This isn't an essay I've had in mind for any time, but the photo is kind of neat, and it happened today.
I have managed to avoid purchasing a keyboard for almost a year now.
Apparently this is too long:
Today briefly before lunch, the "Alt" key on my
Bluetooth DiNovo finally gave up the ghost. It's still under warranty,
but I was in the middle of hacking with Emacs, and you can't really do that
without a meta key. I really do destroy keyboards at an unbelieveable rate.
As a backup, I purchased a somewhat sturdier and cheaper board; the Saitek Eclipse PC
While it doesn't meet any of my normal criterea for a good keyboard, i.e. it
doesn't use mechanical keyswitches and it's not slim form-factor, something
about this keyboard just exudes quality. This wasn't a dramatic or somehow
amazing keyboard like the Tactile Pro, but it
is a quietly comfortable and definitely high-quality keyboard. It's a bit
paradoxical - I generally hate membrane keyboards with a lot of travel, but
this one seems to be quite comfortable. The keys are a good size, the
incline is comfortable, and I seem to be able to break 140wpm consistently
in the hard drills at the end of gtypist. It has
exactly the keys I need: no funky spatter of random "internet" function
buttons that don't work with Linux anyway. All the keys are in exactly the
right place; they didn't pull any weird tricks like expanding the Delete
key, moving around the backslash or backquote, or sliding the Alt somewhere
other than under the thumb. The nominal Control keys are nice and wide, when
you need to use them, and the Caps Lock isn't castrated to make it useless
as a Control.
But of course, these are all just mistakes they didn't make. It feels nice,
and I don't know why. The only concrete difference I can really put my
finger on (no pun intended) is the lack of "squeak". Perhaps there is a
better word for this, but I have only tested this concept experientially -
here's what I mean.
Try this with a normal $5 keyboard: push hard on one of the keys, then slide
your finger back and forth. You will notice that it squeaks when you wiggle
your finger back and forth, sending vibrations up your arm. I always take
this as a sign of the quality of the construction of the keyboard, because
the squeak is coming from bits of plastic rubbing against each other which
are never really supposed to touch. On really awful keyboards this is bad
enough that you can feel the squeak while typing; on others there is just
the occasional hint of it.
While this particular feature isn't a deal-breaker for me (even the DiNovo
has a tiny bit of squeak) it is definitely a good sign that the Eclipse
doesn't have it. I'm enjoying typing on it immensely so far. Its first day
it saw a prodigious amount of use, as I was preparing for a rather intense