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An Efficient Backspace/Delete Key

Author: George Rhodes, Founder of The Keyboard Teacher.George Rhodes

The relocation of the current backspace/delete key, now outside the keyboard’s touch operating zone, to the space bar area offers a 5 to 10% increase in keying productivity. The writer offers this opinion based on his personal use of this keyboard alteration. This revision can be accomplished by making either the left half of the space bar (operated by the left thumb), or the shift of the space bar, a backspace/delete key operation. For the past ten years the writer has employed both procedures with equal success; however, an advantage of the shift-space bar is that it can be added to the standard keyboard through utility software.

The present backspace/delete key is operated by the right little finger which also controls numerous other keys and can never be prepositioned to make an immediate error correction. This limitation is due to a “typo” being the only keystroke which cannot be preplanned and thereby enable the finger controlling the backspace/delete key to be prepositioned. With the dedicated use of the left thumb to delete “typos,” the backspace/delete operation becomes as efficient as that of any touch operated key. The result of this backspace/delete key efficiency is that the operator quickly begins to key at “rough draft” speeds, making two to three times the previous number of keying errors.

In 1983, an article by the author detailing the relocation of the backspace/delete key to the space bar was submitted for publication to several business education journals. None accepted. However, in the early 1990’s Compaq Computer produced some one million Presario desktop keyboards that included a thumb operated backspace/delete key. However, as the Compaq user manual failed to explain this new key, the operator was forced to “stumble” into its keyboard location. Soon an outcry came from many keyboard users that their space bar was “broken.” Receiving little positive feedback, Compaq soon discontinued production of the thumb operated backspace/delete key, an action negatively influencing other companies that had expressed an interest in this keyboard revision.

The thumb operated backspace/delete key will become a standard component of the QWERTY keyboard only if the education community insists upon its development. Once this key is taught in keyboarding classrooms the involved students will demand its availability on their personal and business computers.