Sorry if this sounds somewhat like a tech-religious title, but I just got to thinking about how to type better, since I use the F1-F12 keys quite a bit, and just got fed up with using the ‘F-Lock’ key to enable them. (I currently own a Microsoft Office Keyboard). I began thinking that since I was going to change keyboards anyway, why not go all the way and get a mechanical keyboard? As you may or may not know, the majority of keyboards made today are of the rubber dome variety, and force your hands to work harder, since you have to bottom out the key before a letter (or character) appears on the screen. The particular keyboard I’m thinking of is comprised of individual switches for each key, complete with springs that buckle when pressed. At the instant the spring buckles, a character is produced on the screen. Since this method is so reliable, one can use one’s ears for audible feedback on when a character has been entered, and thus does not have to look at the screen to verify. There have been reports that typists can hit high speeds when using this keyboard. Which keyboard am I rambling on about, anyway? I wrote a review of it on geekhack.org, and I’ll summarize the relevant parts of it here:
I remember the classic “Model M” buckling spring keyboard, when I was in high school back in the mid-to-late 80′s. I was taking some business class (can’t remember the name of the class, been too many years ago). The machine was a PS/2, and the keyboard was, of course, a Model M. At the time, I didn’t give much thought to the sound the Model M makes as one types on it; I just thought that was the way the keyboard was supposed to sound. How little did I know how right I was (although I can definitely empathize with the people who complain about the noise; this keyboard is definitely not silent, although that’s the trade-off you made for choosing a great keyboard).
Since proficiency in coding and writing essays has become somewhat of a “holy grail” for me, I have since revisited the topic of keyboards. Some time ago, I started researching what makes a keyboard great, and have come away with the impression that IBM did it right almost 30 years ago — great tactile feedback via buckling springs, extremely durable construction, completely standardized layout, and operating system agnostic.
I use Linux (Slackware to be specific), and after great deliberation, have come to the conclusion that the Model M (and its successors) follow the UNIX philosophy: Do one thing, and do it well. The keyboard is, above all, meant to be a text entry device, whether you are using it to compose essays, write web pages, or for programming. No more, no less.
If you want a quick bit of history on the Model M, you can read it here.
Since IBM (and Lexmark) are no longer manufacturing keyboards, Unicomp (a subcontractor to Lexmark) purchased the rights to the Model M, and are manufacturing modern replicas of them. I took the liberty of ordering one. Warning: If you want a well-made keyboard, expect to pay more than the piddly $20 or so you would at Wal-Mart or similar retailers. This one cost 4x that, and I consider it a bargain.
Here’s a picture of the black beauty, in case any of you are interested:
For comparison’s sake, here’s a picture of the original IBM Model M:
Visually, they are quite similar, except for the brand name, color, connector (USB instead of PS/2), and other minor details.
Now, why did I not get a keyboard with the Windows key on them, you may ask? Because I despise the Windows key. I have never, in all my years of owning keyboards, make use of the Windows key. I despise Microsoft for taking the clean layout of the Model M, and messing it up. That is purely a subjective opinion; you make take it as you will.
I can’t wait to get mine in the mail, sometime this week!