An interface design left mainly unchanged since its introduction on back in 1992 (a largely unheard of feat in the ever-evolving world of electronics), the ‘pointing-stick’ interface has existed in a largely misunderstood and ambiguous state among the everyday user, but has developed a near cult-like following for those who can see past its unorthodox appearance. Admittedly not as intuitive as a modern touchpad or mouse, there is a learning curve to tackle. But once mastered, the TrackPoint system has a set of unique advantages over other interfaces:
- With the ‘nub’ centrally located between the G, B, and H keys, its design constantly keeps your hands on your keyboard’s home row, eliminating the delay in jumping between mouse and keyboard.
- A seemingly small advantage, but in tasks where switching occurs hundreds of times per day, the benefits become substantial in reducing stress and delay.
- Essentially a miniature joystick, the constant-inertia technology employed gets rid of the need to reposition your hand once you’ve hit the limits of the touchpad/mouse area.
- Especially on the physical limits of a laptop, it is quick enough for everyday use, yet sensitive enough for precise design work – which can be cumbersome on a touchpad with a dead-zone, or in a mobile setting with no desk to lay a mouse.
- The three buttons mouse in combination with the always hands-on keyboard makes a wide variety of shortcuts/hotkeys much easier to execute.
It’s definitely one the geekier interfaces out there, but in my eyes has enough merit to brush off any befuddled stares, as it remains a deserving alternative to the conventional approaches to computer interfaces.