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The idea of a “half keyboard” was conceived sometime in the 4th quarter of 1984. It was derived from the conventional “QWERTY” keyboard, and was designed to allow touch typists to type with one hand, without having to learn a whole new keyboard layout. Instead, by using a slightly different typing technique, their existing skills would simply “transfer.”


In the words of our President:

“The idea for the Half Keyboard came as a reaction to the Microwriter . . .

In the fall of 1984, I read a short blurb in a magazine describing this strange new device called a “Microwriter.” It was a portable dedicated word processor, equipped with a one-handed “chord” keyboard. It had only 6 keys, which users typed on with one hand.

It was intriguing, but the chord keyboard sounded very impractical to me at the time. I didn’t think most people would be willing to learn a whole new keyboard layout. A week later, most of the Half Keyboard design just popped into my head.

Not much happened in the subsequent 5 years. My notes sat in a drawer and I pretty much forgot about them.

In 1989, with the industry moving towards increased portability, the time seemed right to blow the dust off my five-year-old idea.

On August 29, I applied for a Canadian patent and the clock started ticking. I had exactly one year in which to attract enough attention (and money) to apply for patents in other countries. After a year, the idea would become public domain in every country that I hadn’t applied for a patent (i.e., almost everywhere).

I wrote letters to all the “pocket computer” manufacturers (that’s what they were called back then), and several actually replied.

The big companies sent back letters thanking me for my interest in their products, but regretfully stating that it was company policy not to accept “external submissions.” Two of the smaller companies showed an interest and information was exchanged, but in the end neither was willing to take it on.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that “pocket computers” weren’t being used as general machines like other computers. They were being used for such things as reading gas meters, and collecting field data. Typing speed wasn’t much of an issue in those applications.

So, shortly before the year was up, I incorporated. I sold shares to various friends and relatives, and Matias Corp. was born.”

- Edgar Matias


On Friday, August 3rd, 1990, Edgar Matias, Steve McGowan, and James McGowan founded the Matias Corporation.

In November of that same year, the company entered into a research partnership with the University of Toronto’s Input Research Group. The next three years were devoted almost exclusively to research and development. The early months of this period were chronicled by the CBC business show Venture.

[graphic: 4 prototypes (27K)]

In late January of ’91, the first prototype was completed, followed by three others. Their first public showing was at the Computer-Human Interaction (CHI ’91) Conference in New Orleans.

On Tuesday, October 8, 1991, at the MACWORLD Expo/Canada conference in Toronto, Half-QWERTY for Macintosh made its debut. It was followed by an MS-DOS version in July of ’92, and a Windows version in June ’95.

The company’s research efforts continued. In 1994, a prototype wearable computer (with Half Keyboard) was completed. It was first shown publicly at the CHI ’94 conference in Boston, and then again at CHI ’96 in Vancouver.

In January of 2000, a Half Keyboard small enough for use on a cell phone was created. Measuring only 4.88 x 1.77 inches (124 x 45 mm), yet still maintaining the full standard horizontal keyspacing (19 mm), the unit was small enough to allow Internet phone users to type e-mail messages, at speeds almost as fast as on a full-sized keyboard.

In April, the company signed a deal with Transpacific Resources Inc. (YTQ-CDNX) to acquire startup financing. In August, Transpacific exercised its option and acquired 5.5% of Matias for $300,000.

The Matias Half Keyboard for Palm & Handspring made its commercial debut at Comdex Las Vegas in November of that same year, and began shipping on January 31st, 2001.

At Macworld Expo in San Francisco (January, 2001), Matias debuted the USB Half Keyboard for Macintosh and USB-equipped PCs. That same week, Matias announced that Jef Raskin, the man Forbes described as the “Real Father of the Macintosh,” had joined the company's Advisory Board.

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