About 80 years ago (more like 10) Microsoft released the Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000. The keyboard, mouse combo was unparalleled in ergonomic value. A culmination in ergonomic research, the 7000 was superior for several reasons!

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The best features of the old Desktop 7000 keyboard:

I have been using this style of keyboard for far more than 6 years. Lots of the key printing has been warn off from use. But, I would never give it up. The keyboard gives me amazing comfort and stamina to work. What do I love about it so much? Not everything, granted. But here are some things:

  1. The keyboard was split. This might sound controversial, but insofar as ergonomic comfort, nothing competes with the split keyboard. It allows your hands to rest at dramatically contrasted angles and, as a bonus, drives your typing skills through the roof!
  2. The wrist rest was attached. This might sound trivial, but the comfortable wrist rest wasn’t a snap-on rest. As a result, as you will read in the next point, when you would elevate the keyboard, the rest didn’t wiggle a bit. It is so soft, I find myself petting it.
  3. The reverse tilt. You will never believe this until you try it yourself. But, hold out your hands and find your fingers pointing down, not up. Standard keyboard kickstands are in the back, tilting the keyboard toward you. Your fingers are forced up. The 7000 reverse tilt is a kickstand in the front, tilting the keyboard away from you. Your fingers rest down. It sounds crazy, I know. But this single, innovative feature has propelled this keyboard into near mythical ergonomic lore. This is also why the wrist rest simply has to be attached to the base.

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  1. The standard layout. I can learn another keyboard layout if I have to do it. Laptops always come with some kooky layout that the OEM thinks is clever when it’s plain stupid. Though there were several improvements to the keyboard layout that followed the 7000 (like the large delete button), the 7000 layout is plain-Jane standard, and easy to use. That’s always been a bonus to me. I have always loved its simplicity. 
  2. Few custom buttons. The 7000 has a few custom buttons (features I rarely use). Other than volume, those are useless to me. I tried setting them up many times. But I am good enough with standard keyboard shortcuts that additional keys just get in the way. Some keyboards clutter themselves with custom keys. The 7000 adds one row and that’s it. Thank you.

The best features of the old Desktop 7000 mouse:

I no longer use this mouse, I have to admit. I have returned to it over and over, trying to use it. But, it has a singular flaw that I cannot handle. The surface or pattern on my desk screws up the optics of the mouse’s laser. As a result, the mouse is not accurate when I use it at home. I can’t have my cursor jumping around the screen. No way. And, I will be darned if I will use a mouse pad! No way. But for the many years I enjoyed the mouse, this is what I loved the most:

  1. imageIt’s huge! Most people are thrown off by how large the mouse is. It’s far larger than the flat, stupid mice you see in stores today. At rest, your hand is cupped, not flat. At a size larger than a tennis ball, your hand wraps around and rests on the mouse with ease. In fact, you could leave your hand on the mouse for ages and it would never fatigue. This time, size matters.
  2. It’s tilted. If you’re left-handed the 700’s mouse (which is the premium Explorer Mouse) isn’t for you. It dramatically tilts to the right. Again, for the right-handed, your hand naturally rests with a tilt to that side. As a result, using the mouse means you don’t have to flex your wrist to accommodate an ambidextrous, uniform mouse – a feature that doesn’t matter once you purchase the mouse and use it. The tilt is magical.

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  1. The thumb rest. Your thumb should not fall to the desk, it should rest on the mouse. It adds to the accuracy of movement, and where else would you want your mouse? The 7000’s mouse does better than giving you a thumb rest. It gives your thumb a gel pad on which it can rest and relish in its comfort. The thumb rest (where the Microsoft logo is) is a thing of wonder.

Flaws?

Is it fair to pretend the 7000 didn’t have any flaws? Not at all. Frist, the keys are very deep. I actually like that, but the design allowed considerable dust collection. I still hate that today. Otherwise, the keyboard is perfect. The mouse, on the other hand, has an inferior laser that doesn’t track on every surface – and I hate that. The other, critical problem with the mouse, is the gel for my thumb. As comfortable as it is, it does not stand up to time. Eventually the slick surface gets gummy.

Enter the Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop

I can’t answer the question “Why did Microsoft wait so long to improve the 7000?” As I visit companies, I see it used everywhere. Perhaps nobody complained. But to have a new version released is a tempting treat. It will be only a matter of time until I have one on my desk. I promise.

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The Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000 sells for $119 on http://microsoft.com/hardware and for a more reasonable $79 on http://amazon.com. The new Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop sells on http://microsoft.com/hardware for $129 (only $10 more). There’s no discount elsewhere since it was just released. That’s not a cheap price, by the way, for a keyboard and mouse. I admit that. But what is the comfort and the long-term health of your wrist worth?

Aside: My first year out of college, this old lady ran a red light and I t-boned her car with mine. My air bags deployed and decimated my wrist when it did. Years and years of casts and physical therapy have helped me recover from miserable to bad. As a result, I cherish my wrist and do everything I can to keep it happy. If you have never damaged your wrist, you need to be a little more thankful then you have been.

Differences

The new Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard is wonderful. Instead of filling the split space with a needless zoom button, it’s completely empty. Smart. Instead of cluttering the top bar with useless custom keys, there are none. Great. And, even the number pad is removed (I use it once a month at most) to let the keyboard have 104 keys and tiny footprint of 15.4 inches by 8.96 inches. Wow.

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The Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse, on the other hand, hasn’t won my heart yet, but I am willing. It strongly resembles the 7000’s Explorer Mouse. It’s big. Good. It’s tilted. Great. But, it doesn’t appear to have a forward button, only a back button. It doesn’t appear to have a gel rest. Yes, I can deal with those two things. But, until I test its laser on my desk surface, I can’t be sure it will be a suitable replacement for the Laser Mouse 6000 I use today which works fine.

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Conclusion

For a while it seemed that Microsoft had stopped caring about ergonomics. Their mice have been flat, small, and crazy. Their keyboards have been equally clunky. The Sculpt has restored my confidence.

Let me say this

Microsoft, thank you for building the 7000 Desktop so many years ago, it has made my life better. It has made my work easier. It has made my wrists happier. And, Microsoft, thank you for updating the 7000 Desktop with the Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop. I can’t wait to try it.