On keyboards

This morning I listened to the latest episode of The Talk Show1, wherein our hosts discuss Apple Keyboards.  Specifically, the Undisputed Best and Most Wonderful Input Device Ever: the Apple Extended Keyboard II.

I used that model for years, from my Mac IIci right up until the time I got my first Mac with USB inputs (an original blue and white G3, maybe? I don’t remember for sure).  Every Mac I’ve owned since then has come with its own keyboard2, which I’ve used, with varying degrees of pleasure and productivity.

I’ll admit that I never paid too much attention to the quality of the keyboards I was using.  Well, probably I did, because I sure bitched a lot about some of them.  But I never actually did anything about it until fairly recently.

When I got my first metal-cased Powerbook, I fell in love with the keyboard.  It fit my hands just right, it gave just enough tactile feedback without being too “clicky” on one end or too squishy on the other.  By the time I upgraded last year to a new MacBook Pro, I was doing most of my work on the portable machine and not doing as much on the Mac Pro in my office, mainly because I was much more productive on the keyboard of the laptop.  I tried replacing the stock Mac Pro keyboard — with its huge chunky finger-numbing keys — with a couple of models that seemed similar to the tactile characteristics of my laptop, but never found one I really liked.  I tried a MacAlly, and I think maybe a Kensington, but neither really did the trick.  They had function keys in weird places, and one of them didn’t have any USB inputs on it.  Besides, they were just butt ugly3.

Then one day I was tooling around in the Apple Store, and started typing on one of the new aluminum extended keyboards.  Wow.  It’s not perfect, but it’s the closest thing to the feel of typing on my laptop.  I walked out of the store with one, and now I can shift work between the laptop and desktop and not have that jarring feel from switching keyboards.

During the podcast, John and Dan mention that they would be happy to buy any new or new-ish Apple Extended Keyboard II’s that we might have lying around.  I remembered that I do in fact have one, in its original box, and barely used.  I bought it right before I got a G3 years ago, and it’s just sitting in storage.  At first I thought of offering it up to them, but I might just try using it again.

  1. The nerdolicous podcast of the estimable John Gruber and Dan Benjamin. You should subscribe to it. NOW.
  2. I remember how remarkable it was to get a machine with a keyboard right inside the box. That might seem odd now, but at the time Apple was selling the keyboard separately from the CPU, and the Extended II cost another $150 on top of whatever outrageous price you were paying for the Mac itself.
  3. Yes, I will gladly sacrifice a small amount of comfort and productivity for the sake of aesthetics.
posted 4/30/08 at 5:19pm to Mac nerdery, Writing · 0 replies · »

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