[clug] [OT] quest for keyboards

Lana Brindley lanabrindley at gmail.com
Mon Feb 1 15:54:22 MST 2010

2010/2/2 Andreas Bauer <baueran at rsise.anu.edu.au>:
> Dear List,
> Slightly OT, I know, but then again, a lot of hacking unites us in
> some sense, doesn't it?  I'm on a quest for the best keyboard I can
> get my hands on, and would like your opinion.
> Recently, I have read a lot about the Ubicomp and Das Keyboard models,
> which use a buckling spring, which, supposedly, makes typing quite an
> experience.  Unfortunately, their price (and (un)availability) prevent
> me from just giving them a try. (> 150 AUD for a keyboard, come on!)
> In recent years I have been quite satisfied with MS Natural Keyboards,
> but despite their comfortable layout, the keys themselves have little
> to no "clicking point"/resistance.
> So, what keyboards can you recommend for someone who types *a lot*,
> where did you buy yours?  Also, if you do happen to have an old IBM
> Model M lying around that is unused, I'd be willing to pay a
> reasonable price for it (not AUD 150 :-), just to see if those
> buckling springs do make a difference.  Are there modern keyboards
> using springs?
> Many thanks for some pointers and hints already,
> Andi.

Ah, a topic dear to my heart!

When I first started writing for a living, a was using standard
Microsoft corded keyboards, which were fine if you didn't mind having
to buy a new one every three months or so (which I did for a while,
until the novelty wore off). Then I switched to a standard Logitech
wireless desktop, and that one lasted nearly a year. I got another
one, which lasted about the same amount of time before I got tired of
replacing batteries, but it's still alive and in use (albeit in a
significantly reduced capacity, and with all the letters worn off).
The one I bought after that had awful connectivity issues (it used to
skip a keystroke every so often, which, when you type as much as I do,
is massively annoying). It got relegated to a cupboard and thus began
the search for a *really awesome* keyboard.

I'd heard wonderful things about DAS, Model M's, and the like. I tried
a couple, and discovered a couple of things about myself. The tactile
feedback on the buckling springs is great - you definitely know that
you've hit a key, but it's also a bit like being hit in the head with
a cricket bat every time, it gets a little distracting. But it seems
that I'm inherently lazy, and the amount of effort required to push
each key was quite wearing. I tried to imagine how my fingers would
feel after 8 hours of that straight, and felt like a needed a lie-down
after just thinking about it.

I considered switching to Dvorak (and still might, but the learning
curve frightens me). There are keyboards being made today that use
buckling springs, as well as lots of other neat ideas, but price
becomes a real sticking point on just about anything that shiny. I
looked at those marvellously shaped ones to help RSI issues, but price
*and* a learning curve made my shy away. I spoke to all my writer
friends (especially those ones using Linux). And do you know where I
ended up? Apple.

I ended up buying a standard corded aluminium keyboard for less than
$50 from the MAC1 store at ANU, and it's a thing of beauty. It has a
short travel, but just enough tactile feedback that you know you've
pressed the key. It is very quiet, which is lovely since I do a lot of
my best work early in the morning when the house is still and everyone
else asleep. I find myself concentrating on what's flowing out on the
screen, rather than what my fingers are doing. My typing speed has
(incredibly) increased since switching over. It's corded, so none of
the wireless problems I experienced with the Logitech, and no
batteries to replace. You could also use it as a pretty serious
weapon, if the Zombie Apocolypse arrives while you're busy typing. The
drawbacks? Just one ... now when I use my old scissor-action Logitech
on my other machine, my fingers feel tired ... ;)

I did have just one problem with the Apple about six months after I
bought it, where a circuit in the thing died. They replaced it under
warranty though, and I had a new one within a week, without any
hassles though.

Oh, and it has a usb port in the side. Don't know about you, but I
think that's awesome!

Best of luck with your hunt. I'll be interested to hear how you go :)


Cheers! Lana

Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realise it's
just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into
  - David Sedaris


Please avoid sending me Word, Powerpoint or Windows Media attachments.

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