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Pressing the right buttons, celebrating 10 years of adaptibility

A display of keyboards created by Chester Creek, include those with large keys for children, a “keyguard” that helps fence in the keys, the company's Chester Keys and Case for iPads and its Lessonboard, and a board with large yellow keys. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 3
Cousins Morgen Barnes (left) and Hayley Bennett play the Dora the Explorer game together on a computer at the Mt. Royal public library branch in 2012 on a Chester Creek-style keyboard. (Forum file photo)2 / 3
The Duluth Public has two Chester Creek keyboards set up for kids to use in the children’s section. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)3 / 3

Chester Creek Technologies is celebrating its 10th year of business in 2014. The company started on Jan. 8, 2004.

Chester Creek Technologies designs and manufactures accessories computer, tablet and audio accessories.

“We started with one child-sized mouse and one keyboard — the Kinderboard. Now, we offer over 40 different adaptive products for anyone from children to senior citizens,” said Chester Creek owner and CEO Jim Gustafson.

The Kinderboard is a computer keyboard with large colored-coded computer keys that helps children learn their vowels, numbers and consonants. The company also has a range of small mice that fit children’s hands, making computer use easier.

Persons needing specialized keyboards are the company’s other main customer category. These customers have difficulty using regular keyboards because of vision issues or a physical impairment like arthritis.

Chester Creek created keyboards with large letters printed on big keys. Color helps persons see the right keys; e.g., the company created a large keyboard with yellow keys and black letters to assist those with macular degeneration.

Another problem the company noticed was that people with physical impairments or conditions that cause the hands to tremor often have a hard time pressing the right key.

“Basically, people with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy or some other condition that causes a tremor have a problem called ‘key mashing.’ Imagine trying to pick the right key as your finger wobbles and you can’t control it,” said Nick Lansing of Chester Creek.

So the company invented the “Chester KeyGuard,” which acts like a little fence around the letters and snaps onto the keyboard and makes it easier to type without hitting two keys at once.

Another set of keyboards helps students learn keyboarding, an important skill in an era of computerized testing.

“We have what’s called the Lessonboard. It’s color-coded so that the colors match up with the fingers,” said Lansing.

For example, the blue keys should be typed only with the index finger, the yellow with the middle finger, and so on. The company even makes a Lessonboard with only the colors and no letters so as to encourage memory, speed and accuracy by discouraging students from looking at their fingers as they type.

“The idea is to get them typing so that they don’t have to look down,” said Lansing.

To illustrate the need to teach students how to type properly and quickly, Gustafson often shares a story about an impressively fast typist he met while getting his flu shot at Walgreens.

“As I’m talking to the young man through the window, I notice that the whole time he’s talking, he never looks down. He asks me, ‘What’s your name? How do you spell it? What’s your address?’ and occasionally glances at the screen. I say, ‘Man, you can type pretty well. Where’d you learn to type like that?’ and he says, ‘I wouldn’t have this job if I couldn’t type.’”

A lot has changed technology-wise since Chester Creek began 10 years ago, but Gustafson said the company has done a lot to keep up with the times. In fact, this month it will be launching a new product, the Chester Keys and Case, which will fit the new iPad Air.

Yet even with the increase in the use of tablets and smartphones, Gustafson says the keyboard is still the “fastest way to get an idea in your head onto a computer.”

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176
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