If you type, find a keyboard you like

Here’s a bit of a nonsense question: could you make your life better by listening to some old guy complain about modern technology? Normally, the answer would be an unequivocal “No” but keyboards are a bit of a special case.

Manual typewriter

I learned how to type in about 1965 on a precision-made German typewriter, and since going digital in the late ’80’s have used a wide variety of keyboards.

Back in 1990, a good computer keyboard cost about $250, adjusted for today’s money. What you got for your money was a tough, precision input device with high-quality ALPS switches that gave excellent tactile feedback, molded keys that guided your fingers, and in general a device for easy, accurate typing.

The keyboard that came with your computer today is a molded piece of plastic with an array of switches consisting of a rubber membrane with bumps on it, and crappy keycaps that never strike the same way twice. It cost about five dollars in today’s money. It’s a prime example that cheaper, is often no bargain.

“But wait,” you say: “I have an expensive laptop! Surely it has a better keyboard!” And you’re right: it is a little better than the molded plastic commodity $5 keyboard.

High quality mechanical switch keyboard

Luckily, thanks to the gaming industry, you can buy an even better keyboard today than you could get in 1990. Lay out somewhere from $100 to $300, and you can get exactly the switches, key caps, and frame you want for a great keyboard that’s a pleasure to type on. You can configure them for Mac or PC too. You can get exactly what you want.

Switches are available in linear, tactile, and clicky styles, with varying degrees of resistance. Keycaps are available in different colors and styles. You can even get keycaps with pawprints on them, or made like jewelry, or with anime characters.

I bought a Durgod Tenkeyless board, selected the Cherry ‘brown’ switches, plugged it in, and my typing accuracy is headed back where it was in the ’90’s. A source of irritation in my life is now resting in the electronics recycle box. Thanks, gaming industry!

NOTES

  • The Switch is the heart of a good mechanical keyboard. Here’s an excellent discussion of keyboard switches: Dygma.com – The Ultimate Guide to Mechanical Switches for 2020!
  • I always use long passwords, and find that I almost never need to re-type them when using a high-quality keyboard. Junk keyboards have poor tactile feedback and tend to cause error.
  • Technically, I’m not complaining about ‘modern’ technology here, because mechanical keyboards have just gotten better and better since the ALPS switch days. I’m complain about cheaply-made technology.
  • A ‘tenkeyless’ board is one without a number pad. There are assorted versions of these, some more compact than others. The keyboard I use has no number pad, but is otherwise a conventional layout with an inverted-T arrow segment. The nice thing about using a separate number pad is you can place it where you want, and center the main keyboard precisely for comfort.