back to article Keyboard, you're not my type

When I chose to wave goodbye to wage slavery by turning freelance some (cough) 19 years ago, it was during an era in which the principal means of electronic communication between IT journalists was called Cix. Computers were powered by coke burners and required a team of navvies to work the bellows; monetary currency comprised …

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Re: The best keyboard they ever used was one they had a long time ago

"That'd be the ZX Spectrum rubber keyboard then and sad to say it probably does beat some keyboards I've used lately."

I was never a fan of sweat-drenched keys myself. Or having to use fifteen types of shift-mode to write anything.

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Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard

That's the best keyboard. Yep, the ones with a gap down the middle with the two halves at a slight angle. I bought two (one home, one for work) in 2001. Other than an annual disassembly to clear out the food, hair, skin and bugs, I abuse them on a daily basis and they are still going strong. The key legends haven't been worn away, though the left shift is just starting to. And no RSI.

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Re: Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard

The B key is on the wrong side. I kept banging my finger into empty space, because there was no key there. Once you've learnt to touch type, it's bloody hard to unlearn. But I agree they were nice keyboards. Although they were also bloody enormous!

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard

I've been using these for years. They're great for removing strain from your wrists (albeit by passing it right on to your shoulders). Unfortunately the build quality is getting worse and worse over the years. Crappy radio and poorly responsive keys on my latest one (after about a year or two they get so filthy I tend to get a new one). My latest one has a dodgy "control" key - which doesn't always respond. You can imagine the fun that is...

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Re: Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard

Rather subjective, I'd say. I loathe the things myself.

I've used a huge variety of keyboards: mechanical and electric typewriter; the old 8-bitters including membrane and chiclet styles; the original IBM M; various terminals (VT-100, 3270, 5250, some hard-copy terminal I can't remember the name of, etc); keyboards from Sun, HP, and IBM UNIX workstations; a variety of Apple machines from the II (not bad) through various generations of Macs (ugh); more laptops than I can count or remember; and so on. Oh, and the tiny QWERTY keyboard on my slider phone. I've even been forced, by terrorists, to use virtual keyboards on touchscreens once or twice. The only ones I really can't stand are the touchscreens and the "ergonomic" keyboards.

I admit, though, that I have never encountered any product claiming to be ergonomic that I found in any way an improvement over its non-ergonomic version. No doubt that stuff works for many users, but thus far I've disliked all of it.

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Mushroom

Another

IBM Model M fanatic here... I have the main one I use from an RS/6000 and one in my file cabinet to serve as backup should this one ever die. This one was made on April 12, 1988.

I figure the noise keeps the meek and timid at bay. Bonus!

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"should this one ever die"

It won't. When you're dead it will be Still Alive.

— Typed on my IBM Model M

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Re: "should this one ever die"

Agreed. My Model M is older than I am!

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VT100

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned the original DEC VT100 keyboard. Massive key travel, but in case that wasn't enough to let you know when you'd pressed a key, there was audio feedback in the shape of a loud CLACK. The CLACK wasn't mechanical noise, it was artificially generated because it was believed at the time that people couldn't type without audio feedback.

There was also a row of red lights above the keys that appeared to have no purpose. You could turn them on and off with ANSI-like escape sequences. I only ever saw this feature in use once, by a programmer who flashed them while his program displayed user-antagonistic error messages like "Are you an idiot?" and "You have eyes?".

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Linux

Re: VT100

I remember them (or a slightly later version - VT220?) and they were very nice keyboards. I narrowly avoided fetching some home when a skip full appeared behind the computer centre, but I was strong and managed to resist the temptation.

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B-D

One of the weirdest keyboards I've ever used came with the Sanyo MBC-550, like the IBM of its time it had a solid metal backplate, a distinct amount of travel and a clack that could madden even the most even tempered.

That was where the similarity ended though, the bloody thing was non standard, so when the cable broke I travelled to my local computer junk shop (remember them?, now the are called WEEE disposal centres) and picked up a replacement DIN cable, hacked the keyboard side connector onto the new cable and it was good to go for many more years.

That was the only keyboard I've ever used that had a PC reset button on the side.

Wicked times.

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Pint

There are other choices

http://www.maltron.com/keyboard-info/single-hand-keyboards.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chorded_keyboard

Never tried the single hand keyboards myself, but had some fun with a Chorded one back in the mid 80's.

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I have one of those IBM clicky clacky keyboards

Thought I should see why people think they're so great. Not for me. A Microsoft Arc keyboard arrived in the post today, which is weird as anything - so thin and light, nice compact layout. Using it now for the first time, and it's definitely going to take some getting used to, but interesting.

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Pint

Re: I have one of those IBM clicky clacky keyboards

If you have one and don't like it, either gift it to a relative who does, or ebay it for beer money :)

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Mushroom

A Cherry for me

I've been a computer nut for quite some time now, it started back in the days when I was a kid with a C64 and eventually worked my way up with a 286 which later became a Compaq 486 and eventually I got the PC I have now.

I've had several, unnamed, keyboards during those days but eventually came across a Cherry 6000M. The funny thing is that I don't know where I got it, but I do know is that this keyboard turned out to be virtual indestructible! You see; during those times (we're talking the 80's here) I smoked. And I also smoked behind the PC; always had an ashtray sitting near my PC because of that. And a lot of that ash (and other junk) ended up in my keyboard. Because you see; I also used to eat breakfast behind the PC or sometimes even lunch.

This keyboard eventually failed me. Approx. 20 years later, at the time of writing only 2 years ago. I cleaned it up, even found ash in there while I quite smoking approx. 25 years ago, but to no avail. It responded a bit better, but several keys failed more than often, thus making typing extremely annoying.

SO I started looking for replacements but the problem was that a lot of keyboards are quite bulky. I also liked the click sounds I got while typing (I type blindfold, and decently fast too) and not too many keyboards have that. I tried some of the keyboards still lying around the house but none felt that good as my good ole Cherry :-(

AND then I discovered the German Cherry website (link to Cherry.de). Imagine my surprise; they don't 'merely' sell keyboards, they sell mice and more advanced keyboards as well (stuff with a cardreader in 'm, as you can sometimes see being used in banks and such).

Because I didn't see my keyboard there I simply wrote them an e-mail telling them that I was looking for that particular keyboard and if they could advice me which one would best suit my needs. "Oh, but we can make that model for you. It will take time but for E 110,- (approx.) it can be done".

I paid and I waited, for 1.5 - 2 months or so. I recall writing them an e-mail because the whole thing went a little bit vague and at one time I was worried that I spend a lot of money on nothing. Needless worries as it turned out because eventually my keyboard arrived. Slightly larger than the one I had (this one has a larger edge at the top which now also features the 'Cherry' logo) but the touch and response is exactly what I came to love and respect so much.

A very expensive keyboard, sure, but if you spend as much time behind the keyboard & screen as I do where a good keyboard has become an essential part then believe me; its money well spent. Especially if this critter manages to last for yet another 25 years :-)

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Anonymous Coward

PS/2 keyboards.

"PS/2? Why on earth would you want the PS/2 version instead of USB? So you can enjoy the "convenience" of not being able to chain it to a hub or using it on anything other than a desktop pc?."

You don't play many FPS games where you are supposed to:

-strafe

-turn

-reticle aim

-fire

-duck for cover

-jump

-reload

sometimes all at once, do you?

Of all the actions above, at least 5 of them can and must be done simultaneously and concurrently. Try that on USB and suffer a *BEEP* that comes neither from Windows nor from the game, but from the motherboard speaker, complaining that the motherboard BIOS is having a USB-port induced seizure.

Plus, if the opponents are in the next room and being a bunch of w*kers, nothing prevents you from removing the keyboard of said PS/2 port, beat the living crap out of them, yell at them to play f*king FAIR, and come back to the game. USB affairs work here too, but PS/2 keybs tend to be old dinossaurs (the M) and be heavier than your average netbook. I dropped one of these on a desk (by accident), it cut a chip of the edge OF THE DESK right off.

And yes, I use a USB keyboard too, surprinsingly the PS3 is a very comfortable Internet device with a keyboard on the off-hours. I keep one keyboard just for this purpose. Hint: it is also a PS/2 keyboard with an adapter for USB just to throw people off.

Seriously now, an user managed to botch all of his USB ports, once. Luckily we had PS/2 keyboards in spare. Turns out his machine deserved the scrap heap anyway, but it was a salvageable backup business.

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Anonymous Coward

Flexowiters and Teletypes

I started on papertape Flexowriters and Teletypes in the 1960s. The latter were particularly clunky - and the 100bps (75bps?) ones punished any fast typing with a jarring locked key. I probably still hit some keys harder than I should. Does Control-G ring a bell?

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Re: Flexowiters and Teletypes

Upvote just for the humour in that :-)

And I'd imagine the locked key could do some SERIOUS damage to a finger, especially back in the days when most people had learned to type on real typewriters

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ASR 33

The keyboard on the teletype ASR 33 must rate highly amongst the "Worst keyboards of all time list" . Forget RSI - it was more like torn ligaments from the force needed to operate the keys. It was so bad that I much preferred the membrane keyboard on the ZX-81 or the dead flesh keyboard of the Spectrum.

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Linux

My first keyboard...

Was the truly awful membrane thingy on a ZX80. Although the machine itself was a lot of fun. The ZX81 was the same. The Speccy was a marginal improvement (at least the keys has some travel), but sweaty little fingers and rubber keys don't mix. Getting a (comparatively) *real* keyboard, like the one on my first Amiga, was a revelation.

After that it was all bog-standard PC keyboards, typically of the buckling-spring variety, except the DECStations at uni, which were mechanical switch types, IIRC.

I'm quite happy with today's keyboards, to be honest, except for the fact that the lettering wears too easily ... and the fact that they all come with at least one redundant key designed for a certain operating system I don't use (but I found the cure for that).

https://www.thinkpenguin.com/gnu-linux/tux-super-key-keyboard-sticker

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Another Model M user here, recovered mine from a skip 14 years ago, originally manufactured in 1992 so not as old as some of you others.

Lovely keyboard and I do seem to make less typos on it, I guess those early years programming on one hard coded the layout into me.

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Unhappy

For me

the memotech mtx keyboard and still is the biz

Proper keys, mounted on a 1mm steel plate inside an aluminium chassis

Not only could you beat someone to death with it, but also creat mag 5.5 earthquakes if you dropped the thing on the floor

Now.. if someone could come up with a way of wiring a PS2 or USB plug on it , I'd be using it now

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"It was more gossipy than the ladies’ loo at the Leeds Warehouse during its 1980s heyday.

I'm sure you agree that things have changed considerably since then."

My sarcasm-meter just imploded.

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Coffee/keyboard

Writing this on an Apple Extended II from 1995

So in my book, the best keyboards are the big heavy ones from long ago that STILL LAST today. I thought about replacing the one in the office with the new quiet Tactile Pro as a nice gesture to my cos – but then again those things are bloody expensive and I am sure they are not as well made as the AEII.

All the cheap rubber stuff is simply not cutting it and the laptop-like models deserve a special place in hell (even the ones in laptops. My last lappy with a really decent keyboard was the PowerBook G3 Wallstreet) as they let me produce endless errors and feel flat out wrong.

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What about the original tiny Macintosh keyboards?

You know - the ones that didn't have any more keys than a standard typewriter. The springs on those had some interesting harmonics, every key having its own slightly different tone. Sounded like some sort of strange SF opera when a lightning-fast typist got a hold of one.

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Yep.

The single reason why I'm not a fan of teeny weeny laptops/netbooks/ultrabooks. I want a decent keyboard dammit! Same as the author, I learned to touch type at school, only to find that was a bit useless when you spent most of your time doing <TR><TD>#variable#</TD>... {history.back(-1)} ...etc

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Keyboard Love

All hail the Northgate Omnikey Ultra. Firm "clack" with each press, not obtrusive but states its business. Needs a little force, likes it. Still working twenty-two years later (one deep cleaning this year).

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Megaphone

Modren keyboard

My recommendation: http://www.typematrix.com/ compact, ergonomic, esp. for large hands, adaptable to different languages and to the Dvorak system (needs far less motion than the QWERTY--like only 23% as much), replaceable skins. light weight, awesome. I'm ordering my 3rd one.

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FAIL

Worst Invention ?

I have to say I think the keyboard might be the worst invention in history to have gained traction and become ubiquitous. Right from the very start they have been seriously flawed, failing to prevent those typewriter hammers from locking together, having poor layout and causing the left hand to be used more than the right. Fast forward to now and what have you got ? 10 fingers and about 100 keys (hello ?!), terrible layouts, etc. I hate laptop keyboards most of all. Can't manufacturers decide somewhere sensible to put the likes of '\' once and for all. I actually prefer tablet on-screen keyboards - at least you are forced to adapt from the start and aren't caught out by the placement of the odd character.

If only speech recognition could live up to its promise.

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Pint

Re: Worst Invention ?

I agree...I bought an inexpensive Logitech USB keyboard for my company ThinkPad L430...because the control key is in the wrong place. The K360's feet allow it to sit over the laptop keyboard and still let me use the touch pad (if necessary.)

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"I'm sure you agree that things have changed considerably since then"

No.

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Big Brother

Tiny Keyboards in the air.

The best keyboard I have ever used is an old AT&T I stole over tweny years ago. The adapter chain does stick out a bit. I type almost 10,000 keystrokes/hour (data entry will NEVER die!).

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IMHO the best keyboard for under £30 was the Cherry Cymotion Expert. Similar feel to and almost as durable as professional keyboards costing double the price. A great pity Cherry stopped making them.

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I have to touch type

...because the symbols on this laptop keyboard have worn out through many weeks of use, and the cheap plastic keys are already pitted and gouged. The symbols seem to be as flimsy as transfers in an Airfix kit.

Can't beat the old buckling spring IBM Model M for sturdy build quality. These days, people are unwilling to spend money on proper build quality, especially when a laptop that the proprietary keyboard design it attaches to becomes obsolete in a few years, yet the old model M goes on, 23 years on. Dell clicky keyboards, circa 1999 were okay.

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