Whatever happened to …

… numeric keypads?

When I took Typing in high school, we were drilled and drilled to learn how to use the letters on our typewriter without looking down.  I hated it at first but now am so thankful that I took the course and practiced.  I can’t imagine trying to do the computer things that I do without knowing how to type.

Except for numbers.  We were allowed to look at the keys in order to type numbers.  It was then that you realized how unproductive you can be when you have to take the time to do that.

It was only later that, having a calculator, that I realized the importance of knowing where the numbers are.  It’s not that difficult; three rows of three, a zero, and a decimal.  Later, I had to take a course in “Business Machines” where we learned how to master a calculating device that actually printed the results on this little roll of paper.  It was there that I learned one of the best secrets to productivity – at least for right handed people.  Learn how to use the keypad with your left hand so that you can keep a pencil/pen in your right hand for taking notes, checking off numbers in a list, etc.  It was great and a technique that I tried to teach when I taught my own classes of “Business Machines”.

Then along came the computer.  This fancy business machine came with its own numeric keypad.  It was kind of special since the keys served a dual purpose.  If you engage the “NumLock” key, they worked like numbers.  Otherwise, it had navigational super powers like going “Home” or “Page Up/Page Down” or cursor key navigation.  In the classroom, sadly it led to lots of claims that “my keyboard is broken” when you had the wrong state of your “NumLock” key engaged!

But it was great.  Until we got to this fascination of smaller and lighter with a computer that you could actually carry with you.  Space and weight were needed so off went the numeric keypad and all the extra keys that increased your productivity.  I do remember a Lenovo laptop that I once had where the numeric keypad was actually embedded in the regular keyboard.  You just had to hold down the “Fn” key to access it.  It was nice but still not the same.

These days, you need to have a big honking laptop in order to get your numeric keypad.

Check out my Sony Vaio which runs Linux and Windows.

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With its lid closed, it makes a perfect stand for my MacBook and I have a Logitech keyboard attached so that I have full functionality.

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I can’t imagine being productive without a full keyboard.  That includes the numeric keypad.

How about you?

  • Does your computer have a numeric keypad?
  • Do you attach an external keyboard to your laptop?
  • Do you enjoy the functionality that such an input device offers?
  • Have you just decided to go with the flow and learn how to use the keyboard that comes with your computer?

I’d be interested in your thoughts. Please share them in the comments below.

If you have an idea for a post, drop me a thought at this Padlet.

All of the posts from this series are available here.

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3 Replies to “Whatever happened to …”

  1. I don’t use a larger keypad with my laptops. My wife has a desktop computer and it has a full keyboard. Honestly though I don’t miss the numeric keypad. I guess I don’t use numbers enough.

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  2. I have a MacBook Air – no numeric keyboard and I really miss it. The keyboard attached to my docking station at work had one and it was so much faster. I used to marvel at how fast my mom could use the adding machine – just as fast as typing and no looking – and while I’m nowhere near as fast as she was I’m much faster with a numeric keyboard.
    Speaking of keyboards, you were in the secondary panel but in the elementary panel we used to have keyboards for our kindergarten students with the letters in alphabetical order. Wonder whatever happened to those Muppet Keyboards? http://www.computerhistory.org/revolution/computer-games/16/210/866

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  3. One of the things I like least about the new teacher laptops my board rolled out this year is the loss of the numeric keypad. Our first gen teacher laptops were beautiful beasts – 17″ screens, DVD players, full keyboards, massive battery packs to keep them going all day. I loved that monster. The newbies are lightweights, without DVD or full keyboard, and much smaller. I’d love to have my beast back, but I hear I’m in the minority. I think facility with a full keyboard puts us in a particular demographic. I admit that what I really want is a program that easily lets me voice enter my marks into reports, which is my main use of my numerical keys at this point.

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