Now here’s an external numpad with some real purpose. Rather than just being your run-of-the-mill 21 key number pad, Voamoko’s Type-C Numeric Keypad’s design shows that it really knows and understands its end-user. The portable, external number pad plugs to your laptop or desktop, turning into a powerhouse of functionality. It packs extra USB ports on its rim to function as an accessible USB hub you can plug your pen-drives into, or even charge your phone with. Moreover, it comes with a few extra keys that let you instantly trigger functions like searching (useful for those incredibly long documents and spreadsheets), as well as apps like the calculator, to make number-crunching faster and more convenient.
Designed for professional use, whether you’re an auditor, programmer or analyst, Voamoko’s Numeric Keypad does more to enable your workflow than a regular number pad would. Plus, it can charge your phone too!
NUMS is an absolutely stunning product (and a winner of the coveted Red Dot Award), purely for its simplicity and effectiveness. It recognizes a problem, and solves it in the most ingenious way possible, without extra moving parts, and without a learning curve. A simple transparent piece of plastic with adhesive at one end and no circuitry whatsoever, the NUMS just sits on your laptop, giving you the magic of a numpad (and much more) on your portable computing device.
In order for laptops to stay portable, they sacrifice the expendable elements like the Numpad. Given that the numbers already exist above the qwerty layout, a numpad to the right is expendable, and laptops either use that real estate to add speaker grills, or shave off the numpad to create thin 13″ laptops. The NUMS brings that expendable element back for everyone who craves having those buttons at their fingertips (from gamers to coders to accountants).
In principle, the NUMS is simple. A sticker sits on the laptop trackpad, quite like a phone’s screen guard. It doesn’t interfere with the trackpad’s functioning (in fact, it gives the pad a smooth, finger-loving texture), however, it augments the trackpad’s abilities. Printed on the sticker is a complete numpad, along with a few other buttons. Install the NUMS driver and the NUMS sticker converts your trackpad into a functioning numpad. Swipe down diagonally from the top right corner to toggle between trackpad mode and numpad mode. When in the numpad mode, the printed numbers on the NUMS sticker denote keys, and you trigger keystrokes by touching them (you’ve even got audio feedback for a wonderfully complete UX). You could use the numpad to work in accounting softwares or even in games. Swiping down diagonally from the top left triggers the calculator, allowing you to crunch numbers in an instant without taking those five annoying steps to boot the calculator app. The NUMS even has its own hotkey setting mode, allowing you to create shortcuts of your own, so your trackpad instantly goes from the least used feature (real people use mice, alright?) to perhaps the most feature-rich part of your laptop. Who thought a small plastic sticker and a powerful idea could accomplish so much?!
The NUMS is a winner of the Red Dot Best Of Best Award.
Take into account all the places that utilize the number pad and you’ll notice a disparity that’s quite odd but humanity seems to have made peace with.
The number pad. You see it everywhere, from your dialer, to your calculator, to your PIN bypass on the phone unlock screen. You’ll see it on the right of your keyboard on your computer (if you’ve got a numpad), and you’ll see it in your ATM machines, cash registers, card readers, security systems, and if you’ve still got one, your landline phone. The numbers, for obvious reasons, are the same… but the layouts aren’t. Phone dialers and ATM machines have it starting at the top with 1, going down to 9 and ending with a 0 at the base, sitting between the asterisk and the hashtag; but you look at the calculator, the cash register, or the computer’s number pad and it’s the other way around. The zero or the lowest value sits at the bottom and it increments moving upwards, ending with nine right at the top. It’s always bewildered me that we’ve had these two separate systems for separate machines, even today. There’s no fixed reason for the difference in layout, but there seem to be a few interesting theories to define exactly how we arrived at this bizarre predicament.
My favorite theory takes us on a time-traveling trip. The reason the two keypads have different layouts today is because they were two completely different products, using different technologies, for different purposes. Long before the modern day touch-tone phone, we were used to the rotary phone, which arranged the numbers from 1 to 0 on a circular dial that you’d rotate (the zero was actually treated as a 10. I explain why a little later*). With the advent of touch-tone hardware in the 50s, companies decided to stick roughly to the current layout, having the 1 at the starting, and the 9 and 0 (or ten, as they called it) at the end. They followed the calculator’s 3×3 matrix for the 1 to 9 (arranged from left to right), putting the 0 at the bottom, between the * and #.
The calculator, on the other hand, had been designed long before the modern phone, and used a format with 789 at the top. The design of the calculator was based on that of the cash register. The keypad’s layout wasn’t an evolutionary one like the telephone, but a functional one. The 0 was placed intentionally at the bottom of cash registers because with the currencies that were used, the 0 was pressed much more often than any key, so it made sense to keep it within hands reach. Having currencies with the denominations 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 etc, it also made more sense to keep these lower numbers towards the base too. So the 1 and 2 were placed immediately above the 0, making the cash register easier to operate. The calculator simply followed this functional format.
A rotary telephone and a calculator (or an adding-machine)
*In the days of rotary dials the pulse signaling system was known as ‘loop-disconnect’. Each digit dialed produced a series of quick disconnections in the ‘loop’ just milliseconds long. Dialing a 1 creating one disconnection, dialing 2 created two disconnections in the loop. The telephone exchange (or the central office) could detect these disconnections and step the electro-magnetic mechanical switches that then connected you to the number you dialed. Dialing a 0 would create 10 disconnections in the loop, so what looked like a 0 was actually a 10, if you count the number of disconnections in the loop.
The second theory also seems interesting because it talks about creating two separate counter-intuitive, reversed layouts on purpose. The calculator was invented long before the touch-tone telephone and was used for data-entry. Data-entry professionals using these calculators had gotten into the habit of crunching numbers at incredible speeds. The touch-tone phone, however, couldn’t operate at those speeds and oftentimes would end up missing a number or two. Phone companies then decided to reverse the layout to “confuse” people, allowing them to take more time to dial the number correctly, giving the telephone enough time to register the number dialed. Marvelous, isn’t it?! It’s a shame that none of these theories can be claimed as the one-true reason we have different keypads.
It’s worth also noticing how in the phone, the 0 falls after the 9 since it’s actually considered to be a 10, and how on the calculator the 0 falls before the 1 because it’s treated as a 0 or a number with no value. In both their formats, the 0 finds itself at its appropriate place, according to the value assigned to it! I still find it silly that we’ve held onto this strange past all these years, but the history lesson (and its share of speculative theories) that comes with it definitely makes me look at this strange duality with awe!