Comfortable keyboarding

It seems just like yesterday…

  • feet flat on the floor
  • hands on the home row
  • eyes on your copy
  • begin

Every typing class had those instructions at some point. Particularly in the beginning, we all typed keys at our typewriters at the same pace, driven by Mr. Renshaw who kept beat at the front of the classroom. We were loud; the noise from each key hitting the paper was loud and crisp.

I struggled that first term and got 65. Things got better and I was up in the 80s or 90s during the second and third terms. I guess I was a slow learner. But I still maintain that this was one of the best skills I ever learned and I use it daily today.

These days, I use a laptop for the most part and it’s OK. For serious work though, I sit at a desk where I have a full sized keyboard. You know, the type with function keys and embedded number pad. My current old faithful is starting to show its age and I’m looking for a replacement. It has survived a number of different laptops and desktops. It gets treated to some compressed air every now and again to clear out the dust and crumbs.

Unfortunately, it is white in colour or was when I bought it. It now has taken on whatever colour gets imparted by oils from my fingers and whatever food I happen to have been eating over top of it.

Over the years, I’ve used a number of different laptops. Some of these I’ve really liked; others not so much.

Likes

  • IBM Keypunch
  • Logitech Media Keyboard
  • IBM PS/2 Keyboard
  • Macbook Pro
  • Acer Chromebook keyboard

Not so much

  • Anything where I’m typing on glass
  • Every Apple external keyboard I’ve ever tried but, in fairness, I haven’t tried them all
  • A cheapo keyboard that was thrown in with a no-name computer
  • The ergo keyboard that splits and each half of the keyboard is on an angle

For the most part, the “Likes” had what I’ve learned to consider a standard keyboard (except the Macbook Pro) and the keys have a certain depth of travel when you press them.

The “Not so much” list all didn’t have the same feel to them. They often feel mushy to the touch and there isn’t much travel to the key. That short travel is a feature that modern laptops try for to make them slimmer. It hasn’t worked out well. Apple’s butterfly keyboard hit infamy for its problems.

So, I’ve done an extraordinary amount of research on this! The best keyboard I’ve ever used was the IBM PS/2 keyboard and I actually had one at home at one time. Sadly, it used one of those big rounded keyboard connectors that just aren’t used anymore, dropped in favour of wireless or USB.

I bought a wireless unit once but returned it as there was a bit of a lag between the keypress and it registering on my computer. When I’m typing along at a fair clip, that’s an annoyance that I don’t need.

For the most part, looking to purchase a keyboard after all this time is like being in a time warp. So much research has developed entire new technologies for something as seemingly simple as a keyboard. It reinforces the notion that one person’s preferences will differ from another’s and they’d both be right!

Sadly, stores that sell this type of product aren’t deemed to be essential services. Plus, even if they are opened anytime soon, I suspect that it will be months before product is unboxed, on shelves, for exploration. It seems that the only alternatives are to read the reviews and make a decision based on someone elses’s recommendations or to just hold off until things return to whatever our new normal will be.

Looking through the websites, there are so many options and another complete world of products. There’s a whole series of gaming keyboards made by major manufacturers. If I could only go into a store and just touch them and compare one to each other.

What to do, what to do, what to do…

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

4 thoughts on “Comfortable keyboarding”

  1. Good morning Doug!

    Ah, yes. Keyboards.

    For a good number of years now, I have use the wired Apple extended keyboard (with a wired Logitech mouse plugged into it) connected through a USB switch so that it can work my Mac, PC, and Raspberry Pi. It has the small chiclet-style keys common to Apple laptops, but dates from a time before their controversial keyboards. My MacBook Pro also dates from prior to that, so the two are consistent in feel and touch, although I rarely use the keyboard on the laptop these days. It sits vertically closed with the vents upwards to try and get as much heat out of the unit as possible. Not much call to disconnect it from the desk these days.

    Years back I favoured the Microsoft ergonomic keyboard with the swoopy wave of keys and the angled split in the middle. I remember they initially came with a PS/2 connector and later USB with a USB/PS2 adapter. It was dongles from Microsoft back then! During the Planner years, I had my Mac and two PCs connected up using KVM switches that ran off the MS ergonomic keyboard. Since USB has come along, most keyboards work with both platforms without and real issues.

    I’ve always appreciated keyboards with a number pad, and that is one of the reasons why I have stayed with the Apple extended keyboard for so long. When their initial wireless keyboards arrived, I tried one of those, but without the keypad, it just didn’t make as much sense to use as a regular desk unit. As well, there were the issues of potential lag and charging that come with wireless.

    Since 2015, Apple has sold a wireless Apple Magic Keyboard with keypad, and at the time I decided I would wait until they released one with a built-in Touch Bar (released at the same time on their laptops) rather than the function keys. However, it’s been six years and that hasn’t appeared on the market, and I’m guessing that the adoption of the Touch Bar has been such that the innovation may fade from the next MacBook Pro design. We should see later this year.

    If you have a Canada Computers nearby, they often have a very wide selection of keyboards available for testing. Both of my sons have gone through a “gaming keyboard selection” phase — The options in the gaming community are quantified and carefully defined so that you can dial in the characteristics of your keyboard (key travel, firmness, responsiveness, clickety-clackityness). That’s more detail than I need for typing and WASD gameplay.

    You may be interested, however, in a recent trend towards producing retro-style keyboards with round keys reminiscent of the old typewriters from many years back.
    They typically are black, with silver letters and a round raised silver lip on each key. They look wonderful! However, I know that I would not enjoy the large spaces between the keys. Although there’s no need to worry about two of the levers moving simultaneously and getting stuck like in the olden days, rectangular keys with limited space between them certainly seems to be a positive innovation that supports more consistent hits and fewer misses.

    Keep hitting those keys Doug!

    Like

  2. Doug,
    I happen to have a 17 year old who is that rare combination of touch typist and gamer. I’ll ask him about keyboards. Currently working on reports, which makes me ridiculously happy for my desktop.

    Like

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