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Model M keyboards - the only way to type. Now with USB, but the same old classic crunchy buckling-spring goodness

These were belated Xmas presents from +Dave Taht to myself and my wife.

Thanks, Dave, for this amazingly geek-appropriate gift. We will use them and think of you.
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Noel Bergman's profile photoMetin Akat's profile photoMarc Saegesser's profile photoJay Maynard's profile photo
45 comments
 
And oh, yes, that is our very hacker-friendly cat Sugar exhibiting her normal curiosity about new computer equipment.
 
Das keyboard for me... even on me tablet. Same cherry switches.
 
Ahhhh, the classics.  Dave has good taste.

People who don't type a lot fail to grasp the importance of the right keyboard.  I recently switched from an old Compaq PS/2 model to a Logitech USB keyboard, because I'm hopping back and forth between my desktop and a notebook.  Doing so is a matter of moving a USB hub with keyboard and mouse plugged in from one machine to another (5 seconds) and moving the VGA connector from the desktop to the notebook VGA port (15 - 20 seconds).  (Yes, a KVM switch is on my list...)

The keyboard layout and feel of the Logitech is subtly different from the Compag, and I'm still getting my fingers trained.  (Problem children are Home, End, Insert, Delete, Pg Up and PgDn, which are three across on the Compaq, like the Model M, and three down on the Logitech,)  It produces vast quantities of "oops!".  
 
Must turn off the Internet right now or I'm going to impulse purchase a couple of those keyboards.
 
Huh, I didn't realize you lived so close to me
 
I do so love my Model M. Sucker will probably outlast me, let alone my computer. 
 
@Dennis- I use x2x for the situation you are in. One keyboard, one mouse, many computers. Or, if you need windows/mac support, http://synergy-foss.org/ works well.

@esr- anything I can do to improve your productivity is a win for the universe.

I find these useful, too. Find the right row by feel, detect when you are off-kilter (for example, about to miss the backspace key or enter), AND learn braille along the way:

http://www.hooleon.com/collections/keyboards-braille

I think of these stickers as massage points for the fingertips.

It bothers me very much that devices used to be designed to maximize comfort and productivity, and that keyboard design, in particular has gone backwards towards "chicklet keys", a-la what the mac universe has foisted on us. They look good, but feel terrible.

The trend towards touchscreens on tablets that don't even have an esc key makes me mildly nuts. The addon keyboard to the android based asus transformer is a lovely looking add-on, until you try to use it for anything over ssh or for word processing.

Typing well - is a valuable skill - and putting artificial barriers like crappy keyboards by default - on even the best of laptops and other sorts of systems - really bugs. I do realize that keyboards are a high matter of "taste" but what you find in stores nowadays is pathetic.

Anyway... despite my fondness for the ubicomp keyboards, I wish that there was a split spacebar one like the one BTC used to make. Directly under a thumb was a useful place to put backspace... and I personally have no use for a numeric keypad and (of course) remap the capslock key to esc....

While I'm ranting... recently I went into a store (with eric) and asked for a monitor that could "run emacs" - while I did that to be funny, what I'd wanted was a portrait mode display that actually looked good and could display a full page of text vertically. The one they had that could twist that way fringed...

I had also wanted a graphic card with no fan, a SD card that was fastest possible, an arm chip with the ethernet not on the usb bus, and a wireless router that didn't suck.

I guess the only way, in the age of "big data", I can convince the universe to make stuff I like is to stop using adblock, I guess.
 
I have the lower one of the two models pictured here and apart from CLICKETY the unique selling point for me was the trackpoint, which defeats a mouse every day :-D! 
 
Nice! I've always wanted to try the variety that has the trackball in the board. They seem fairly rare though. My everyday board is a Mini, although I sometimes pull out my M13.

There is no text input replacement for a Model M.
 
The only bad thing in these is... the worst invention of humankind... the num-pad :).
 
I wonder if my RSI's have gotten enough better that I can afford to use a non-curved keyboard again...
 
I haven't seen, much less used, a keyboard with mechanical switches since I was a young child. I didn't learn to type until some years later when the dome switch keyboards had become cheap and ubiquitous. What are the advantages of mechanical keyboads like the Model M? Do the mechanical switches help curb RSIs like curvy keyboards do? Is it a question of durability?
 
Hmph. I like the Apple chicklet keyboards. Low profile, requiring minimal effort to type on...give me a version with proper N-key rollover and I'd be in heaven.

Type M keyboards make me work too hard to type.
 
Had been nicer if it had been without the ms logo...
I assume the cat likes to sleep on them ;)
 
My second favourite keyboard is the Microsoft Natural.

What I really want is a squishy Natural-shaped keyboard with Model M clicky keys. Is there such a beast? Could a MS Natural be retrofitted with them?
 
I got rid of all my model M keyboards.  They're nice but way too noisy and I find that I can type just as fast pretty much regardless of the keyboard, as long as it's relatively decent.  A decent keyboard that uses the silicone nipples for tactile works just fine for me.

I used model Ms at work but they were so noisy that people 50 feet away were complaining.  I found that if I didn't wear earphones, after a full day of typing on them I had a noticeable tinnitis that I didn't have if I experimentally used a quieter keyboard instead.
 
I just got a CMStorm keyboard that uses the Cherry switches.  I've been very happy with it so far. Very light touch.
 
Many years ago I remember throwing out that type of IBM keyboard (i.e. in a landfill skip) together with obsolete or broken computers which were being upgraded.  Now of course I wish that I hadn't, especially when looking at the prices on ebay.
 
Eric,

Ever see a model M with a track-point?  I have one at home, it is the best...  BTW this is not a cheap gift, enjoy.
 
+Paul Flint One of those pictured is the track-point version. I'm typing on it now. :-)
 
+Jesse Vincent has built himself a split keyboard using cherry switches, custom plastic (3d printed) and PCB, and a Teensy micro to control it all. Naturally, he has no keyboard layout issues. But he also paid a fantastic figure for all the components AND had to learn to solder. Beware programmers with soldering irons!
 
I was envisaging something like starting with a MS Natural shell and a keyboard PCB suitable for Cherry switches, mounting the switches in the shell (somehow) and having quite a lot of wires from said switches to the PCB. Yes, lots of soldering. Either that or adapting the MS Natural keyboard using its own PCB.
 
My vast collection of ancient model Ms is quickly dissipating. Currently, I am using a Logitech USB backlit keyboard, though I don't actually use the light. Model Ms are the way to go, though this is not too bad of a substitute.
 
I take mine without 9-pad please. Too bad Logitech stopped making a wired Trackball.  Should've stocked up on those, too, when I found the five pack of narrow Ms on eBay way back when.
 
Ah, none of these compare to the solid feel of a model 35 teletype.
Or the resounding clunk of a 026 keypunch.
 
I purchased one about 2 years ago and love it. Mine looks like the bottom model and I could never see myself using any other model.
 
My favourite keyboard was the one that came with Amiga 2000C, soft and quiet (rubber "springs") and had a good writing angel.
 
I took most of my old Model M keyboards to Goodwill years ago with the couple of IBM 5150 systems I had collected over the years ... I still regret it :-C
 
+Russell Nelson, I once terrified a DP manager when I walked into the machine room, soldering iron in hand...
 
The newer ones manufactured by Unicomp are of inferior quality. Even down to the plastic used for the housing. It's really a shame that the quality has gone down. I have 3 Model M style keyboards, and my opinion is Original IBM > 10 year old PS/2 Unicomp > USB Unicomp.

I've been wanting to try the Cherry MX brown and blue keyswitches, as I've heard good things about them, but dropping $130 on Das Keybord is a lot to just try something out. I'm particularly attracted to the Brown, as they evidently have a quieter, but not silent, mechanical action, and I want that for my workstation at the office, so I don't bug my cube mates. Having a Model M or other loud keyboard is a no-no in a cube farm.
 
I'll admit I kind of miss the heavy metal case on the originals, but so far the key feel on the Unicomp seems just fine.
 
+Jay Maynard I actually find it less effort to type on a mechanical keyswitch. Mostly, because the mechanical action communicates when I have fully actuated, and thus I don't press down all the way. The way I type on dome-type keyboards and the Apple-esq chicklet keyboards, is that I bottom out, which actually causes a lot more fatigue.

+Eric Raymond The keyswitches are still just as good, it's mostly the housing. And particularly on the newer one I have, some of the keys are of slightly different color from each other. On the one I'm using right now, the "f" and "j" keys are different. 
 
+David Gerard, I might like the Natural, except for one thing: the spacebar is not directly under my thumbs as it is on a straight keyboard.  It therefore makes me reach more for one of the most commonly typed characters. 
 
Keyboards are to programmers as saddles are to Jean-Luc Picard in the "Starship Mine" episode.
 
While I have used a model M, I find that there are actually better keyboards available, now.  Cherry MX switches have the durability/reliability of the buckling-spring switches in a Model M, but with a choice of audible feedback and feel/throw weight.  On top of that, you can get modern features like backlights (in a variety of colors), USB hubs, mic/headphone ports, and NKRO.  It can be hard to find exactly what you want just because there's actually so much variety in mechanical keyboards (a.k.a. "gaming" keyboards) now.  For example, keycaps can some in blank (ala Das Keybaord) standard or even hidden/ninja where they are on the side facing the typist.  

I use http://www.tesorotec.com/gaming-keyboard/tesoro-durandal-g1n-mechanical-gaming-keyboard.html?sl=EN for work.  I can't find a link to the one I use as home right now, but it has a similar feel.
 
Yep, I use a Leopold Otaku keyboard that's totally black (except the logo). Last year's birthday present, and it's awesome. It has the Cherry Brown switches. It's suitably clicky and types like a dream. It's a little bit less stiff than my Model M keys, and way quieter. 
 
I want one with track point and fingerprint reader. :-) 
 
I don't know what kind of computer I'll be using 20 years from now, but I know what keyboard will be attached to it! I still have one from the PS/2 era, and a few from the Lexmark era. Haven't tried the Unicomps or the Cherry "brown" because my M's will never break! :)

The real problem these days is that some computers don't put enough power through the USB port to power both the PS/2 converter and a Model M. Gotta use powered hubs now.
 
+Art Cancro So it's safe to say you'll have your Model M plugged into a powered USB port that's plugged into a USB 2.0 to USB 42.0 converter plugged into a port-du-jour converter, eh?
 
Need.  Compact.  Model.  M.  Numeric keypads are for accountants.  MUST HAVE COMPACT MODEL M.   HULK SMASH PUNY KEYBOARDS.
 
+Wayne Werner it may very well be the case that the existing fleet of Model M's wl be the sole reason to build PS/2 converters for every new generation of ports. (Actually, the Model M on my home computer is so old it has the big DIN plug on it.)
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