This device is capable of allowing the user to enter and edit several pages of text - and by connecting a printer to the RS-232 serial port connector, documents can be printed without the aid of a separate computer.
This unusual keyboard is surprisingly easy to use. The manufacturers claimed that most people could learn to use it in just a couple of hours. With a little practice, it is possible to become a faster typist with the Microwriter than with a conventional keyboard, providing that what is being entered is just text. Things slow down a lot if a substantial number of special characters have to be entered using the "shifting" mechanism.
Learning the chords for the basic letters and numbers is facilitated by a set of flash-cards that show simple mnemonics for each character.
A cut-down version of the Microwriter, known as the "Quinkey", was sold as a keyboard add-on for the BBC Micro computer. It came with a game that helped the user to learn the chords. There were two versions of the interface software, one optimised for entering BBC BASIC commands, the other for word processing.
A modified five-key version of the Microwriter chording scheme was later provided on the AgendA handheld device, an early PDA, which also used a main normal keyboard. A modern equivalent, the CyKey, is currently sold by Chris Rainey, co-inventor of the Microwriter. This is an ambidextruous chord keyboard, with three groups of three keys, which can be used as a controller keyboard for PCs or a PDA. Unlike the original Microwriter it does not include built-in software.
Interface cables were available for the common serial (RS-232) and parallel (printer) ports of the day. These use a "smart" cable connected to a single interface on the AgendA that is actually an I²C bus. This interface, together with the AgendA's rugged construction, led to them even being used as industrial portable calibration terminals for I²C-equipped factory machines.
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