Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Let's talk about keyboards.

I know it's not a computer hardware forum, but since most of us type all day, I think it's fairly relevant.

What are your guys' keyboard preferences?  Myself, I prefer IBM Model M's- the classic, heavy, built-like-a-tank, "clicky" keyboards of years past.  They make a huge racket while you type, but they're an abosute pleasure to type on.

What's crucial to their appeal is the clickiness itself- it makes typing very precise because you know <I>exactly</I> when the keystroke has registered, as opposed to today's flimsy, mushy $10 keyboards where you mash the key down and hope for the best.

Lately I've been thinking of trying some of the keyboards like the lighted Eluminix keyboards, which are basically fullsize laptop keyboards with very short key travel distance.  Those might be nice to type on too, because they have a nice, precise feel as well (in a totally different way than the Model-Ms).

Are there any modern keyboards which have anything close to the feel of a Model-M?  Every keyboard I see in the store today is a flimsy piece of lightweight crap with varying numbers of "helpful" multimedia keys plastered stuck all over them.

John Rose
Friday, January 9, 2004

I am with you on this one. I prefer Dell's older beige keyboards. I have about three of them new in the box because people at work want their ergonomic mush. I too like feedback when I type and there is some ego in there to let everyone know how fast I can type. :)

Friday, January 9, 2004

I have an original Microsoft Natural Keyboard.  Very nice key feel and it's friggin' huge. 

All the new keyboards are too soft and at new "Natural" keyboards tend to have strange key layouts for arrows and navigation keys.

Almost Anonymous
Friday, January 9, 2004

i like the microsoft natural... currently using MS Natural Multimedia 1.0A.

it took some time getting used to the funky big delete key, but other than that it's fine.  and other people can still hear how fast you type.  :)

Friday, January 9, 2004

It's the clicky feel rather than the clicky noise that I like about the Model-Ms, but the clicky noise is a nice side effect.  Not a good keyboard to use in the bedroom while your significant other is sleeping, though.  :P

I notice that with today's mushy keyboards, people tend to pound the hell out of them as they type, because there's no feedback at all.  The irony is that, with a loud keyboard with nice feedback, you actually can type with a much lighter touch.

When I go from a nice clicky keyboard to one of those mush-fests, my typing accuracy is horrible. 

John Rose
Friday, January 9, 2004

Ah....I hanker after old IBM keyboards which had that satisfying "resistance and give"  when one clicked a key...although I do admit they mad a wee bit more noise.

Nowadays I type on a Logitech keyboard. Not bad...but not like those old IBM keyboards either.  In the rush to cut costs  no one cares about things like keyboard ergonomics nowadays although I find it ironic that even for things Palm's and Pocket PC's where people assumed one would never need a real keyboard there is a good business in having keyboard attachments for such devices

Code Monkey
Friday, January 9, 2004

I second the beige Dell "QuietKey" keyboard: it has initial resistance, so that by the time you press a key hard enough to get the travel started you can't help but be pressing it hard enough to finish. It's not a whole lot quieter than an old IBM keyboard.

Christopher Wells
Friday, January 9, 2004

I've plugged it here before and I'll probably plug it here again, but I <heart> my Happy Hacking Lite 2.  It's relatively loud -- not quite on the level of the old IBM clickers, but has a similar feel and, of course, it's tiny enough that I can carry the USB version with me if I'll be using another computer.  Try putting the IBMs in your backpack.  ;>

Sam Livingston-Gray
Friday, January 9, 2004

If you want a proper IBM clacky keyboard try
I love mine.

Peter Ibbotson
Friday, January 9, 2004

IBM Model "M" all the way, baby.

I've tried a few MS Natural keyboards over the years, but they don't seem to last long for some reason. My fingers hit some keys (left shift in particular, for some reason) on the very edge of the key and not in the middle, and the MS keyboards tend to start baulking after a while.

Andrew Lighten
Friday, January 9, 2004

I started using the Microsoft Natural as soon as they were introduced, and I've never seen one fail.  I like the feel too.  I used the old IBM one before the MS.  With all that resistance and deep key-travel, I'm astounded that you don't have terrible RSI pain.

I recently switched to the Kinesis Advantage Pro, and it feels terrific.  One unexpected benefit is that my mouse is now 2 inches from my hand, not a keypad away.  (I try not to use the mouse, but these days, it's hard not to have to reach for it occasionally.)  It's takes a while to adjust... especially if you bounce between that and a laptop keyboard daily.  But I'm getting used to the changes (3 weeks now) and my typing speed is climbing back to where it was.  I'll probably remap a few multi-key sequences that are simply too awkward with the Kinesis, but that's a small price to pay for comfort and health.

Other people freak when they sit at my desk, but I just dicovered that I can keep my old keyboard plugged in simultaneously, and offer that one to visitors.

Friday, January 9, 2004

"If you want a proper IBM clacky keyboard try
I love mine."

You probably know this, but FYI for everybody else... the company linked above is the current owner of IBM's patented "buckling spring" technology that made their clicky keyboards so... clicky.  So, if you want a new keyboard like that, that's the only place to go.

Of course, if you want a used keyboard like that, you can often find Model M's for next to nothing.  No matter how old they are, they're practically like new.

John Rose
Friday, January 9, 2004

"In the rush to cut costs  no one cares about things like keyboard ergonomics nowadays "
Yeah.  It's a shame.  I took one of my Model M's apart to clean it, and the construction was amazing.  The keys are mounted on a thick, arched piece of solid steel that's responsible for 99% of the keyboard's weight.  That slab of metal was just... pretty damn impressive.

Take an average keyboard, and press a single key down as hard as you can.  There's a significant amount of flex- you'll see the other keys sagging as well.  On a Model-M, that simply does not happen.

John Rose
Friday, January 9, 2004

I've been using kinesis keyboards since 1998. they rule.

Friday, January 9, 2004

I've been using digitalPersona's keyboard and am quite happy with it.  It's a pleasure to type on, unlike the piece of junk Dell keyboard that preceded it, and the built-in fingerprint biometric device is quite convenient so I can be HIPAA compliant and set the screen-lock timeout to a short period of time without it driving me nuts having to retype my password many times each day.

Matt Latourette
Friday, January 9, 2004

Microsoft Natural

Stephen Jones
Friday, January 9, 2004

For some odd reason, I've always wanted one of those 3270 keyboards from

Flamebait Sr.
Friday, January 9, 2004

I have one of the original Microsoft Natural Pro keyboards I got off eBay... the arrow keys are in the right arrangement and everything!

It's been several weeks and I still can't get used to it, though.  But my wrists hurt less...

Grumpy Old-Timer
Friday, January 9, 2004

I miss the old keyboards too.  Wish they'd put the function keys back on the left side of the keyboard, too, where they belong.

two bit
Friday, January 9, 2004

A year ago I switched to a Kinesis Pro from standard keyboard and never want to go back.  It makes touch typing truely a fingertip experience and significantly reduced my wrist strain during extended typing sessions.

Scot Doyle
Friday, January 9, 2004

Another thing I like is that when pressing a key, the keyboard makes an electronic clicking sound when the key is partially depressed.  This aural feedback eliminates the need to fully depress the key and feel it stop.  Therefore when using fingertips, I am not "abusing" them by having the key come to a sudden stop when fully depressed.

Scot Doyle
Friday, January 9, 2004

The two best keyboards I've ever used:

IBM Model M (using this now)
Original MS Natural (I have tons of them because they are no longer made)

Friday, January 9, 2004

I'm the owner of a Kinesis and I have mixed feelings.  The upside is that it makes very nice use of your thumbs and some keys which are commonly used (ctrl, alt, backspace) are within easier reach.  Overall I prefer typing with it.

But given the price of the keyboard, the problems I've had are numerous.  From the start it's a bit disappointing as the keys have a very standard, cheap feel to them.  Definitely not high end.  The arched shape of the keyboard makes it impossible to fit in some desk keyboard trays.  Due to the non-standard layout it makes using some applications very difficult, for example: Warcraft 3.  The way they handled the numeric keypad isn't as smooth as it could have been.

I can't recommend this over any other decent keyboard, and I would not buy one again.

Friday, January 9, 2004

A guy I work with has a MS Natural keyboard and has worn off all the letters printed on the keys. I hate it when I have to use it because the damn B key is on the wrong side for the way I type.

I'm not that picky but I do prefer the old Dell or IBM keyboards and have a couple stashed away. I use a laptop and plug in an external keyboard. (clacky clack clack clack....)

Friday, January 9, 2004

i use a trackball and character map.

Friday, January 9, 2004

Vince wins.

John Rose
Friday, January 9, 2004

I really like my model M. Great feel.

Recently though, last several months, I've started having some aching wrists. I've switched to a kinesis board, and they've not been getting worse (slowly better, in fact). Worth every penny, even if it is $250. The keys are not quite as nice as an IBM, but they are better than or at least as good as any 'new' keyboard I've ever typed on.

I still swap in my model M for games, though. The kinesis is great for touch typing, but it's really not for games 8-}

Mike Swieton
Friday, January 9, 2004

One thing I can't stand on the new MS wireless keyboards is how function keys are (by default) turned off. I suspect this "feature" is on all new MS keyboards. You have to hit f-lock to get the F keys working again. Very annoying.

But in the office I have a nice Cherry brand keyboard, with keys that spring back and make a nice click when you tap them, but not too loud to annoy typists of lesser ability :-)

Friday, January 9, 2004

Previously: Northgate Omnikey Ultras, with function keys down the left-hand side and the control key on the home row (they provided extra keycaps for exactly that purpose).  Solid steel construction.  Heavy.  Spring keys, not membranes.  Clickity.

Currently: Avant Stellars, with function keys down the left-hand side and the control key on the home row (they provided extra keycaps for exactly that purpose).  Solid steel construction.  Heavy.  Spring keys, not membranes.  Clickity.

The Stellar manufacturer licensed the Omnikey design, so the feel is pretty much the same.  But the Stellar allows you to remap keys arbitrarily (instead of just control/caps swapping via dip switch, which the Omnikeys had); and it comes with "Windows" keys that I can use for extra modifiers under X.

It is far easier to hit ALT-Fn combinations with the Alt key in the bottom-left corner, and the function keys in columns to the left.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Thanks for the PCkeyboard link, that brings back memories of my wonderful cast-iron IBM keyboard that required keystrokes as if you were pounding in nails, and responded with an earth-shattering *CLICK* to each one!

I've long since defected due to, well, the intolerable noise level of these monsters. MS keyboards are pretty good generally, right now I'm on the Optical Desktop Elite.

Like the previous posters, I hate the off-by-default function keys and I don't like the rearranged cursor block. The programmable extra keys are great, though, and the scroll wheel on the keyboard is the best new keyboard feature since the number pad.

The one big problem is with the wireless technology. The mouse works fine but the keyboard frequently repeats keys unintentionally... anyone else seeing this?

Chris Nahr
Saturday, January 10, 2004

In order of preference:

1. Model M
2. Apple Macintosh Keyboards from the pre squishy keyboard era and the post apple II keyboard era.
3. Serial Terminals of the past.
4. Most unix workstation had nice keyboards, back in the days (Sun did well, SGI went clone keyboards for a while but were nice, DEC keyboards feel nice too)
5. Dell QuietKeys, they were cheap, and they were relatively quiet, and they had a somewhat nice feel.
6. I actually don't mind squishy keyboard, my first computer had to be the most squishy keyboard I have ever used (Packard Bell 286 clone) and I loved it never the less. It was at the very least, very quiet.

Li-fan Chen
Saturday, January 10, 2004

re: the f-lock being off by default in the newer MS keyboards

have a look at this link, it modifies the scancodes for the key, so in either state the key acts as an f-key (so you can effectively forget about the f-lock switch)

[ obviously it needs an operating system under it to work, so remember to switch on the f-lock when you need to get into the BIOS :) ]

Saturday, January 10, 2004
Saturday, January 10, 2004

"memories of my wonderful cast-iron IBM keyboard that required keystrokes as if you were pounding in nails, "

I actually think the IBM Model M's take less energy per keystroke.  At first they feel slightly stiffer, but after typing on one for a while you realize you're expending less energy per keystroke because the precise "click" lets you know exactly when your keystroke has registered.

Contrast this with the typical "mushy" keyboard where you have to hammer the key all the way down.  If you were to hammer the keys all the way down on a Model M, it would take more energy than a mushy keyboard, but... you don't.  :P

This is such a funny discussion topic.  In one sense, it's incredibly geeky and trival.  On the other hand, most of us type all day, so....

John Rose
Sunday, January 11, 2004

I find the whole "success when I hear the click" idea a little odd.  I know when I've typed something by whether it appears on the screen.  The sound hardly registers.  (Incidentally, my Kinesis by default produces a similar click sound electronically.  Thankfully, it's easy to disable.)

Also, touch-typists aren't really so much typing letters as much as typing *words* atomically.  Except for uncommon or unfamiliar words, I don't think about the letters any more than I think about flexing the last two joints of my ring finger 38 and 32 degrees (respectively) from neutral.  Typing "while" is a single complex action directed mainly by "muscle memory", with a binary outcome -- either a satisfying urge to type the left parenthesis, or a flurry of deletes.  The sound of "print" is almost identical to the sound of "while", so the sound can't help me much.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Regarding the "success when I hear the click" thing...  it's not even the audible click- it's the tactile FEEL of the click under your fingertips.  The sound is just a byproduct.  It's probably something you'd have to try for yourself to understand and potentially enjoy.  :D

John Rose
Sunday, January 11, 2004

I like the 'clicky keyboards' but sometimeas it can be a little irritating.

i do not however like the fact that the keys seem to be too close together, although i know where the keyare i seem to end up pressing slightly of and hitting the key next to it also, really i should just get more acurate but still.....keys should be a little bigger

a cynic's son writes...
Monday, January 12, 2004

I used to *love* my Apple IIgs keyboard.  It didn't have any F-keys, but it felt *right* back in the day.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, January 12, 2004

Speaking of hear a click, anyone remember typing on a real teletype? It was kind of like firing a .22 everytime you pressed a key.

Monday, January 12, 2004

I loved the "compact" Apple keyboard that came with the later Mac II models. I was also very surprized to like the Toshiba Tecra 8100 notebook keyboard.
I really dislike the Dell keyboards, and the Apple Powerbook line.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Ah... how I mis the old ASR 33 teletype terminals that we had attached to the PDP-8/M at the high school that I went to.  That was a keyboard.  ;)


Bill Tello
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Did any of you IBM Model M owners have trouble getting yours to work with Win XP?  I recently bought a Model M (new in box), but couldn't get it to work or find any drivers for that matter...  So if you could give me any tips as to how I can fix this problem I'd greatly appreciate it.  Thanks!

Friday, February 13, 2004


your email bounced.  This is what I would have sent to you:

Hi Colette.  I guess I don't understand your question - my backslash is right below the backspace key and above the enter key.  I have the MS Natural Multimedia Keyboard 1.0A as well, and I wouldn't think it'd be different for Canada...

If you can't find the key, you can also hold down ALT and type 092: \  That will produce a backslash as well.

Good luck with your wrists - mine are bad as well.


Monday, March 1, 2004

I've had many keyboards, thanks to my university selling old hardware to students cheaply. I have had dozens of omnikeys, dozens of IBM M's, and the first gen Microsoft keyboards. On top of that, i know quiet a few other mechanical keyboards.

The best, by far, is MCK-142 pro. It usually sells under a few different brand names with the same part number. I called the manufacturer and they are no longer making them. But at $100+ it's still around.

What's great about the MCK-142 pros is the ALPS key switches ( that's like Northgate omnikeys, or Avant of today) which is light but crisp, and the 24 programmable keys are godsend. All the programming is done in the keyboard hardware, and it can record all sorts of keys including backspaces, keyboard combo, etc. So you can program real long variable names, .sig, addresses, print statements, debug comments, or to launch a program. It boosts your productivity. Sure you can program phrases in software, but that's not gona be cross OS and cross application, right?

There used to be a seperate keypad you can buy to get this programming functions at about $30 but now they are gone and those CAD programmable keypads are very expensive.

I love the buckling springs of IBM but it's really a bit too much effort to type on them. The omnikeys have never been as cheap so not many people have used them. Today, I know several keybaords also use omnikey type ALPS switches: Focus 2001. Some of the BenQ/Acer "accufeel."

Also, NMB makes a mechanical switch keyboard that types differently. it's much less noisy of course the click is lighter but it's still mechanical.

I can go on and on about keyboards, but guess i'll stop here. i'm thinking about setting up a shop selling nothing but clicky mechanical keyboards.

Carol Chen
Thursday, June 24, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home