The Keyboard Cult

As a guy who spends most of his day typing words on a screen, it's hard for me to take touch computing seriously. I love my iPhone 4, and smartphones are the ultimate utility belt item, but attempting to compose any kind of text on the thing is absolutely crippling. It is a reasonable compromise for a device that fits in your pocket … but that's all.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

If you like your function keys on the left, the way God intended them to be, you want the Avant Stellar. I have two; they are both over ten years old and going strong.

I’ve gotten hooked on the TypeMatrix keyboard. The layout is slightly different, with the enter backspace, and delete keys in the middle of the keyboard. It takes about a week to get used to, but the payoff is worth it. My wrists feel great and my typing speed is up.

love this post. would also be interested to hear your thoughts on the humble mouse? am finding the lack of precision available on touch devices to be equally crippling to productivity and creativity.

Agree with poster #2 about natural/ergonomic keyboards. I would absolutely use one over any straight-line keyboards. I have a Microsoft Natural 4000, and love it love it love it.

The no-keycaps Das Keyboard is actually really useful for visual people who dislike qwerty. My wife, for example, types in Dvorak (as I do), but seeing keys with qwerty keycaps seriously confuses her, so on her laptop, she actually pulled out the keys and swapped them around to be Dvorak layout. With a no-keycaps keyboard, you won’t even have to bother. (She can touch-type well enough, so, not having the keycaps is no impediment.)

I on the other hand, aren’t quite so visual, so I can easily disregard the keycaps. In that regard, I have more options as far as which keyboards to pick. :slight_smile:

I’m going to second Kent on the Avant Stellar, I have one and it’s quite impressive. I’m surprised it wasn’t in the epic thread there, considering it’s a pretty popular mechanical keyboard.

However, I type 120 WPM, and I have typed on both a Das and an Avant Stellar, and I currently prefer the Das. There are some things that are better about the Avant Stellar, though–injection-molded keys, for one.


That’s honestly the main thing keeping me from going straight mechanical… the lack of an ergonomic mechanical keyboard.

If the MS Nat 4000 came out with buckling spring keys, I’d shell out $300+ for it, easy.

Until then, I’ll just have to wait and drool over the Razer Black Widow Ultimate

I have a Topre Realforce at work and a Das Model S (cherry brown) at home. Initially, I wasn’t really feeling the Realforce and absolutely loved the Das Model S. Every single key I type on the Realforce is shifting this balance, though. It’s just so… different. Individual keystrokes combine into a rolling wave of tactile beauty. I don’t know how else to explain it.

It’s a shame Topre doesn’t market their products better.

I love my tulip keyboard. It is over 20 years old now. Similar to the old ibm keyboards but not quite as loud. Gets used all day everyday, and still works just the same as it did when it was new. Doesn’t look so new!

Razer blackwidow gaming keyboards are mechanical. Haven’t used one myself but I gave it a whirl at best buy and it had a good feel.

You guys who want ergonomic, check out the Kinesis line:

I’ve been using an Advantage for 5 years now, and I won’t touch another keyboard (I own two – at $300, it’s inexpensive for a real professional’s tool).

Besides the beautiful mechanics, the layout is ingenious. Also hardware re-programmable (remap + macro).

I must be a crappy programmer because I don’t quite type fast. Since when has any programming language follow a qwerty flow? What’s the longest keyword? I hate the clicky sounds of keyboards. I would love a silent keyboard. Also touch screen keyboards can be good, but you will never know if you stick with Apple since they don’t let you choose your keyboard.

I has a Unicomp bucking spring keyboard that I bought in 2003 or 4. Its loud, made in the USA, and weights around 5 pounds. I love it.

I use a Matias Tactilepro V3 on my Mac at home (and have a spare just in case they stop manufacturing it, as they did with the V1):
I rotated my old V1 Tactilepro to my office. Some keycaps are fading on the V1, but the V2 is laser-engraved.
For Mac users, it’s pretty much the only game in town.

I’m typing this on a real IBM classic - they puzzled at work when I brought in my unicomp “you’re the only person who has ever brought in his own keyboard” I just smile - I have a stash of Unicomp/IBMs, with both PS2 and USB interfaces - sigh

I actually have a 1993 IBM Model M stashed under my desk now. I don’t use it because it’s way too loud. I get complaints about the sound of my typing even with a membrane keyboard because I mash the keys pretty hard when I touch type, and I touch type pretty quick. I’d feel as if the neighbors could hear me. Maybe I should check into the Das Keyboard Pro Silent model.

I did use the Model M at my last job where I had my own private office. Since I kept my door open and the programmer pit wasn’t that far from me, they still commented on the sound. Handily, the Model M has a steel backplate that also doubles as a bullet shield and offensive weapon should the need arise.

I am actually sitting in front of an 1987 IBM keyboard here. No stupid Windoze keys for me.

Also got a 1986 Cherry here. Took it apart a few weeks ago because I spilled tea over it, and didn’t yet find the time to put it back together to look if it’s still working.

One of the side benefits of working for IBM is that you can find as many IBM Model M keyboards as you want if you know the right places to look. I have about 10 of them (spares for the future) stashed under my desk at work. They work fine with PS2->USB converters. I even found one that has a trackpoint built into it!

On the ergonomic question … I used to get carpal tunnel problems from typing. Then I discovered the real problem was the cheap rubber dome keyboards. I have not used anything but my trusty Model M’s for the last 5 years and have had no problems. I chalk it up to the tactile feedback of the buckling spring keyswitch allowing me to type with less impact. On a dome keyboard you have to press the key all the way down to guarantee the keystroke registers, so you hit bottom. With the buckling spring keyswitch you know it will register as soon as the key is down far enought to get through that initial resistance.

There are ergonomic mechanical keyboards. I have one in the closet right behind me (along with over a dozen other mechanical keyboards). Now, the “high class” ergonomic keyboards can be expensive (IBM M15 goes for >$800, Cherry MX5000 goes for >$200, Kinesis >$150, Maltron >$400), but you can find the Chicony KB-7000 and rebranded versions of it for very cheap; mine was only $56, and has clicky white Alps switches.

But I dare you ergonomic fans to try a high-end Cherry-switch keyboard (doesn’t mean manufactured by Cherry; just using their switches), even if it isn’t ergonomic. I guarantee you’ll love it.

I’m a big of Filco ten keyless keyboards. … Mechanical is the only way to go.

Here’s my current setup: