In search of the perfect keyboard
DEEP IN THE RECESSES OF THE INTERNET, AN OBSESSIVE SEARCHES FOR THE PERFECT KEYBOARD.
IWAS GIVEN MY first PC back in the early ’90s when Microsoft’s Windows was still in its infancy. In those days, a computer was still a luxury which had less RAM than my fitness tracker that I usually forget to wear.
There was nothing truly standout about it other than the fact that it ran on Windows 3.1, had a floppy disk drive and the keyboard which despite being on the chunky side was satisfyingly comfortable to use.
The keys had sculpted tops and when I pressed them they resisted my fingers and made a somewhat substantiative click, attempting to replicate the tactile feedback that typists were accustomed to.
The entire keyboard was satisfyingly substantial – it weighed several times as much as an entire Macbook – and I could adjust the angle at which it rested on my desk.
As someone who writes for a living, it should come as no surprise that I’ve always loved typing but I especially loved typing on that keyboard.
While I enjoyed typing on my keyboard – a Model M – there are many who would argue that despite being the forefather of modern keyboards, the Model M did not beat the typing experience on the infamous Model F.
A reviewer for Byte in 1982 wrote that the original PC’S keyboard – the Model F was “a delight to use” and was, “bar none, the best keyboard on any microcomputer”.
The judgement still holds in the opinion of surprisingly many keyboard obsessives, of whom there are surprisingly many. From the early ’80s their keyboards largely evolved in opposite directions: computers rapidly became almost unimaginably more powerful, while keyboards increasingly stank.
The main distinguishing feature of the Model F, by comparison with the vast majority of keyboards today, was that pressing a key actuated a springloaded mechanical switch rather than flattening a squishy silicone pillow.
Nowadays, even supposedly highend keyboards often seem to have been designed more for how they look than for how they function: they’re skinny shingles covered with flat, Scrabble-tile-shaped keys, which have so little “travel” that when you type you feel almost as though you’re drumming your fingers on your desk. The difference between one of those and a Model F is as great as the difference between a toy piano and a Steinway concert grand.
Luckily for the obsessed, high-quality keyboards have made a comeback, driven by gamers, programmers, coders and other power users. Small and smallish manufacturers now sell keyboards with mechanical key switches, programmable layouts, ergonomic shapes and other tantalising features. Members of online forums (pimpmykeyboard. com, for example) endlessly debate the merits of competing keyboard designs and they discuss their own collections with the lunatic intensity of car fanatics.
Although the Model F is no longer on the market, there are dozens if not thousands, of possibilities for its replacement.
Here are a few our staff have used and loved.
DIE-HARD KEYBOARD fans will most likely protest the use of Bluetooth keyboards but I have multiple devices which I swap between many times a day: my smartphone, tablet and computer or laptop.
As more people begin to do exactly this and switch between devices, the desire to trim accessory clutter becomes a necessity.
Logitech’s K810 Bluetooth keyboard has the ability to pair with up to three devices and it’s slim enough to fit in your laptop or tablet sleeve.
It’s backlit and has an internal rechargeable battery which can last up to a month on a single charge.
Travel between keys is pretty shallow but, by using a variation on the scissor switches found in similar chiclet-style keyboards, Logitech’s been able to better distribute the force of a keystroke across the entire key which gives it a more accurate typing experience.
You definitely won’t experience the same crisp tactile feedback and full keystrokes as on a mechanical keyboard but you’ll be comfortable using the K810 in a pinch.
The elusive buckling-spring key switch came standard with 1981 IBM PCS. Now they’re all but impossible to find.
Cost R810 (Brendon Petersen) Logitech K810