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25 Years of the Model M

Jul 07, 2010, 22:04 (4 Talkback[s])

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"The IBM Model M keyboard is a time traveler. You might be slightly surprised to see one on a friend's desk, as if it might foreshadow by only a few minutes the naked arrival of a Sarah Connor-hungry Arnold Schwartzenegger. Like the Terminator, the existence of a Model M today is an anachronism. In the recent past, the world used computer parts made by people in different places instead of receiving the entire trough on the slow boat from China. It still mattered more what a computer did than what it looked like. Manufacturers presumed you cared that their products last longer than a year. Trying to mend computer hardware instead of rebuying it wasn't an entirely quaint and hilarious waste of time. From such a time the Model M has traveled.

"The very notion that computer hardware that began its tour of duty in the mid-1980s is still useful today seems improbable. It seems even more improbable that such surviving hardware would have moving parts. But it is, and it does. You can plug a Model M from 1987 into just about any modern computer with a PS/2 port, and it will just work. Don't worry, you'll already know how to use it; keyboards haven't changed very much since 1987. Only very recently has the availability of a PS/2 port on a computer become rare. Keyboards with USB interfaces (aka "Human Input Devices", ugh) are replacing these very quickly. But, at least for now, USB-to-PS/2 adapters are commonplace, cheap, and effective. And, as we'll see, one can even buy a Model M with a USB interface instead of a PS/2 one these days too. More on that a little later though."

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