keyboard. Surely this is already a thing? I was ready to say "Shut up and take my money!"

For the Rubik's cube keys, it looks like the "stalk" goes through the center square on the bottom face of the cube. Wouldn't that mean there are 53 keys, not 54? 19:29, 18 May 2019 (UTC)

ProphetZarquon (talk) 15:20, 15 May 2019 (UTC)

The closest thing I can find is the Twiddler or the DecaTxt. 16:24, 15 May 2019 (UTC)
Because of all of the moving parts in a functional Rubik's Cube, a working keyboard would have to have several separate wireless components, which might get expensive fast. I agree that it should be possible, but I don't think we should expect to see it in mass-production in the next five years or so. That said, someone might find an ingenious way to combine existing technologies into a similar product. 01:25, 16 May 2019 (UTC)
Spent a little time thinking about this. I can see how to do it, should be pretty cheap (may be mass producible even). Surprised if somebody hasn't done it already (probably buried under all the non-functional ones). I am sure somebody will take up the challenge. 21:56, 19 May 2019 (UTC)
Back when The Matrix first came out, there was an unaffiliated website called www[dot]thematrix[dot]com (the movie used "whatisthematrix"), where the front page included a complaint that nobody from the movie even tried to buy his domain, nobody warned him, it didn't seem to occur to anybody that people would instinctively type in HIS address, and now he was flooded with visitors looking for the movie. Only other thing I remember about the site was that he had a menu CUBE. You slide the mouse over it to spin it - in literally any direction - each side had a single letter that when clicked brings you to a different page on the site. Fantastic piece of graphical scripting (PLUS functional as a click-able menu!), full 3-dimensional graphical animation... I also remember some note about "Don't ask for the code for the menu cube, just program things yourself". :) That Rubik's Cube made me think of it. I would imagine having ALL sides being buttons could be a problem (how do you put it down?), but I could imagine it being functional... 6 sides, 9 keys, so 54 keys... Alphabet is 26, numbers is 10, shift and caps lock and enter and backspace makes 40 keys, that leaves 14 keys left to cover symbols (with shift being able to double up assignments), IDK seems pretty workable. :)
Also reminds me of an episode of The Dollhouse. Summer Glau (of Firefly and Terminator fame) guested as an intelligent tech whose nerves were severed in her arm or something, making the arm dead. She had this ball-like keyboard which I realized was so she could touch-type one-handed! Made me want that keyboard. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:00, 18 May 2019 (UTC)
The directional arrow key would be the existing production Lenovo's red Track Point button. [1] So this is close to a "real" button.

Confirmed that the numeric pad cannot be put into numerical order without removing keys and placing them in another order. There are 28 keys on the top row which usually is the function key row. Also the Ergonomic keyboard would cause serious physical and mental pain to everyone. Punchcard (talk) 22:32, 15 May 2019 (UTC)

I wonder why the galaxy emoji from https://xkcd.com/2131/ isn't shown as one of the "5 most useful emoji"?

In what dialect of English do the words “bird” and “turn” share a vowel sound? I asked three of my friends to say both words and we all pronounce the vowel sound differently (I mean, “bird” differently from “turn”; we all pronounced the individual word “bird” the same, and “turn” the same). The words “bird” and “tern” on the other hand, do seem to have the same vowel sound. 03:27, 16 May 2019 (UTC)

Not sure where you're from, but to me turn and tern sound alike, making them homonyms. So yes, it's apparently a dialect thing; you and your three friends obviously speak the same dialect of English because you're all from the same area of the country. You probably should expand your sample beyond your closest friends. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 04:53, 16 May 2019 (UTC)

“Bird” and “turn” share a vowel sound pretty much in a Scottish dialect - but “turn” and “tern” are very distinct. I would also suggest the expression “Unlimited key travel” is a pun on genuine travel passes (train, bus, tram) where a monthly pass will get you unlimited travel for a month. 07:18, 16 May 2019 (UTC)

Wonder if there will be a version 2 as there was more xkcd phones... --Kynde (talk) 13:38, 16 May 2019 (UTC)

I don't get any sense that the rubic's cube needs to be solved in any manner to configure the keys, just that the 9 squares on each of the 6 side are functional keys that can be reconfigured, for a total of 54 additional keys. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 04:41, 17 May 2019 (UTC)

Configuring in this case would mean putting the keys in a certain arrangement. I.E., putting the keys that you are most likely to use in a convenient place relative to each other. If you were to do that, you would have to 'solve' it to an appropriate configuration, though depending on how few or how many keys you care about the placement of, many solutions (or none!) may be possible. 14:16, 17 May 2019 (UTC)

Can the ‘ergonomic’ section of the keyboard resembling a tunnel be somehow connected to carpal tunnel syndrome? 06:13, 17 May 2019 (UTC)

Implementing SerifLock via CapsLock is made further difficult because it keeps state and doesn't generate a character, which can be problematic. Also, many applications load and track fonts on their own - making a key-mapping an application-by-application affair. (Im)Practically for Windows users, Microsoft deprecated Application.OnKey in Word (but not in Excel) *and* the KeyBindings approach leaves out Caps Lock, requiring a low-level keyboard hook to try to accomplish this. This is unfortunately bizarrely difficult to just tack in, but would be awesomely useful for those who don't mind coding their favorite serif font to an otherwise unused key... I appreciate the comic even more now! Chroisa (talk) 12:58, 17 May 2019 (UTC)

I feel the description should make mention of the fact that the 15-puzzle would presumably be lacking a '0' which is normally included in num pads. 14:10, 17 May 2019 (UTC)

On many numeric keypads the 0 is not in the same rectangular block with the digits (usually 1-9), so this could be similar. 20:26, 19 May 2019 (UTC)

Had to preserve this for future readers: "Created by a LEOPARD USING AN XKEYBOARCD. Seems to be finished, could someone check it again before deleting this tag? Do NOT delete this tag too soon." HackneyedTrope (talk) 00:22, 22 May 2019 (UTC)

Isn't the spacebar more accurately described as vertical, not diagonal? 06:49, 29 May 2019 (UTC)

The retards who write this don't know what above, below, top, bottom, and vertically mean. There are no keys on the bottom of a real keyboard. And travel has nothing to do with keys but fare or stroke does. Serif lock could refer to the section of Unicode with serifed alfabet. Lysdexia (talk) 11:23, 24 July 2019 (UTC)

This is a wiki. You are free to improve the text if you feel that some terms are wrong, or by adding an alternative interpretation of e.g. serif lock. However you decided to instead spend your time on calling people retards, in hope that they will take your (partially deserved) critism and improve it instead. In my experience that is not a typical reaction of insulted people. --Lupo (talk) 11:59, 24 July 2019 (UTC)

hey wait what is that part above the arrow key before the ergonomic cylinder that is 4 raised keys? 14:46, 8 November 2021 (UTC)BUmpf