Waxing nostalgic about keyboards

IBM, Apple, Swype, Logitech keyboards

When I first learned to type it was on a type writer! A manual, slam-the-keys type writer. After writing a paper on one of these things your finger muscles positively bulged and your wrists were sweating. It was a cardio work-out!

Then came computers and the venerable IBM keyboards. You know the ones, that were more likely to break the floor than break themselves if they fell off the desk. The clack-clacking (no dainty clicking on those keyboards) was the soundtrack to a generation of programmers.

Of course there were other keyboards but the standard was the off-white, weighed-a-ton IBM keyboard.

I’ve gone through lots of keyboards in my time since I got into computers. Whether I was programming or writing a paper, there was always the keyboard.

Don’t get me wrong, the swype-style keyboard on my smartphone is amazing – when it’s not censoring what I type – and I can’t believe I once thought I had to have a hardware keyboard on my phone to be productive.

But as walked around a local electronics retailer recently I noticed all the laptops on display had horrible keyboards! And for that I blame Apple! If there’s one thing I hold against them it’s how their popularity has driven competitors to copy their look even when the end-result is horrible functionality.

The laptop I type this on has a chiclet style keyboard (actually this was the type of keyboard first seen on cheap personal computers like the original Sinclair and Atari computers). It drives me nuts! It just doesn’t feel right. Of course it allows the keys to be smaller, which is fine if you have small fingers.

But my fingers are not dainty! I can’t hit the ESC key without hitting the F1 (and often F2) keys at the same time. And don’t get me started on that arrow pad that looks like it belongs on a game controller.

I have a Logitech wireless keyboard at home and full-sized keyboard at work. But by the very nature of laptop I’m not often sitting at a desk with it. Why can’t all the keys on my laptop have a decent size, that can comfortably hit with my finger while touch-typing. And not suddenly end-up in a help-page or refreshing the web page that contained my expertly crafted and witty oration on some else’s pathetic commentary.

So I challenge someone out there to defy Apple and make a laptop with keyboard that looks like a keyboard, sounds like a keyboard, and doesn’t jam three keys into the space where only one belongs!

Rant over. Carry-on. Nothing more to see here.

Cross-posted on Schultzter’s Blog

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