The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

20 April 2006

The feel of the familiar

When you buy a new computer, the tricky part is getting it to act just like your old one — only better and faster. So while the recently-arrived Big Black Box (well, it is) came with a new keyboard and a new mouse, the first thing I did was attach my old keyboard and my old mouse. The mouse isn't that old — last year — but the keyboard, built by IBM in 1990 (!), is truly an industrial-strength device: large, clicky, devoid of screwy WTF? keys along the fringes, and unaffected by anything this side of a full-on nuclear attack, including Dr Pepper and Grape-Nuts.

I mean, if I wanted something new and unfamiliar, I could have ordered something with no key inscriptions. For that matter, I could have ordered something with no actual keys.

(With thanks to Lynn, who is also in New 'Puter Mode.)

Posted at 7:37 AM to PEBKAC

LOL. I also use an old early '90s keyboard which has blank places where the dreaded Windows keys are now.
It has withstood several direct hits from various liquids.
Once I literally picked it up and upended it to pour it all back out and then used a hair dryer and it was just fine :)

Posted by: ms7168 at 10:14 AM on 20 April 2006

On the non-MS side of the aisle, I used the Apple Extended Keyboards for many years due to their solid feel and and war-vessel-like heft (there's a reason the code name for the first one was "Saratoga" - the battleship, not the road or town near Cupertino), but they're ADB devices and haven't made the New World transition all that well.

I currently use the Matias Tactile Pro keyboard. Like the Das Keyboard linked above, it has mechanical keyswitches - the same kind that were used in the old Apple Extended Keyboard, for that matter. Matias commissioned a special run from the manufacturer, who had discontinued them. It's not "quiet," but the precision it gives increased my typing accuracy notably over the "quiet," mushy, rubber-dome switches in most keyboard. (Matias sells keyboards like that, too, if you want, including one with a USB 2.0 dock instead of the slower USB 1.1 ports.)

Alas, there's a standard keyboard flaw in designs like that - the key's logical switches are arranged in an electrical grid, and if you type fast enough to depress three keys that form corners of a rectangle, the keyboard registers as if you pressed the key at the fourth corner as well. For me, the "ious" combination often adds a "q", and another common key combo turns on the Caps Lock.

It's annoying, and Matias is ready to produce a revision without the problem, but they have to sell out of the first production first. I'll still take Tactile Pro with occasional stray keys over rubber-dome any day, but Das Keyboard might be interesting as well.

Posted by: Matt at 11:13 AM on 20 April 2006

I am, at best, a slightly-better-than-indifferent typist; at least part of the issue is the inability to adapt to new keyboards. (The first few days of my annual road trip, during which I'm back on my notebook exclusively, are frustrating, at least from the standpoint of producing text without having to go back and remove half a dozen typos per paragraph.)

Posted by: CGHill at 5:21 PM on 20 April 2006

i think i'll wait for the optimus...

Posted by: hatless in hattiesburg at 6:10 PM on 20 April 2006

Bingo Baby! Circa '88 for my current home KB. Somewhere around '90 for my office copy. Several stashed aside. A trip planned to grab "a few more" (the last of which cost me $5 per).

Oh, can't leave out a gentle chiding of the boss when I heard he had tossed one out that had finally stopped working ... "Parts Dude!" (I personally believe the XP box simply refused to accept the input of such and antiquated item).

The last, and only after market version that had the same feel? It quit after just two years.

Posted by: Mel at 8:13 PM on 20 April 2006

The IBM kbd must be of the vintage to have the function keys on the left end rather than across the top. I'm still using an early 90s Keytronic aftermarket job with no WTF keys, but with TWO sets of function keys - left and top. That was a blessing when I was cursing about having to unlearn/relearn...

And I actually have a new, still in the original packaging, IBM. Has the funky detactable coiled cord and all. I figure it must be worth a king's ransom for museum purposes. Make me an offer...

Posted by: Winston at 6:18 AM on 21 April 2006