Of Mice and Men

I’m a very avid laptop user. I’d rather use my older, beat-up laptop than my newer, spiffier desktop computer when it comes to writing stuff–articles, emails, code–or when I chat with friends and colleagues. You may wonder why I prefer a slower system over an obviously faster, more efficient one. Of course, there are the portability and mobility factors. But my primary reason is ergonomics.

To put it in simpler terms, I love my Thinkpad’s trackpoint! And I love my Thinkpad’s large three-button clickers! I prefer trackpoints to mice or even those synaptic touchpads one usually finds in most of today’s modern laptops.

Why a trackpoint, you say? Why do I love those little, rubbery eraser-like protrusions sticking out of the keyboard wedged between the G, H and B keys, when perhaps 99% of the world’s computing population absolutely abhors them?

Again, my reason is ergonomics. For one, the distance of a rubbery trackpoint tip is only one inch from where my right forefinger would usually rest–the J key (or to lefties, the F key). This means my right hand does not need to travel more than twelve inches to reach that mouse, or four inches below to reach a touchpad. My hand stays right on the keyboard.

Faster computing? Yes. I can navigate around a document and through text, and type editions with minimal movements of my pointing-device-moving hand.

And if one’s left-handed or ambidextrous, it’s also definitely easier to use a trackpoint, rather than have to swtich the mouse over to the left side of a keyboard (say, when sharing computers with someone at home).

Another reason is speed. If you use a mouse, you’d have to move a relatively large pointing device across a certain surface (a.k.a. mousepad or desktop). And guess what happens when you run out of mousepad real estate to glide your mouse on? You lift the darn thing and drag it on again to the direction you were meaning take your cursor towards.

Same goes with a touchpad. There’s simply too little space to move your touchpoint-touching finger on. You keep on lifting your finger, and it seems like you’re always labouring with effort in dragging your finger about to move that cursor around the screen. And I absolutely hate it when, in the middle of typing something, my palm accidentally touches the touchpad and moves the cursor elsewhere, resulting to whole paragraphs being selected and deleted, and such accidents (unfortunately, not all laptops give you the option to turn off the touchpad arbitrarily, or while typing). And do I need to mention static discharge (ouch)?

With a trackpoint, on the other hand, hand movements are minimal. I just tell my finger to put a little pressure to the left, right, upwards or downwards, and the cursor moves. More pressure, and the cursor moves faster. A softer nudge, and the cursor moves just a tiny bit, one pixel at a time.

Of course, there are the cons, like mouse drift and even some stress on my trackpoint-tracking forefinger, and even my wrist, but that can also be associated with other pointing devices. I’m not complaining.

I always find it funny why some people would prefer to plug in a mouse when using a laptop. I mean, the point in buying and using a laptop is the ability to do some computing even when the thing is sitting on your lap, isn’t it? And using a mouse with a laptop is just counter-intuitive, IMHO.

But that’s just me.

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