Keyboard Woes

I came across a problem today. Surely I should should have spotted this sooner – but maybe I just never used these key combinations.

It seems that there are issues with using ARROW KEYS and SPACE. Specifically on my keyboard the combination LEFT, DOWN and SPACE doesn’t work. I’ve spotted that other key combinations fail on different keyboards. Another laptop I have fails with LEFT, UP and SPACE as does my desktop at work.

Here is a quick app that will tell you what keys are being accepted. Try different combinations of arrow keys and space to see if you have any fails.

Seemingly this is nothing to do with Flash and everything to do with keyboard design. The problem varies from model to model, but is VERY common.

Test your keyboard.

Keyboards use a matrix to wire up the keys and register presses. The matrix is made up of columns and rows. When a key is pressed the column and row contact each other completing a circuit. The controller for the keyboard detects this and registers the key press. ‘Ghosting’ and ‘Masking’ of key presses can occur with a matrix keyboard. Here is a technical explanation of the issue. This article is from a decade ago, seemingly the drive to fix these keyboard problems hasn’t been strong enough.

Let’s gauge how bad it is. Try the Keyboard Woes app out and then let me know if there are any issues with your set-up.

How to fix this? The ONLY solution is not to use the SPACEBAR in combination with the ARROW keys.


4 Responses to “Keyboard Woes”

  1. November 18, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Immensely enjoyed your talk Jon. Thanks for your clever insights. Now I want to dig into that clever mapping system of yours!

  2. January 21, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Hm, all 4 directionals and space all work at the same time. I’d love to know more about this issue!

  3. 3 X23
    January 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Wow I never knew that. UP-LEFT and SPACE fails for me.

  4. January 25, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Interesting – I can make them work fine on my keyboard, microsoft ergonomic one. looking forward to seeing how widespread this is – P

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