September 16, 2005


So I needed another full-size keyboard. I have an old iMac-style keyboard that I use with my laptop in my office, but it's Page Up and Page Down keys are in the wrong spot, there's no numeric keypad, and I think there are no Home and End keys either. It's fine for small things, but if and when I want to do some programming at work it's a real pain.

So, I thought, I'll get a new Apple Keyboard and all will be well. Except I couldn't let it be that simple. The current Apple keyboards, wireless or wired, have a fix incline. It may be ergonomically irresponsible, but I prefer my keyboard to be flat or even lower at the back. As long as my hands are level with, or below my elbows, this feels much more natural than having the back of the keyboard higher than the front.

So I went hunting for an Apple Pro USB Keyboard. M7803. That's what I've been using with my PowerMac and it's been like home. When I got to eBay, though, I found that these were like prized possessions, carefully guarded and fetching prices higher than new, store-bought Apple keyboards (M9034). The masses apparently agree that this older keyboard is superior, so I hunted for a good deal. These days, that means keeping a close eye on the often-ridiculous shipping prices.

Finally I found my 'board. The price was good.. The shipping was reasonable. Then they said "oh, we need to charge you $2.50 more for shipping.. sorry." I should have known right there I was in for trouble. They keyboard arrived in one piece, but the left shift key was sticky. I emailed them an asked "what the heck?" and proceeded to clean the key. Then I noticed that the CTRL key was wonky. It was rubbing against the side of the case and wouldn't always return up. Usually didn't, in fact. I don't know what someone did to this thing, but it's not in good shape! They finally wrote back to offer to return my money in exchange for the keyboard, and I think I'm going to take them up on it.

Bad keys aside, there's another serious downside to a used keyboard: it's nasty. Really dirty. Take a look at your keyboard. Isn't it gross? If you don't think so, and it's not new, turn on another light and lean in closer. Maybe tilt it a bit. Disgusting. Still don't agree? Try to imagine for a moment that someone at work just gave you this keyboard to replace yours. They used it, you're not so sure of their hygiene practices, and now you're going to type on it for many hours each day. Observe closely the dirt and how it bounces as you slap the spacebar, and think of the fingers and lunches that left the debris. How many times did they sneeze on the number keys? Whose hair is that?

I apologize for ruining your appetite. The lesson is: settling for a pre-owned keyboard isn't worth the savings. The keyboard is probably your most-used interface to anything you use, except maybe your car steering wheel. It ought to be new and clean and comfortable. Keyboard feel is a supreme concern, and I've always been very pleased with Apple's keyboards. Even their laptops, since the Wallstreet models introduced the scissor switches, are a joy to type on.

So, I'm not going to waste any more money on mediocre keyboards. I'm going to find a really good one and spare no expense. Since I decided to start buying only quality shoes, I haven't had to replace one worn-out pair. Good shoes last longer, and I believe a quality keyboard will be worth the price. And they are complex! We'll happily pay $60 for a simple optical mouse with few moving parts, but take a look at what it takes to clean a keyboard. By all rights they should cost three times as much as a mouse. Er, I mean, computer mice should be cheaper.

So they hunt begins. The Matias Tactile Pro USB Keyboard looks promising, though the keyboard shortcut issue mentioned in this review seems like a deal breaker for me. Sigh.

Posted at September 16, 2005 09:18 AM, Categories: Computing
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