In many cases, handwriting has been replaced by text entered into a computer. In fact, computer writing is irreplaceable in many fields, some of which are crucial to our wellbeing.
Health: While in the past undecipherable writing might have been considered typical of "a doctor's handwriting," today more and more doctors no longer write at all. Nowadays many doctors cannot write a prescription, set up an appointment, or even release a patient from a hospital without making a computer record. Not all the details of a computer file are related to issues of mortal danger (for example, such information as where the patient works). In a country that operates according to halacha, will it be necessary to hire non-Jews to man the medical shifts on Shabbat?
Security: The computer is entering the realm of security to a greater and greater extent. The only way to gain entry into many secure places is through computer-controlled access. Lists of approved visitors and other important data are stored and transferred from one place to another on computer media.
Industry: Various functions are controlled remotely. For example, many plants have control rooms from which boilers, valves, machines, and other types of equipment are controlled by the use of computer programs which receive input from a keyboard. Such a computer must sometimes be operated on Shabbat in an emergency, such as when industrial accidents occur or for computer-controlled access to restricted areas.
The Zomet Institute has developed a keyboard that operates on the principle of gramma (indirect action), so that it can be used on Shabbat. The buttons on the keyboard are on-off switches. A special mechanism cycles through all the buttons every few seconds. If it "discovers" that the status of one of the buttons has changed (such as a function key) the desired action will occur.
In the design of the keyboard, special attention has been paid to the printing function. Printing is a serious violation of Shabbat, equivalent to the Torah prohibition of writing, but it is usually not a direct factor in saving a human life and is needed only for administrative purposes. The Zomet Institute also provides keyboards that have one or two programmable buttons for use of special functions on Shabbat in addition to the regular keys.
For details and prices, contact The Zomet Institute.