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LinuxPlanet: .comment: The Search for a Truly Great Keyboard

Feb 07, 2001, 14:44 (44 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dennis E. Powell)

"Computer makers, and makers of computer upgrades, go to a lot of trouble to produce very high quality monitors, some really nifty trackballs (which would be even better if they'd bother to produce Linux-specific drivers; for instance, my Kensington Expert Mouse would be a lot cooler if its programmable buttons were programmable under Linux), and all sorts of other wonderful stuff. But the area that's largely left behind is the one most in need of attention, because it is the one thing with which we all must deal: The keyboard."

"And that's a shame. Keyboards are probably replaced more frequently than any other piece of hardware. They get full of all kinds of crud and corruption -- it takes a strong stomach, sometimes, do disassemble and clean one of the things -- and none is really happy for long if swimming in Coca Cola or coffee. No, those keyboard condom things aren't the answer -- they destroy the sensation. Face it: Keyboard replacement is something that happens and is going to happen. And face, too, the fact that the aftermarket keyboard supply is just terrible, unless you want to go hunting in extraobvious places. The standard replacement keyboard at local clone shops or computer stores is so flimsy that you can grab each end and by applying just a little torsional force reduce it to shards of flimsy plastic usually found elsewhere only in packaging materials. (Yes, there are now weirdly-shaped keyboards, and "Internet" keyboards; a few years ago there was a thing that looked like a mouse or a flight simulator throttle quadrant that had a few buttons, the idea being that by properly chording the buttons you could do everything you could do with a regular keyboard. All of these are [and were] relatively expensive, gimmicky, and in the final analysis beside the point.)"

"In the early days, keyboards were solid pieces of machinery. The original IBM-PC keyboard was a heavy and serious thing, albeit with just 84 keys. I have one in the other room, awaiting discovery of a cable that will attach it to a machine that wants an AT keyboard. You can find IBM PC-ATs all over the place, but one with its original keyboard will bring three times the price, because they keyboards themselves are so good that people have lovingly maintained them and have kept them when upgrading their other hardware. The IBM mainframe keyboards were even better -- also in the other room I have a huge and wonderful keyboard for an IBM terminal. This thing has all kinds of special-purpose keys, each sitting atop a switch that appears designed to survive nuclear attack. This Mighty Wurlitzer of a keyboard, alas, has defied all efforts to hook it up to a plain old PC."

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