You don't use a computer because you can't type? Some companies are turning the lack of typing skills into a business opportunity by selling unusual alternatives to keyboards.
The most popular alternative is the mouse, a device about the size of a cigarette pack, that has a ball bearing on the bottom. Rolling the mouse along your desk top moves the cursor to a symbol of the command you want to use, such as insert or delete. A mouse dramatically cuts down the number of keystrokes needed to do most tasks. Apple Computer Inc. has zealously promoted the mouse as the next wave in user-friendliness.
The mouse, though, is almost ho-hum compared to other keyboard alternatives. Touch tablets are pad and pen sets that translate your longhand scribbling into useful symbols on the computer screen. Until now, they were used primarily for graphs and drawings. But Pencept Inc. recently introduced a touch tablet that handles even difficult-to-read penmanship. The top of the tablet contains the commands you need to carry out a task. When you touch the pen to one of these commands, the cursor on the screen obeys. The bottom of the tablet is for handwritten notes. You can use touch tablets with a few spreadsheet and word-processing programs.
For those whose handwriting resembles chicken scratch, voice entry devices may be helpful. At least four companies -- SuperSoft, Votan, Key Tronic, and Texas Instruments -- make voice entry devices that enable you to write memos and manipulate spreadsheets by speaking into a microphone. Unfortunately, these devices are programmed to operate at the prekindergarten level. Their vocabularies don't exceed 200 words, and they must be reprogrammed for each user's voice. But they don't require computer sophistication on the part of the user. If you can call a board meeting to order, you can operate them.