Tuesday, November 07, 2006

the search for the ultimate keyboard

One occupational hazard I've had to deal with is being on the edge of carpal tunnel. My typing technique is pretty good, so I've been able to avoid it so far, but the laptop keyboard I've been using is doing me no favors. So I've started looking for a good external keyboard.

Trouble is, (a) I'm picky about keyboards, and (b) this machine requires a USB keyboard. I learned to type on manual typewriters, so I really like a keyboard with fairly long travel and a solid feel. My absolute favorite keyboard is an old IBM Model M (mine was made by Lexmark for IBM) that uses buckling spring technology. A co-worker described the feel as "crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside." It weighs a good 5 pounds, is designed to last a lifetime, and sounds like a machine-gun when I'm typing full blast, noisy enough to annoy those around me. It's also a PS/2 interface, so it would need an adapter. My second favorite is an old Gateway model Coppertop bought for me that was made by Maxi-Switch. It feels similar to the Model M but uses a different technology that's quieter. It's also PS/2.

What I really want is a full-sized keyboard that's quieter than the Model M, has a similar key feel, and has a USB interface so I don't have to go through large numbers of adapters and such. I haven't found it yet. PCKeyboard.com comes close, but they don't seem to combine their "enhanced quiet touch" stuff with a USB keyboard for United States use. (They also have one with a built-in mouse/track-point, but it's also buckling-spring only, or quiet touch but PS/2 only, with no indication they've quieted the buckling spring technology down any.) Cherry has a possible contender, but I'd definitely want to try it before buying it. Das Keyboard has an interesting "quiet" mechanical key switch technology, but not printing the letters on the key caps is, well, a little extreme for my tastes.

OK, I know it's weird to spend this much effort on a keyboard, but I expect to keep the thing for at least the next 20 years and use it for a lot of keypresses. It will probably go into the office with me as well (or I'll buy a second one). Anyway, the search continues.

Update: I got e-mail from the Das Keyboard folks saying they plan to sell a version with key labels. Also, Cherry indicated the Das Keyboard is a customized version of Cherry's G80-3000LQCUS-2, though I'm not sure how customized.

Update #2: see this follow-up post: the clickly keyboard rides again!

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