Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 20, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

KEYBOARD UPDATE....Hooray! My new/old IBM keyboard arrived today, a vintage 1995 Model M complete with clicky-clacky buckling spring technology, never before opened until today. It's noisy! Noisier (and with more of a hollow echo) than I remember, even. And big. None of this "space saver" stuff for us keyboard afficianados. Heavy too. They say you can kill a man with one of these things and then plug it in and blog about it within seconds. Plus the lettering on the keys can probably survive a nuclear blast. (Jim Fallows, take note.)

Luckily, I ordered a PS/2-to-USB adapter along with the keyboard itself, since my four-year-old Dell was decidedly unhappy with the native interface. Apparently they don't make PS/2 interfaces the way they used to.

Anyway, these are the very first words this keyboard has ever typed, which makes you a part of history. In a few days I'll let you know if it lives up to my memories. In the meantime, many thanks to the fine folks at clickykeyboards.com for the excellent service.

Kevin Drum 7:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

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Comments

Chuck Norris doesn't need a keyboard. He punches the computer and his thoughts appear on the screen.

Posted by: Novemberist on November 20, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

I give it a week before you give it up because of the annoying noise.

I have a box of old clicky IBM keyboards that I thought I'd love, but in the end I found the terrible racket unbearable.

I settled on a modern IBM keyboard. Still better quality and a more precise feel than the cheapo keyboards, but quiet!

Posted by: Eric on November 20, 2007 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Holy Crap! Kevin's being funny! (Although Novemberist may have one upped even the crack about killing a man.)

It's like being at John Cole's. Everybody's a comedian all of a sudden.

Posted by: A different Matt on November 20, 2007 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Wow! Back in the day, all my techy friends dreamed of getting an IBM keyboard. Just the way I dream of my old Rossi ST Comps.

Posted by: bobbywally on November 20, 2007 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

Congrats on your new keyboard.

600mg ibuprofen every four hours. Continuously.

Posted by: jerry on November 20, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

If I want noisy, I'll haul out my old Smith-Corona electic. If it was good enough for me to pass the California bar exam on, it's good enough for any other text I wanna type.

I'm quite happy with my MacBook Pro and its relatively quiet keyboard, thanks.

Posted by: Cap'n Phealy on November 20, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

1995? It's a baby! The one I'm typing on now has a manufacture date of 09-JUL-1986.

It's hard to beat the Model M. The Northgate OmniKey was pretty close, though.

Posted by: Erik V. Olson on November 20, 2007 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

Seven posts and still nobody's told Kevin to get a Mac?

Posted by: fyreflye on November 20, 2007 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

I swear there was a premed in my org chem class with one of these for taking notes during lecture.

Posted by: B on November 20, 2007 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

I use a model M. I have two model M's hidden away as replacements. With the usual life of a model M keyboard I should be set for the next 100 years.

Posted by: PanJack on November 20, 2007 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

bobbywally: "Just the way I dream of my old Rossi ST Comps."

Yes! Loved mine and used them well past their prime. Although all this praise makes me think you could lash a pair of Model Ms to your feet and blog about your day skiing on them around the fire back in the lodge.

Posted by: Longtime Listener on November 20, 2007 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

HP Keyboard Model KB-0316. Usually comes with HP servers. All you need to know about PC keyboards.

Posted by: Buford on November 20, 2007 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

I type on my Underwood manual typewriter, then scan the paper using FindReader optical character recognition software, then cut and paste the material into applications.

Posted by: Luther on November 20, 2007 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

OT, did you hear the Thanksgiving turkey that was pardoned by President Bush at the White House today was nicknamed "Scooter?"

Posted by: pj in jesusland on November 20, 2007 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

If I were James Fallows, I'd have applied drops of super glue to the key tops. Very carefully.

Posted by: Forrest on November 20, 2007 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

N00b! I just restored the keyboard on my vintage 1976 microcomputer. It took me more than 5 years to find the parts to restore the keyswitches. I used it to do word processing via 300 baud dialup to a Data General mainframe, using a line editor. If you've never seen a line editor, imagine a word processor with only one line on the screen, you can scroll up and down but you still only see one line at a time.
In case anyone is interested in seeing what microcomputers looked like 5 years before IBM made their first PC, here are some pics of the restoration and the CPU in operation. Unfortunately I lost my 9" monochrome CRT, I had to use my 30" Sony TV, so you don't get the full retrocomputing flavor.

Posted by: charlie don't surf on November 20, 2007 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

You can have my classic Dell QuietKey when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Newer keyboards suck.

Posted by: omonubi on November 20, 2007 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

I was an ugly child. An ugly child, I tell ya. My mother had morning sickness for months, after I was born.

Posted by: absent observer on November 21, 2007 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

Why anyone would voluntarily subject themselves or others to those long-throw loosey-key rickety-clickety-clack annoyingly noisy keyboards is beyond me. Never mind paying extra for the privilege. They sucked in 1965 when I first encountered the evil things, and they suck today.

Posted by: has407 on November 21, 2007 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Anyway, these are the very first words this keyboard has ever typed, which makes you a part of history.

Did you remember to make a recording of the racket created when you typed those words?

Posted by: has407 on November 21, 2007 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

My Northgate OmniKey has gotten a little gnarly after 15 years. (PS/2 interface? Bah, you need an adaptor for one of those newfangled PS/2 connectors). But you can get a good clicky buckling spring keyboard from Unicomp (which used to be the Lexmark keyboard division). I like the "Linux" model because the control key is in the right place.

Posted by: me2i81 on November 21, 2007 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

"I give it a week before you give it up because of the annoying noise."

Forget the noise... He'll have to give it up form the carpal tunnel... Those keyboards were so hard on my wrists, they almost left me disabled... Thank goodness the "cheapie" keyboards that everyone hates came around... now, I can type again without pain!

Posted by: lorr_mike on November 21, 2007 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

lorr_mike: Forget the noise... He'll have to give it up form the carpal tunnel... Those keyboards were so hard on my wrists, they almost left me disabled...

Years of computer use with poor posture caused me more problems than the click keyboards, although they didn't do any good either. Most of the trouble I attribute to the mouse, which required a very slight but constant counter-clockwise twist of my right wrist. My physical therapist claimed that the pain was not due to carpal tunnel, but multiple adhesions in the tendons of my forearm. Her focused manipulation of the affected areas did wonders, but with the improvement in feeling I returned to my old ways. Now that my company has eliminated the medical plans with the cheap co-pays for therapy visits, I'm less inclined to go in for the frequent visits it takes to get relief. A side effect of this is that my handwriting is shot - partially from the neuromuscular problem and part from simply using a computer so much that I forgot how it feels to write.

Posted by: trbtx on November 21, 2007 at 5:22 AM | PERMALINK

the best keyboard I ever used came with an ibm CAD terminal that probably sold for $100k CA 1986. I loved the fabulous short-throw action and perfect touch, and to top it off it didn't sound like a toy clackety-clack and annoy the neighbors 5 cubes over.

I once sat next to a guy who had a pretty quiet keyboard, but unfortunately you could set it to make noise, which he had turned up to max. he used to sit and read the net news instead of working, and it would be "chirp!....chirp!chirp!........chirp!chirp!chirp!..chirp!" at random for an hour. I thought that noise would have made a good defense for justifiable homicide.

Posted by: supersaurus on November 21, 2007 at 5:35 AM | PERMALINK

Lack of tactile feedback is why I hate using cheap calculators. I use my HP for even simple calculations if it is handy. But what's up with the auditory feedback?

Posted by: chowderhead on November 21, 2007 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You evidently have way-y-y too much free time on your hands or spend way-y-y too much time with your keyboard. You might want to look into speech recognition software and chuck the keyboard entirely....

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 21, 2007 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

If you're a REAL purist, you dump the keyboard altogether and go back to punch cards.

Posted by: Speed on November 21, 2007 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Good way to insure you will always work alone Kevin. Do Mrs. Drum and the cats have to put up with that clatter?

I love my new Apple bluetooth keyboard. The keys are hardly raised at all, and it is very quiet. It is smaller, so at first I thought I would not like it, but it flows very nicely. A visiting friend recently agreed. I put that out there for others, since Kevin appears to be a lost cause - PS/2??? C'mon!!!!!

Posted by: Dawn on November 21, 2007 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

I just got Apple's new keyboard as well (the wired version, needed the extended keyboard and extra USB ports), very quiet and it sort of goes in the opposite direction of the old spring loaded keys, very minimal vertical motion, more like the chicklet style on their laptops. An acquired taste. I don't write for a living though.

Kevin, you're officially a keyboard geek.

Posted by: Fred F. on November 21, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Since I've used a split keyboard for four years at work, using anything else just doesn't do it for me. I can get about 70WPM with the split, and only about 50WPM with the standard layout.

It's why I don't write much at home.

How the hell anyone can type on one of those old models is beyond me.

Posted by: Mark D on November 21, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

If you're a REAL purist, you dump the keyboard altogether and go back to punch cards.

Yep. And punch the cards with your teeth.

Posted by: thersites on November 21, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

I have a programmer friend who hates to hear the click of others' keyboards. It has caused him much annoyance in the cubicle world he inhabits. Complaining about it only makes the clickers turn up the volume, somewhat resembling how the community at Political Animal behaves, which I have often considered similar to a cubicle-like environment where consversations take place without seeing one's interlocutors.

Posted by: Brojo on November 21, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Charlie: a Sol-20?? I am geek enough to go wow. I started in the punch card era but thought those micros had a future. I did a pilot for the state of Texas with the RS CoCo (!) followed by the SWTP 6809 running Uniflex. Supported 8 uses on 256k of ram. The 16mg hard drive was the size of a suitcase and cost a fortune. SWTP out of San Antonio were a kit manufacturer who had some great power amps, too.

Kevin, you inpired me to ditch the Dell mushboard and return to my IBM roots. It's only 80 bucks so I bought one last night. And the Northgate Omnikey was a favorite of mine too.

Posted by: Nat on November 21, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Someone else mentioned Unicomp. (http://pckeyboard.com/)
They don't just have Clickty keyboards, they own the buckling spring technology. From them, you can get a new keyboard with all the Windows keys and so on, with a USB or PS/2 connector, all with the buckling spring keys!
I've been using them for about 5 years now. I just got a new one which I'm using right now on my new iMac.

Posted by: Sam Shuster on November 21, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

ps/2 connector?

You need to find a motherboard that supports the AT-style connector for the REALLY good quality IBM clickey-clackeys!

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on November 21, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

thersites: talking about purists, I remember my Grandfather telling me about his early days working for the USDA, traveling around Montana on horseback, taking census of cattle herds, and recording the data on a handheld Hollerith punch.

Posted by: charlie don't surf on November 21, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's dream computer, with an Underwood keyboard.

http://www.makezine.com/blog/ElectriClerk.jpg

Posted by: ferd on November 21, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Would a Model M would be good for gaming?

Posted by: e. nonee moose on November 21, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

fred--NICE!

Although I think Kevin would love some steampunk action added to the Model M.

Posted by: Mark D on November 21, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

For years I loved the quality of the IBM keyboard. Then I found the Fujitsu keyboards. (Remember IBM and Fujitsu were sparing partners in the main frame world and competed head to head on most things.)

The older Fujitsu keyboards were the best and most reliable keyboard ever. All the features of the IBM, with even better tactile feedback and less noise. Two stage key drop with deceleration towards the bottom of the movement. You could type all day with no problems.

I sold them with every system we built, for years. People loved them. Shame my suppliers stopped carrying them. In all the years I only had one returned, probably abuse.

The Fujitsu keyboards cost 3 to 4 times the cost of a generic keyboard but were worth every penny.

Posted by: JamesM on November 21, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

For a good discussion on why these keyboards are rated so highly, see this Dansdata article. Mac users sing the praises of the old Apple Extended keyboard, but its Alps switches were inferior to IBM's buckling spring technology.

Posted by: number6 on November 21, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

If he does get tired of the noise, he can try to swap it for a Model M2 -- same basic build, but no springs.

Posted by: Forrest on November 21, 2007 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds nice...but...

Is it cat friendly? That's maybe the most important thing.


Posted by: James on November 22, 2007 at 2:58 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, I thought I was the only one who simply LOVES the old keyboards. I've taken so much crap about my longing for those clicky (i.e. instant-feedback), long-travel keyboards. And, yes, they require LESS work to type on, IMHO.

Thanks for the link. Gonna get me one!

Posted by: Samuel on November 22, 2007 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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