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Laptops of the Future May Not Have Space Bars

A recent Google patent points to a time when trackpads replace the trusty key

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smithsonian.com

It’s been a mainstay of the keyboard for decades. But is Google about to press delete on the trusty space bar? According to Quartz’s Mike Murphy, the answer could well be yes.

Murphy reports that Google recently obtained a patent for a “spacebar integrated with trackpad.” The design does away with the space bar entirely, using a trackpad in its place. The idea is simple: instead of tapping a key to make a space, users would tap a trackpad to create a space while typing. When using the trackpad as an ordinary mouse, a tap would equal a mouse click.

Why ditch the space bar? Murphy and others speculate that the move to ditch the bar is the company’s latest move in the light laptop wars. As ultralight laptops get ever thinner, Google and its competitors are looking for ways to reduce component weights and increase portability. Murphy reports that the company’s Chromebook, which relies heavily on cloud-based storage, could benefit from a space bar-free design.

The space bar wasn’t always second nature for typists. This typewriting manual from the 1890s warns stenographers to practice using the space bar “so it becomes a fixed habit,” calling for a whopping three spaces between sentences.

So when will the space bar disappear from keyboards altogether? Don’t count on it any time soon, says Google. The company tells Murphy that “prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents.” 

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