Quality PC keyboards
For those in search of good quality PC keyboards, Unicomp
makes excellent "buckling spring
" keyboards and also has models that have an integrated mouse. Read on for my personal experiences with keyboards...
I started using computers when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I was mostly a hunt-and-peck typist. I tried using a program called "Typing Tutor" to learn touch typing
, but reverted back to looking at the keyboard. Then in 7th grade I was required to take a typing class (where we used typewriters to learn on). We learned the basics of typing--fingers on the home keys, what fingers to use for each key, and we lost points for assignments if we were caught looking at the keyboard. Not wanting to lose points, I didn't look at the keyboard, and just accepted whatever typos I ended up with (typewriters aren't so forgiving). By the end of the course, I didn't really feel like I was any better at touch typing, I still hunt-and-pecked on my PC. The school year came to an end and one day I sat down in front of my computer and tried touch typing. I then suddenly realized I could touch type! And much faster than I thought I could. From that day on, I never looked at the keyboard again (ok, maybe a little for those hard to reach keys :).
Fast forward to present day. I write software at work, and use computers as a hobby at home as well. So I end up doing a lot of typing. Therefore, the keyboard I use is pretty important. After mostly using standard keyboards, I tried the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro because we had a bunch of them at work. This was the only good split keyboard Microsoft made and it is now discontinued. The rest of their split keyboards either had awkward key arrangements or were missing important keys (whose bright idea was it to remove the insert key?). After a good amount of searching, I found one for home, and it became my keyboard of choice for a while. I got used to the arrangement and felt like I could type a little faster. After about a year of typing with that keyboard, I gave a standard keyboard another shot. We had some old Dell-branded keyboards lying around at home that a friend had given us. They had more of a clickety responsive kind of feel then the Microsoft keyboard and just about any typical keyboard produced today. I started using that and realized I could type faster than the Microsoft split keyboard. There was one of the exact same keyboards at work that no one was using, so I switched to that and have been pretty comfortable. In retrospect, the Microsoft keyboards and all of today's keyboard that you can buy in stores are low quality.
I also tried the Kinesis contoured keyboard
for a month, but that's a story for another time. It was really neat, but I didn't really get to give it a chance.
I had heard of the old IBM keyboards
that used "buckling springs," although I have used that style of keyboard, I never owned one myself. These keyboards were considered superior because they gave a definite click that you can both hear and feel a lot better. The old "they don't make them like they used" once again. I then heard that keyboards that use this technology are are still being manuafactured
. A company called Unicomp
makes them. I finally got around to ordering one; I got the Customizer 104
because I actually use Windows keys quite frequently (in all OS's actually). I am very happy with this keyboard. It was well worth the $60 (and I haven't found anywhere else that sells buckling spring that cheap). I brought it in to work to see how it feels to do a full day of coding, and I am definitely faster and more comfortable with this keyboard.
So I decided I am going to buy another one. When going to their site, I saw that they now have a version of their keyboard
that has an integrated mouse! It uses the little pointer (IBM's "Trackpoint") in the middle of the keyboard which I actually quite like. I am one of those people who wasn't all that happy when the mouse become just as important as the keyboard as an input device; taking my hands off the keyboard just slows me down. It may be expensive, but I am definitely considering buying this.
Update: They now carry USB keyboards on some of their models.
Note that Unicomp's keyboards (at least the one I got) only comes with a PS/2 connector (or in some cases the old-style AT connector). For USB, you'll need to get a PS/2-to-USB convertor. I bought a generic $10 one, which ended up not working too well. It would quit working after about 10-20 minutes of use. I ended up paying the premium for a Belkin brand one which works great.