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Thread: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

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    *Flashaholic* js's Avatar
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    Default The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    I started work here at Cornell's accelerator some 6 or so years ago now, and at the time, we still had some pretty old terminals in the control room. I'm no computer guru, so I can't say what they were, but they went with the VAX's and Alphas we use as servers, and the GUI was "X" (and still is). Along with these very old terminals came keyboards that were large, heavy, and wonderful! It was subtle, but definite, and after only a month or so, I realized that I loved typing on these keyboards that were in the control room. They had an action. They clicked. It was definite and decisive. I could look at the screen and type on the keyboard, and it all came out faster and more accurately than I had ever experienced before with either the PC or Mac keyboards I had used. In fact, the keyboard that was paired with the G3 Mac that also resided in the control room (the one I am typing on right now at this very moment) was decidedly AWFUL! No feel, easy to mistype, --just awful. I eventually came to a sort of truce with these awful Mac and PC keyboards, but I fell even more in love with the keyboards used with the terminals in the control room.

    Now, a good many years later I know why. But, before I get into that, let me say that we recently threw out our old terminals in favor of using PC's as emulators. And out with the terminals went the keyboards that I loved. And in with the PC's came the keyboards that I hate.

    Anyway, at some point last year, I ran across a review of the Matias Tactile Pro keyboard, which Matias said was essentially the Apple Extended Keyboard II resurrected, using the same Alps keyswitch technology. As you can imagine, I immediately lusted after one, but unfortunately, they were out of stock, and stayed that way for a long time. Plus, they were some $120 to $150, and my wife felt that I didn't need to spend that on just a "better" keyboard, when the one we have with our G4 works "just fine."

    So I waited, biding my time, thinking of ways to "sell" the purchase to my wife. Then just a few weeks ago, I decided to check out the situation to see if the Tactile Pro's were available, and I ran across this review of the Tactile Pro. In it, the reviewer isn't as glowing about the Tactile Pro as others. OK, well, fine, I thought. But then, reading the user comments down below, I saw that there were quality issues with the Tactile Pro, and that one guy had had to return three keyboards in a row. This coupled with the fact that the new Tactile Pro's (now called Tactile Pro 2.0) won't be using Alps keyswitch technology, made me start to think about other options.

    And, fortuitously, in that same review, people talked about using an Apple Extended Keyboard II with a Griffin iMate ADB to USB adaptor.

    And, interestingly enough, someone there also mentioned the webiste www.clickykeyboards.com which is devoted to the IBM Model M keyboards and those who love them. Turns out, that, yes indeed, I had been typing on IBM Model M keyboards in the control room all those years. Keyboards that many still claim today as the best keyboards ever made. No wonder I loved them!

    So, I let things be, deciding to think on the various options, when suddenly, at a church rummage sale my wife dragged me to, what should appear to my wondering eyes but an Apple Extended Keyboard II sitting on a table all by itself with some other defunct computer stuff. Holy Cow! Here it was. The legendary keyboard for . . . how much? No price tag. Took it up to the check out, and they thought for a second and said "how does $2 sound?" Sold. Would it work? Who knew. It seemed to be in decent condition. But for $2, it was worth a try.

    Next, though, I had to get an ADB cable and an iMate adaptor from eBay, which I did for a total cost of about $42 including shipping. That was OK, though, as I figured if it was a bad keyboard, I would suck it up and pay good money for a used one from eBay or lowendmac or wherever. (If you do a google you can turn these up for sale).

    One problem noted was that the iMate isn't supported for OS X 10.4 and higher, but since I run 10.3, I wasn't worried. (And it turns out that you can get this to work on Tiger. You just need to set the keyboard type to ANSI instead of ISO in System Preferences. Or something like this).

    Well, once I got everything together, I hooked it all up and fired it all up, and OMG! I agree! The Apple Extended Keyboard II IS indeed the best keyboard ever made. Or at least the best keyboard I have ever laid hands on. I love it. It is amazing. I swear I can type twice as fast now for the same error rate.

    Here are some links for further reading:

    The Legendary Apple Extended Keyboard

    The Apple Extended Keyboard II

    More Features of the Extended II

    Interview with the owner of clickykeyboards.com

    If you are a Mac user and you hate the keyboards, check out a used extended, or wait and see what the word is on the Tactile Pro 2.0. If you are a PC user, check out www.clickykeyboards.com.

    Your fingers will thank you. Because, sadly, almost all available keyboards aren't what they used to be, even the expensive after market ones--at least if you like a clicky keyboard!
    -Jim Sexton, creator of the M6-R, the TigerLight Upgrades, Fixture-ring lamp potting, the SL60, co-designer of the B90 Upgrade, and proponent of the SF A2, the SF M6 X-LOLA, Titanium, the Haiku, and the LunaSol 20

  2. #2
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    I use an IBM Model M and will agree, it's the best ever keyboard. I already used up 3 newer keyboards as the letters fade away to nothing. Here's a picture of the Sony Vaio keyboard I had and the damage I can only do to new style keyboards. The IBM is indestructible


  3. #3
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    Laptop KBs IBM/Lenovo (Thinkpads) are the best I've used. My current Asus Laptop is pretty nice too.

    I have to say the keyboards from 15-20 years ago were great to use. I love the old IBM and Compaq keyboards that clicked when you typed.

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* WNG's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    I thought I was the only 'nut' who complains about today's keyboards...junk.
    The keys are too close together because of narrowed caps. And no tactile feel.

    Best in my memory was an IBM AT keyboard when I was at IBM. Currently, I am banging on a 10+ yr old Micron Win95 keyboard. Missing the nice clicky feel, but is weighted nicely to get feedback. I notice I can type a lot faster too.
    So it's not in my head.
    +1 on IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad keyboards...best feel for a laptop.

  5. #5

    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    That reminds me, my Model M needs to be taken apart and cleaned.

    Unfortunately I now have one for spare parts in my closet, having killed it with bottled water . I now only use glasses near my PC that are widest at their bases. This should also be a warning to anyone who picks it up and thinks of hurting anyone with it: you may fry the chip in there with the blood! So don't do it!

    One of these days I'm going to dye this thing black...
    Last edited by cerbie; 04-11-2007 at 12:21 PM.

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    Flashaholic* ABTOMAT's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    I agree with Jim, the IBM Model M and those Apple keyboards are some of the best ever. In addition to the Extended II, the orginal Extended and the IIgs shorty keyboard are excellent.

    On my PC now I actually use a cheap Logitech keyboard, since I got tired of the Model M. The loud click and the hard stroke got on my nerves. The Logitech doesn't have the same quality, but I can type faster on a softer touch.
    Do something alone and it's weird, do it with others and it's a club.

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    Flashaholic* Daniel_sk's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    Check out http://www.daskeyboard.com/ , might be the same feeling as back in the old days .
    Surefire A2 Aviator . If you like this place, you can donate to CPF here

  8. #8

    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    The IBM type "M" keyboard is still manfactured and available. Also parts and repair services. IBM begat Lexmark, Lexmark kept the printers and sold the keyboard division to pckeyboard.com in Lexington Kentucky. Both the
    "buckling Spring" and the Membrane (quiet touch) are available.
    Disclaimer> No association other than satisfied customer<
    I love my type "M"

    Allthumbs

  9. #9

    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    This one looks absolutely amazing but it is still Proof of Concept.
    The developers have no idea when to offer for almost 3 years now.
    Price should be around 1200 Dollar

    http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus-concept/





    The keys can be customized for every application.
    Every key is a small OLED-Display......

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OLED
    Last edited by kingoftf; 04-11-2007 at 01:19 PM.
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  10. #10
    *Flashaholic* js's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    knot,

    Yes. The Model M's are industructible. I cleaned them several times with amonia glass cleaner in order to remove the grime that had built up on the keys -- so badly, in fact, that you actually couldn't even read some of the keys -- but once clean, the lettering was still there, quite legible, and the keyboard, as always, continued to work as well as ever. Those keyboards saw a LOT of use, I can tell you.

    WNG,

    nope. You are not alone my friend. There are others.

    cerbie,

    Good tip. No blood. Check. Got it.

    ABTOMAT,

    Yeah, I hear you (pun intended) about the clicking of the Model M. It's very noisy in the control room anyway, though, with all the fans and electronics, and what with the PFN of the LINAC right nearby, so it went unnoticed. But, that's actually one of the reasons I like the Apple Extended II better: a slightly softer touch and somewhat less noise, probably due to the use of the Alps keyswitch mechanism instead of the buckling spring.

    Daniel_sk,

    Thanks for the link.

    Also, I should mention the Avanti Prime as another option to investigate for PC people.
    -Jim Sexton, creator of the M6-R, the TigerLight Upgrades, Fixture-ring lamp potting, the SL60, co-designer of the B90 Upgrade, and proponent of the SF A2, the SF M6 X-LOLA, Titanium, the Haiku, and the LunaSol 20

  11. #11
    Flashaholic* 9volt's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    That keyboard looked kind of lame until I saw the 2nd picture.


  12. #12
    *Flashaholic* js's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    Kingoftf,

    The optimus keyboard looks really neat! What a concept!

    However, there is no discussion of the action or mechanism used; the information you have provided doesn't speak at all towards typing feel and accuracy. Do you know anything about this aspect of the optimus?
    -Jim Sexton, creator of the M6-R, the TigerLight Upgrades, Fixture-ring lamp potting, the SL60, co-designer of the B90 Upgrade, and proponent of the SF A2, the SF M6 X-LOLA, Titanium, the Haiku, and the LunaSol 20

  13. #13
    Flashaholic* Daniel_sk's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    The Optimus concept is quite old - I read about two years ago. They always delay the production of it. The OLED's will burn out after some time, it's too expensive (the price is going to be more than $1000 probably) and has other drawbacks (like the typing mechanism..).

    More "realistic" info about the concept:
    http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/periphera...ure-218081.php
    Last edited by Daniel_sk; 04-11-2007 at 01:29 PM.
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  14. #14
    *Flashaholic* js's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel_sk
    Check out http://www.daskeyboard.com/ , might be the same feeling as back in the old days .
    Holy crap! That keyboard is ENTIRELY BLANK! Damn! Not that's effing HARDCORE! I don't know whether to love the idea or laugh at it or both.

    Damn.
    -Jim Sexton, creator of the M6-R, the TigerLight Upgrades, Fixture-ring lamp potting, the SL60, co-designer of the B90 Upgrade, and proponent of the SF A2, the SF M6 X-LOLA, Titanium, the Haiku, and the LunaSol 20

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    Flashaholic* Daniel_sk's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    Quote Originally Posted by js
    Holy crap! That keyboard is ENTIRELY BLANK! Damn! Not that's effing HARDCORE! I don't know whether to love the idea or laugh at it or both.

    Damn.
    Imagine how will your friends stare at your keyboard? I mean - I never look at the keys, so it wouldn't be an issue for me.
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  16. #16

    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    The main idea behind the Optimus Maximus key design is that the part with the display is fixed, while the transparent cap is moving, pressing a Cherry switch underneath (patent pending :-).


    http://community.livejournal.com/optimus_project/
    Greetings from Tenerife, Canary Islands

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  17. #17
    Flashaholic* Arkayne's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    Yummmmm, I miss that tactile feel. That distinct CLICK and TWANG of the keys. I loved the racket those keys made when I was going at 70wpm in my high school typing class.

  18. #18
    Flashaholic* TOOCOOL's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    IBM Model M I miss mine it died a few months ago it came with my 386 !

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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    This is still my favorite keyboard. Compact and full size keys.

  20. #20
    Flashaholic* PEU's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    Been using my IBM Model M keyboard every day since december 1985 when my mother bought me my first PC.

    I also clean the key caps every next year or so, for quick repositioning I wrote with a fine sharpie where every cap belongs


    Pablo

  21. #21
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    howdy. funny you mention the cyclotron, a friend of mine at one point was gonna hook me up with a manager up there for a tour but it never happened. I'll have to wait for an open house.
    Sooo, yeah my favorite kb's are the big giant PS2 ones that came with dell servers in late 90's early 2k's. They were sprung (I think), heavy, and tall, there was extra room above the function keys and a ridge for a template I suppose. Not completely archaic like an XT kb. I'm typing on a dell quietkey, uses silicone springs w/ good response.
    I don't hate usb (heh, another friend from Ithaca is a usb compatibility certifier), but long live ps2. I mention these Dell's because there are probably zillions of them in the trash.

    Have you been to Babbage's Basement? babbagesbasement.com/location It's on 96B just up the hill toward the gun factory, but I've never been. They probably have loads of old keyboards, though they try to sell whole systems. In fact maybe your old terminals are there!

    my mac G3 'gossamer' has a bad kb too, but I never use it anyway.

    ~ned
    Last edited by emitter; 04-11-2007 at 06:00 PM.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    Dang! I just threw out a couple of old keyboards last week. Don't know what kind they were, but did notice that they held up better than the newer stuff.
    Having a right and doing what's right is not always the same.

  23. #23

    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    I run an IBM type-M on my Apple Powerbook via a PS/2-to-USB converter. Absolutely love it. Granted, inside, it is just a membrane keyboard and a non-functional steel plate, but its that buckling spring that works the magic. I've used vintage and new (from pckeyboards.com) type-Ms. Love them both, though the used ones tend to come with someone else's grime on the keys (ewwwwww). On the Mac, it's one function key short, but how often do you use the option key, anyway? I just remap the PC ALT key to the Mac open-apple and I'm all set.

  24. #24
    *Flashaholic* CLHC's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    I'm curious about the natural style keyboards? I saw and tried one out sometime ago, and it was a two-piece board. I liked that one, but don't remember the name and can't seem to find it anywhere. Any ideas? Thanks!
    LUX'Ottica

  25. #25

    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    I also agree, the clickys are nice. I also liked the "F" series, actually this one
    http://cgi.ebay.com/VINTAGE-IBM-Clic...QQcmdZViewItem

    Also like the Gateway AnyKey (didn't have clickies though)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gateway_AnyKey

    It was especially useful in HL2/GMod where I was pwning people, using its angled-arrow keys (like _\| |/_ ) which were interspersed with the normal cursor keys to easily angle away from fire. The normal cursor keys were arranged in a + pattern rather than the inverted "T". There was a center key that functioned as the spacebar.

    This is the general layout.

    I still have it, but I committed a cardinal sin; had a liquid near it..

    Another favorite (though I've had no personal interaction) is the VersaKey
    www.versakey.com
    I do believe this has a clicky, but don't quote me on that. Our med center has them in some places...

    The switches up above are Special Application Keys, that you can program text strings into them. E.G. you can have one with SureFire, one with Cree, one with Luxeon, etc., then when you're typing on here, instead of typing the above, you'd just hit the appropriate key.

  26. #26
    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    I remember those Alps keyboards very well. They were noisy as heck but they had the best tactile feedback of any keyboard I've used. I agree with JS that it can improve your typing throughput because of that solid feel that you get from typing on it.

  27. #27
    Flashaholic* Anglepoise's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    So glad its not just me.

    My choice is a 1991 Honeywell-SUH

    The SUH company is still making boards with their proprietory
    key action
    SITE

    I don't know what I will do when it gives up the ghost.
    David............................................." Some Homemade Creations"

  28. #28

    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    Our pal Dan has been a big fan of the Model M since at least 1999:

    http://www.dansdata.com/ibmkeyboard.htm

    http://www.dansdata.com/clickykeyboards.htm

    http://www.dansdata.com/clicky2.htm

    Of course something that originally sold for hundreds of 1980s dollars was made to a higher standard than something made today to sell at a pricepoint of $5. Why would you expect any different?

    Mine are well over 20 years old and still work great.

  29. #29
    *Flashaholic* carrot's Avatar
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    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    Count me in as a Model M fan! The lack of an extra function key bothers me as a Mac user but I love the tactile feel of a buckling spring keyboard.
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  30. #30

    Default Re: The best computer keyboards ever made - still

    The sound and feel of a Model M keyboard was intended to emulate the fantastic IBM Selectric typewriter keys. This tactile response can help to prevent carpal tunnel because it indicates exactly when you can stop pressing. When typing on a "mush" keyboard you'll tend to hit the keys a lot more forcefully than necessary just to make sure the keystrike registered, and that's bad for your hands.

    Of course you could imagine the noise in a whole office full of such keyboards (or electric typewriters) going at once, so it's probably better suited for home use. There are tactile keyboards that make less noise but still produce a positive "snap" feel for cubicle dwellers.

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