An Ergonomic Keyboard for Everyone

Bringing ergonomics home.

The Natural Keyboard’s resounding success paved the way to Microsoft’s expansion into hardware, and cemented a creative relationship with Ziba that continues today.

If you wanted an ergonomic keyboard in 1993, you didn’t have a lot of options. Computing’s migration from the office to the home in that year was turning more and more of us into non-stop typists, opening the door for an epidemic of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. But the keyboards that might help alleviate it were specialized, tricky to adjust and spectacularly expensive.

Ziba collaborated with Microsoft to create the first affordable, at-home ergonomic keyboard. The design that finally went to production was more than just the sum of the best scientific knowledge; it was as carefully shaped and contoured as a sports coupe, boasting surfaces that pushed the capabilities of early 90s Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to its limits.

A new category and a lasting collaboration.

The Microsoft Natural Keyboard, released in 1994, quickly became the best-selling ergonomic keyboard in history. With a retail price under $100, it transformed market perceptions by putting thoughtful design within the reach of home consumers, who responded by purchasing upwards of 600,000 of them per month at the peak of the

keyboard’s popularity. Although other manufacturers eventually jumped in and made the category more competitive, the Natural Keyboard’s resounding success led the way for Microsoft’s expansion into hardware, and cemented a creative relationship with Ziba that lasts to this day.


What wrists really need.

Looking at the landscape of peripherals available at the time, the two collaborators agreed that ergonomic keyboards presented a unique opportunity. Standard keyboards of the day were still mostly based on mechanical typewriters; they pointed users’ hands at awkward angles and put damaging pressure on their wrists.

Alternatives existed, but were considered therapeutic device rather than home computing accessories — more akin to a knee brace than a peripheral. That meant hours of adjustment to get them right, an aesthetic that looked completely out of place in the home, and a price tag in the hundreds of dollars.

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