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Northshore High Tech: Kinesis makes weird keyboards

Kinesis keyboard

Bothell resident Carsten Buus with the new Kinesis keyboard.
Photo by Gordon Mitchell.

Northshore High Tech by Gordon Mitchell, Ph.D.
Imagine a product so unusual that customers sometimes say that they will "pay anything" for one. Kinesis is a Bothell company that makes an absolutely different computer keyboard. Keys are molded around finger locations, cleverly arranged to minimize strain on the wrists and shoulders.
   "Our keyboards were first used by people who were concerned about medical issues" said William Hargreaves, "but they are great for everyday use."
   In fact, he invented the keyboard after developing carpal tunnel syndrome, which made using a computer painful.
   Kinesis keyboards are designed to minimize injuries from repetitive motions common to computer-related professions.
   The company, which started in 1991, is now selling products through distributors such as Computers America and Technology Express. Keyboards are assembled in Bothell from molded plastic shells, mechanical switches, and circuit boards. The current design is labor-intensive and has a few rough edges but should respond to product development as sales increase.
   Long-term company plans are to remain in Bothell. I suspect that their future will be bright if they can manage the growth necessary to retain their leading position in the specialty keyboard market. As with all small companies, this will involve the adventure of finding investors, accommodating new ideas, and keeping a vision of customer needs.
   Meanwhile, I will be learning to use the Kinesis keyboard I just purchased.

Gordon Mitchell has a background in the engineering management of high tech organizations. He is a principal of Future Focus, a Woodinville company that provides an unusual investigative service, working with commercial clients who suspect they may be victims of electronic eavesdropping. Future Focus performs specialized inspections to locate bugs and taps that may have been installed by unethical competitors or dissatisfied employees. Gordon can be contacted at 489-0446 or via e-mail at