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keyboard geeking.
Sinclair ZX81 Keyboard, for Keyboard Geeks
http://xahlee.info/kbd/Sinclair_ZX81_keyboard.html

thanks to +Nick Alcock +Ivan Pierre +Brennan Young 
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Matthew Fidler's profile photoNick Alcock's profile photoScott Bilik's profile photoDon LaVange (Wickenden)'s profile photo
11 comments
 
I know that I often feel like you're splitting hairs when discussing certain keyboard ergonomics, but the Sinclair had some awful keyboards! 
 
+Xah Lee even when one is trained at touch typing, this keyboard would make you “hunt and peck”. 
 
What do you think of laser projection keyboards?
 
I agree but I think that's where technology is heading. :(
Xah Lee
 
+Matthew Fidler remember there's also voice recognition. I think voice and other will have more chance as keyboard replacement than projection keyboard, if anything.
 
Bear in mind that the ZX81 as shipped had only 1K RAM, and that includes space for not only any program you type in but also its data and the 768 byte memory mapped display (encoded such that a linefeed in memory meant that all future bytes on that line could be skipped, so an empty screen used less memory than a full one). So the keyboard being painful for long-term use wasn't exactly important. More important was that it was cheap.

The ZX Spectrum had a better keyboard, marginally. It was known as the 'dead flesh keyboard' because that's what the keys felt like...
 
As an aside, this keyboard and the machine it was part of has huge emotional resonance for me and probably a lot of other English geeks in their mid-thirties to mid-forties. It was my first computer, and for five years the only one I ever used. Everything about it -- its portability (largely useless because you could hardly drag the TV with you), the wobbly RAMpack with its dire soldering and tendency to lose all your data at the worst possible instant, the slight indentation in the middle of every key, the curious rubber smell when hot, the encodings of its instructions, the layout of its operating system variables, the Sinclarian notations 'NEW LINE' and 'RUBOUT' -- now fills me with a soppy nostalgia, and frankly did only a year after I stopped using it.

I could emulate more ZX81s simultaneously on my current machines than were ever made, but it wouldn't be the same.
 
+Nick Alcock That's not unlike the memories many of us have of hooking flakey tape cassettes up to our TRS-80's, Apple ]['s, Commodore 64's, etc.

Now we bitch if the internet has a bit of lag...   ;-p
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