Prediction: The keyboard will be gone in five years

I am not emotionally prepared to give up my keyboard. It is an extension of my hands, if not my heart. It speaks for me. It speaks to me.

And it will soon be gone from the landscape, CNBC says, because we have an actual voice to be our voice.

When will keyboards be gone? Five years from now, Mark Tluszcz, co-founder and CEO of Mangrove Capital Partners, said in an interview with CNBC this week.

Keyboards are the new fountain pen.

“Our thesis at Mangrove is it’s a massive change,” he said. “There are going to be many companies built that are only voice.”

“Voice is the opportunity of a decade. I’m an optimist. An optimist that’s been reasonably right many times.”

Voice-controlled tech has so far been a field dominated by large firms like Amazon — with its Alexa voice assistant and Echo devices — and Google — with the Google Assistant and Home. Even Facebook is working on its own voice assistant.

But Tluszcz says that’s no reason to assume start-ups can’t penetrate the space, and his venture capital firm has backed a French company called Sybel — which focuses on high-quality podcasts — to take advantage of the industry’s growth.

While he thinks the tech giants are doing a “good job” at setting the standards for voice — for example, in recognizing less common accents — the industry will still require “massive innovation” and “new ways of using voice.”

For sure, CNBC’s focus is on the business and investing side of the revolution, but there are practical things we’ll be needing to consider now.

Do we continue to teach typewriting in school? Do we change our offices to account for people talking — sometimes with private or privileged information — rather than typing?

If you had a technical choice now to give up your keyboard, would you?

  • MrE85

    I’m still waiting for that flying car.

  • BJ

    I can’t even begin to guess how coding software will be without a keyboard.

    • singe_101

      It’s not going to happen. There’s a lot of money in games and keyboards.

  • chlost

    My job is to deal with confidential information every day. I still take notes by hand, as my typing skills do not work as fast as my writing skills. I take notes of what happens in a hearing. I would not be able to enter my notes by voice while things are happening. The courts are only recently allowing computers in the courtroom. I won’t be around for the changeover to voice in this job. I’m okay with that.

  • MrE85
  • Aaron Brown

    It won’t happen soon for the simple reason that no one will want to utter aloud the things they actually type into search engines or text messages. Maybe that’s an argument FOR getting rid of the keyboard.

    As an almost-millennial (one year over the Gen X line) I learned how to type on a typewriter at home before formal training on an Apple IIe at school. I remember typing jokes and short essays on the typewriter displays at Kmart, imagining that I was very clever. I now type much faster than I can write and almost as fast as I can speak normally. The neural pathways are set and, though I might be among the last, it seems unlikely I’d enjoy writing any other way. There were holdouts with longhand authors and typewriters as well. So it goes.

  • QuietBlue

    He sounds like someone who doesn’t actually work on a keyboard all day and who probably has an admin to do that sort of thing for him.

    • Jack

      And is a proponent for open offices but sits in an office. Just saying…..

  • Stacy N

    Writing or typing is such a part of the composition process for me. I have a hard time imagining how editing, rewriting, and crafting a coherent piece would work using only your voice. Writing something like an essay seems very different than typing a destination in to GPS or a search term in a browser. Even if they manage to get over the hurdles of accents, people who have English as a second language, or similar technical challenges, I still am unconvinced this would work for everything. Pronunciation would always be an issue as well – especially with things like names. Maybe for some people who are used to having people transcribe their work anyway (like some lawyers) it would be an easy transition. But I can’t imagine it. I also think I would go hoarse. Getting rid of keyboards also seems like an accessibility issue. Perhaps it will always need to be an option, just not, perhaps, the default option on all things.

    • Joseph

      When I use my smartphone Google Assistant to search for something, if its an unusual word it will typically autocorrect to what it thinks I mean and search for that, and then i have to use the actual keyboard to search what I actually meant. 😛 I’m keeping my keyboard for the long-haul.

  • Gary F

    I’ve only regretted cheating in 10th grade typing class in 1980-81(?) about a gazillion times. And now, almost 40 years later, I’m getting good at it. Damn.

    I was also told in tenth grade that computers would make us so efficient we’d have a 3-4 day workweek. And that I’ll probably never see the DOW hit 1400 in my lifetime.

  • davidz

    It ain’t happening, at least not globally. Voice recognition as it happens today involves a fair amount of cloud processing. Some information that’s processed can’t be sent to the cloud for security purposes. Some can’t be sent because someone’s sitting on their cabin porch w/o good internet access. Other work (image editing) needs a mouse. If you’ve got a mouse, why would you forego the value of a keyboard.

    And now that everyone seems to be switched over to an open plan office, expecting people to then do all of their work by voice would be just insane (not to say that people who plan offices aren’t insane).

    I was in high school when computers were just starting to show up. The typing teacher was adamant that I take the class (I was already a computer nerd). I successfully argued against it because the style she taught in typing was that you used the lower case L (‘l’) as a digit ‘1’. Capital O and zero (‘0’) were interchangeable as well. That worked when the output was ink on paper. But was completely wrong for computer programmers. So I’ve just learned to type well (for coding) over more time on a keyboard than my purported typing teacher could every have expected from her students.

    And you can have my IBM Model-M clickety-clackety keyboard when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.

    • And you can have my IBM Model-M clickety-clackety keyboard when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.

      Oh man, those things are awesome.

  • Guest

    Much like tablets are really just viewers when it comes to heavy-duty office work, voice will get better as an extra tool. EXTRA that is.

    We still have paper forms, pen etc in addition to the new forms.

  • Rob

    I would give up my keyboard in a heartbeat. I’m guessing the VR software will be designed to pick up very low level sound, such that speaking sotto voce would be effective, thereby minimizing any workplace privacy and noise disruption issues. And imagine how cool it’ll be to use whatever kind of voice you want! I think I’ll start with my Yoda voice, then maybe Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle, a little Jack Nicholson…

  • chaos750

    Smartphones have taken over a lot, but games, coding, long form writing,
    and data entry are all still best done on a keyboard, and that isn’t going to change in 5 years. I can only imagine
    if I tried doing my job with voice… “Computer, new Java file. Public
    class main, no capital M, no, delete word delete word delete word delete
    word delete word, captial M main, open brace, enter, public static int
    main open parentheses capital S String args open square bracket close
    square bracket args close parentheses open brace enter capital S System
    dot p r i n t l n open parentheses quote capital H Hello world
    exclamation mark quote close parentheses semicolon enter close brace
    close brace. Computer, run file.”

  • John O.

    Rubbish.

  • Dad was a typewriter repairman. What would he think of voice input “typing’? And one day will voice input give way to brain wave input?

    • chlost

      There may be a renaissance of the typewriter. My (soon-to-be) ten year old granddaughter has a typewriter on her birthday wish list. I wouldn’t even know where to find one these days, and I think I ditched my old one some time ago.

      • I have a couple. An old Royal and a Corona. I use them when I set up my WW2 company clerk living history display. I load it with paper for the public to mess around with. The kids love it. The older folks love it.

        It’s fun when someone gets the typebars stuck to each other and you show them the “flick” to reset them back into place.

        And mine you have to REALLY hit the keys with a bit of force to get them to actually work.

        I think each typewriter only cost me about $30.

    • Rob

      Think it, and it will come to pass.

  • Jay T. Berken

    What if you lost your voice?

  • Postal Customer

    CNBC. Nuff said.

    Still, a keyboard-less existence is about as likely as the paperless office that was predicted 30 years. Which is about as likely as the paperless bathroom.

  • Laurie K.

    Given the blow back I have personally encountered in trying to get our office to convert to electronic notes as opposed to taking notes longhand, I do not see keyboardless offices even coming close to being the norm within five years.

  • John

    I think this is one of those things that may someday come to pass, but five years . . . not so much.

    I like the keyboard. I also can normally tell when I’m reading something that has been dictated (either to an actual human typing or to a speech to text thing), and it’s typically not nearly as easy to digest, or eloquent to read.

    What was really wild – the other day, I was in a remote meeting, and the people I was working with in Illinois had been putting together a training we need to roll out globally. They were experimenting with English Speech to Spanish subtitles software – in real time, during the meeting. (They couldn’t figure out how to turn it off, which was a different source of amusement). The process itself was wild to see.

    I could barely be accused of speaking restaurant level Spanish, but from what I could pick up from the subtitles, even the person I was conversing with in IL, who I believe is originally from somewhere in Asia, and has a bit of an accent in his English, was having his accented English converted correctly into Spanish subtitles.

  • jon

    Been hearing it since the 90’s…

    and yet, here we are still typing away…

    Nearly every smartphone right now has the capabilities to send text messages (short simple messages) via voice… yet very few people do it, opting instead to use a suboptimal virtual keyboard on the screen.

    My experience with computer transcription is that it hasn’t really gotten much better over the last 20 years… we had speech to text in the 90’s, and it was probably about as good as a modern smartphone for accuracy… just now you don’t need a headset.

    Maybe eventually humans will speak in a consistent enough fashion for accuracy to improve… after all we largely spell in a consistent fashion now, and that wasn’t the case a few hundred years back.

    Even then I don’t think it’ll catch on, I wouldn’t talk this bit into my computer right now…

  • Rixware

    I can’t wait! It will be just like how paper completely disappeared in the early 90s after computers rendered it obsolete. Oh, and like how we all stopped walking once the Segway was invented.

    • X.A. Smith

      If you think about it, it’s a wonder that any keyboards survived Y2K.

  • Jeff C.

    Try to copy and paste text with your voice.

    There are many things that you can do very efficiently with a keyboard that you either can’t do or are hard to do with your voice. More voice-control? Yes. No keyboards? No way.

  • Josiah

    I still use a fountain pen. 🙂

    I prefer writing certain things longhand to force myself to slowdown and think more as I write.

    For the reasons that many others have said, I don’t see voice replacing typing for everything.

  • Barton

    Alexa and Siri still cannot understand many dialects of the English language (specifically Scots, Welsh and N Irish…. and my friend’s Texas drawl). Until they solve that issue without making people amend the way they speak, this isn’t going to happen.

  • Brian Simon

    I would not give it up. I cannot imagine how i would fo my job without it. Voice to text would be an extremely painful way to write code. And hearing nearby coworkers typing is background white noise. If we were all dictating to our computers, I can’t imagine the cacophony.

    Select star from t underscore order… no, no space, just T underscore oh are dee eee are. Carriage return

    God, please, no.

  • Jerry

    Where will cats sit when you are trying to do work if they get rid of the keyboard? And I’m not sure if I am ready for writing to feature so many “uhhs”, “ummms”, and “errrrs”.

  • chucker1

    Playing a computer game: Left! Right! Fire! Duck!…. I said Duck! “BLAM!!”

  • Jack

    NO! Please make the 10 key a standard part of the keyboard. Us accounting wonks live and die by it.

    • John

      Is there a special accounting keyboard that has a 10 key?

      If you are serious about adding one, there are keyboards (and probably software solutions for your existing keyboard) that can be programmed. My kid has one for games. Assign a key you don’t use much (the tilda, or perhaps shift+6, if you don’t use ^ ever) to type ’10’ every time you need one. (his is a razer brand, but I’m sure there are more affordable options)

      • BJ

        It’s just the 10 key on the side, it was standard for a long time. But most laptops did away with it, and now many regular keyboards don’t have it. You have to now look.

        • QuietBlue

          There are USB and wireless numeric keypads, but I’ve never used one. I understand why laptops don’t have them due to space, but I don’t know why regular keyboards got rid of them. They’re very useful for data entry and accounting.

  • Andrew

    Just like how EFTs and ACH payment options would make checks obsolete, yet my company (and a majority of our business/corporate customers) still pay the bills with paper checks. First ACH payment was in 1978. Certain aspects of the business world are slow and difficult to change.

  • AL287

    I learned to type on a blind keyboard back in ancient times (1972) when word processors were a sketch on paper.

    I typed my nursing school papers on a Royal typewriter with a cloth ribbon.

    My first word processor was a Brother with gold letter display and the game Tetris. It was quite an improvement over the Royal and Liquid Paper.

    My first computer with Internet access was purchased when my son was in middle school. It was an IBM but I can’t remember the exact model. I do remember it was quite big and cumbersome.

    I still love typewriters, especially the self-correcting IBM Selectric III with the interchangeable type ball. No Liquid Paper needed. I used one frequently during my secretarial days.

    The one thing I don’t like about my laptop is when I type, I’m so used to a separate key board that I hit command keys without realizing it (I type 80+WPM) and end up deleting whole lines of text.

    I think keyboards are here to stay. At least for this old geezer.