Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 12th Jul 2004 08:45 UTC
Editorial This article describes some of my annoyances in computing. If you had any problems reading this article, then skip this one. It will only be a waste of your time. There are a lot of annoying things in the wonderful world of computing. Of course, nothing is perfect, but that doesn't mean we are not allowed to complain and scream and throw our keyboards at our monitors when yet another irritation pops up.
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re: trackballs and the myth
by PainKilleR on Mon 12th Jul 2004 13:26 UTC

Trackballs do not produce less strain on your arm and shoulder. Using a trackball can actually cause more strain, because strain on your thumb gets multiplied onto your wrist and arm.

Solution: don't use a thumb-ball. Despite the recent popularity in thumb-balls, other options are still available in trackballs. Personally, I use this one:

In any case, results vary per individual. I have never been able to use a mouse without resulting in some strain in my elbow in addition to a significant degradation in accuracy (not as bad as the degradation from using a thumb-ball, though). This also addresses the second myth of trackballs, re-iterated in this article:

Trackballs are not good for gaming. Contrary to popular belief, even among avid (which almost seems like an understatement for the people I'm talking about) gamers, trackballs are just as good for gaming as any mouse, so long as the particular gamer is accustomed to using trackballs. For the longest time the biggest shortcomings to using trackballs as a gamer were a reduced number of buttons (compared to mice) and a lack of optical solutions. Despite these drawbacks (which have been solved for the most part), I still managed to play games at a fairly competetive level (top level clan matches in TFC for instance) with a 2-button non-optical trackball. The only major concern was making sure to clean the trackball before any major gaming event, whereas most of the time it was a simple matter to clean the trackball when I noticed it needed to be done. With my current trackball, I have to clean it roughly once a month, though my use isn't as heavy as it once was (since I'm no longer playing competetively, partially due to having a wife and a daughter on the way). Still, people that I played online with/against on a near-daily basis were consistently surprised to see a split keyboard and trackball rather than the rash of optical mice and cheap keyboards that dominate the gaming scene when I showed up for a LAN party.

In the end, though, the "ergonomic" solution is highly dependent on your computer-using environment as well as individual factors. For instance, a person with a very small frame will have much fewer problems with a straight keyboard than someone like myself (as my shoulders nearly fill many doorways, making the angle at which I must hold my hands to use a straight keyboard worse than for many others). I spent a number of years gaming from a futon in front of the computer, with the keyboard on my lap and the trackball on a pair of pillows next to me (and another behind me for lumbar support), and in the end that's the most comfortable and ergonomically-sound situation in which I have ever used a computer.