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In Praise of the Clicky Keyboard

Old Style PS2 Keyboard

I have a minor philosophy in life that basically says: make small corrections. There are major philosophies as well (like never start a land war in Asia) but the minor ones tend to come into play more often. The small corrections are about change and how we implement it. Some people tend to overreact. It’s like when you’re driving and become distracted, then look up and realize you’ve drifted into the other lane. Some people simply ease the car back to where it needs to be–while others freak out and swerve all over the road. I’m more of the ease back over guy.

So it is with my workspace. I work from home. I’m kind of “eh” on the idea…but we make do. So I’ve got my work machine, my personal machine, and dual monitors that I can use with either machine individually or both at the same time–and of course a mouse and keyboard that I use on both. I’ve had virtually every type of keyboard you can imagine. Big and small, ones with built in touchpads and even a built in trackpoint like the Lenovo Thinkpads use. Gaming keyboards with eighty-seven extra buttons, etc. But what I’ve missed, really missed–but didn’t realize it until now–is the old “clicky” IBM PS/2 style keyboards.

[ad#longpost]Some time in the last ten to twelve years keyboard makers stopped using mechanical keyboards and went to the conductive style. The conductive style typically uses something like a thin membrane that stretches under all the keys. When a key is pressed the membrane is depressed and it triggers an electrical response which is logged as a key stroke. Thus, we get a “mushy” keyboard. Mechanical on the other hand is just that. There is a button which when depressed triggers a switch, a mechanical switch, and that is registered as a key stroke. The mechanical switch makes a “click” sound each time it is pressed. Thus, we get a “clicky” keyboard.

Recently, the keyboard I’ve used for the past six or seven years died. About half the keys just stopped working. In looking into it; the most likely reason is some of the circuit traces under the membrane either broke or shorted out. Orange juice perhaps, not sure. I went online and looked at all the usual suspects but wasn’t bowled over by anything. Thus I decided to head out to my local big box electronics retailer and lay hands on the keyboards to get a feel for what was out there. I accidentally, yet fortunately, walked right past the section with the keyboards and mice and found myself on the gaming accessories isle. There they have keyboards and mice for the hardcore gamers. And what do I find as the two devices with their own kiosk with cool-270 degree background graphics and lighted displays? Two mechanical keyboards by two different makers. Both incidentally as ugly as a Pontiac Aztek–but “Clicky”.

I eventually found the general keyboard and mice section and looked at everything there, typed on all the keyboards, and pressed a lot of keys. I then quickly found myself back in the gaming accessories section with one hand on each of the two mechanical keyboards, eyes closed, happily clicking keys and listening to the sound and gauging the feel of each keyboard. As an added bonus–all the keys are the right place. The delete key isn’t three times bigger than it should be. The insert key isn’t up there with the function keys and there are four arrow keys, not six or nine. That might not mean anything to you if you never used the PS/2 style keyboards, but I don’t have to look down at the keyboard if the keys are where I expect them to be.

So I picked one and brought it home. My significant other looked at it and immediately noted how ugly it was. Yes, I agreed, but it’s CLICKY. And now once more, I can type with my eyes closed.

Razer Black Widow Ultimate Mechanical Keyboard

1 comment

  • Beauty, eye/ear of the beholder. I always wanted to give EXACTLY that keyboard a chance. Alas, my Logitech G11 still works.