There is a reason you don’t see a lot of keeper keyboards today. The modifier key camp won the battle. Software ate the world
, and one of its courses was specialized computers. A word processor key labeled Bold was replaced by a combination of ⌘ and B, special characters can now be had by holding ⌥ or Alt, and even some early universal computer keys like Scroll Lock or Insert are dropping off one by one. A lot of the key-based commands became onscreen menus and then graphical user interfaces. Eventually, smartphones blurred the lines between the keyboards and interfaces so much they became indistinguishable.
We might never again get a machine like Aesthedes, a 583-key graphic computer that was the final hurrah of the “key per function” camp. The machine was obsoleted by another computer released in the same year: the Apple Macintosh and its svelte, 58-key keyboard, bundled with the mouse that stole the show.
The Mac led to PageMaker
, iPhone, and iPad. “What you see is what you get” was redefined to mean what was going on on the screen, not on the keyboard. The Aesthedes? It was a dead end.
Breaking historians’ hearts, specialized machines like Aesthedes are often the first to be thrown away. This is where the downsides rear their ugly head – the computers are simply too huge and too heavy to preserve. They also never get much of the benefit of nostalgia, and even if they do – I can imagine the designer of the Heineken logo or the Dutch bank notes
harboring some fond memories of Aesthedes – they are usually owned (or leased) by a company. The Aesthedes system cost close to 100,000 pounds, a figure unattainable to individuals.