I type a lot. I mean, a lot. Code, email, documents, articles, whatever - keyboard is still the main input device for me, much more than mouse is.
Now, ignoring the high-school time when I owned Amiga 500, I’m typing on PC keyboards for little over one decade. I changed probably two dozen keyboards in that time, either at home or various companies I worked for.
There is only one I really loved and that is Focus 2001, the old model, with
Scroll Lock and
Pause keys at the top. New model include stupid, useless Sleep/Wake/Power keys, and the middle part of the keyboard is totally ruined. A depressing-to-look-at successor, since the type-feel of this keyboard is fantastic. Just the right dose of pressure, clear clicking sound and desired letter is up - there’s no chance of mis-typing or false-typing, something often happening with my current HP-branded soft-touch garbage.
These sentences are written on the very same Focus; I found it in an old closet, wrapped away long time ago when some keys (both Shifts among them) deteriorated from unhuman usage (pinball simulators and Mortal Kombat). I unhinged the problematic keys (there was like 8-9 of them), clean them separately, washed the whole board, reattached the keys and it all worked, apart from the
Space key, of which one under-part was broken. I worked-out a replacement using some plastic and glue, and it seems to work so and so.
Even so badly broken, it is better than membrane-based keyboards you can buy for 10 bucks in any store.
Strong-click keyboards are long-extinct beasts. I mean, when is the last time you saw some high-profile company offers a keyboard with 5-year warranty? Something that can handle over 1 million key-presses? When is the last time you saw an ad for the computer system where they brag about the keyboard? It’s amazing that no one pays attention anymore to the quality of the keyboards, even though most people type way more than they point and click.
If you dig through computer industry’s waste yards, you’ll find that less than a decade ago all of them made endurable, heavy-duty beasts, that could easily handle 5, 10 or even 25 millions clicks. The last, kingly number is reserved for IBM’s buckling-spring keyboards, especially the famous Model M. Just look at the pictures and you’ll see how trusty engineered they are. I mean - just look at the amount of layers and mechanisms those beauties have. It’s no wonder they were priced at $100 back in those days - but they would last for 20 years, no doubt about it.
If you want one of these, eBay is your best bet where you can find them for as little as $10-25. Or if you want a brand new one, look at the current holder of IBM’s patented technology, Unicomp for $49. For me, the shipping costs are higher than the keyboard price, so I just sadly look at these links.
Old Apple keyboards are highly valued too, although they used Alps mechanic keyswitches. They have similar never-miss-a-key feel, but the sound is a bit different. Recently, few companies sprang up trying to revive the notion of the good keyboard, especially for Macs. Mac owners are generally thought-of as “pay more to get more”, so it’s no wonder to have TactilePro or Kensington StudioBoard there.
In the PC world, apart from Focus and IBM, you have CVT AVant Prime with the killing price of $149 (they have one of $189).
One feature is common though - they are all noisy and your non-geeky partner in life will hate them as much as you love them. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t insist on the click sound, but I do insist on the endurance and quality.
Thus now, I’m starting the quest to get one of these for me, or at least something close to it. I’ve had enough of beating my fingers into plastic wall of membrane keyboards.
Will let you know how it goes.