New mobile keypad unveiled

After 50 years of service the traditional 12-button telephone keypad looks destined for retirement thanks to new technology from American start up Digit Wireless.

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By  Philip Fenton Published  June 6, 2002

After 50 years of service the traditional 12-button telephone keypad looks destined for retirement thanks to new technology from American start up Digit Wireless.

Whilst the traditional keypad is fine for dialling numbers, the demands of text messaging and the mobile Internet have exposed its shortcomings. Enter the Fastap keypad.

Fastap features a dedicated key for every number and letter, yet manages to cram it all into a space no large than one-third of a business card.

The Fastap keypad is a matrix of raised and lowered keys. Raised alphabet keys surround indented number spaces. For letters, press the raised buttons. For numbers, press the space between the buttons.

Although the letter bumps are individually small because they sit between the larger number keys, there is enough room to ensure that pressing one does not accidentally include another.

Fastap is the brainchild of David Levy, who was head of ergonomic design at Apple for five years.

"We designed it to meet user expectations," Levy told the BBC. "We don't expect the user to change what they do to use it."

The traditional 12-button keypad, he said, has been in use for 50 years and is showing its age.

"It's old, tired and a barrier to use," he said. "Interfaces are an unappreciated piece of the technology puzzle."

Intended to be designed into new mobile phones to replace the standard 12-button telephone keypad, it allows vastly easier use of features found on modern telephones, such as text messaging and the mobile Internet. The keypad can be made with QWERTY, European and telephone layouts, with special function keys, and in many languages, including Japanese.

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