Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Ultimate Keyboard #1

Today's market is flooded with many different models of rubber-dome1 keyboards. They come packed with (more or less useless) features such as media buttons, miniature LCD screens, backlights, glow-in-the-dark labels, built-in USB hubs and more. While some of these features have a limited usefulness, they're just bells and whistles2 added to make you feel you've been given more for your money (I call them 'geek magnets'). Who cares about the extra features, if typing itself is a joke? For example, I'm using a Logitech Internet 350 keyboard at work and it's disgustingly soft. The weight of a finger alone is sometimes enough to push a key. Shame on you, Logitech!

However, it wasn't always like that. Keyboards like the IBM Model M and Northgate OmniKey used buckling springs or micro switches which allowed for excellent tactile feedback as well as a much longer lifetime. Infact, many of them are still in use today which says a lot about build quality.

As a kid I learned to type on my mother's Peacock XT back in 1985. It had an excellent eighty-four key clicky keyboard and I learned to associate that clicky noise & feel with quality and sturdiness. When I got my first 486 PC about 10 years later, it unfortunately came with a cheap Cherry rubber-dome keyboard. I was stuck on those until late 2006 when I re-discovered IBM Model M. Immediately I went in search of one and in January 2007, Martin of Cyberpipe kindly let me have a fairly recent Model M (1996) that was lying in their storage. Thanks again!

- end of part 1 -

1 The term rubber-dome is used here to describe both, rubber-dome as well as membrane contact keyboards.
2 Nonessential features or enhancements intended especially to add commercial appeal.