Morgan Gangwere

@indrora

In defense of the eraser head

The trackstick input method has been the thing that makes computers usable for me.

I was first introduced to them, like many, on the venerable ThinkPad. Their simplicity and elegance was the thing that made them great: it required less space than the trackpad, it required little movement as compared to the trackpad, and better, it had the precision and grace that I had come to expect from a refined input device. It was, like it or not, the best replacement for a mouse I had seen on a laptop.

The C-series keyboard. Front and center: Dell’s trackpoint competition.

My second experience with them was when I had one of my own, on a Dell C600 from a scavenged laptop. It had problems, but it worked. It worked better than the terrifying trackpad that I had to modify to avoid seeing my cursor fly into the distance saying “my people need me,” thanks to terrible design decisions by Dell and Synaptics. The track stick became my hero. I replaced the nub with one from HP, who had kept them on their EliteBook series.

I encountered them on a Dell later, and HP devices as well. They became the staple of a more refined keyboard, meant for those who spend their time in front of a computer and who understand it at a deeper, more fundamental level. The trackpoint was a symbol of control, of knowing, of being that which makes a professional a professional. This simple dot, nestled in between the g, h and b keys, became the guiding star in looking for devices which were built to a higher standard than others.

They were built for people who care about using their computer, not just being a computer user.

That diminutive dot doesn’t require firm presses, only careful gestures. It needs only the slightest of touch to really make it worth using. It must be caressed, cared for and understood. Like a car’s steering wheel or the dials of a milling machine, that tiny nub needs to be understood and given respect.

Respect that too few people give it.

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