When I started this blog, I dealt with what is probably one of the most geekiest topics that anyone could cover – keyboard layouts. Now I’m about to be take you into another one – keyboards themselves.
Recently my brother decided to sell his custom built gaming rig in favour of a laptop. But he didn’t get sell his Razor Mechanical keyboard. So I borrowed it for a test to see if I would like to buy myself a mechanical keyboard at some point in the future. Honestly my time with the keyboard did not go so well. Maybe it is the fact that I’m not used to it. I have decided to get myself a mechanical keyboard though and here is why….
I will be honest. When I was moving from keyboard layout to keyboard layout, I did change the keyboard for my computer many times. At one point in my efforts to touch-type, I did get myself an ergonomic keyboard thinking that it would be the best solution for me. It wasn’t.. Not if I wanted to be universally proficient.
For the moment that I’m using an Apple wired aluminium keyboard. I will be honest, I’m pretty satisfied with it. So what was it about my brother’s mechanical keyboard that wooed me away to try it out. My Apple keyboard is a pretty popular product and is pricey too. Well it was when it was brand new. Opinions on the Apple keyboard are pretty mixed. There are those who love it and those who think its is a mess that shouldn’t exist at all. It’s critics are mostly those from the geek community. These are guys who don’t use run of the mill keyboards. No their input devices are elite devices using backlit mechanical switches like the coveted Cherry MX.
Now when you are talking about keyboards, there are really two types; mechanical and membrane. In the past, every keyboard was mechanical and always made that clicking sound that tv shows love to exaggerate a lot. But in recent years, the focus has been shifted to the quieter membrane keyboards. This is what is most common today and sold with pretty much every single computer. For one, they are cheaper to make and when working in a busy office environment, is slightly more better.
With the history all taken care of, when you talk about keyboards, one keyboard in particular comes up quite often – IBM Model M. Developed in the 80s it is considered one of the best keyboards that was ever made. To this date, if you were to search of an original model M, you would have to pay a good price for it. So what made this keyboard the real grand-daddy of them all? It’s buckling spring switches. Since it is something from the 80s it is a mechanical keyboard. I have never tried one for myself, but from what I’ve heard, it feels like a typewriter and gives the user a pretty good feel. It isn’t designed to break that easily which means a good well kept one will probably outlive your computer. That is why most people who have IBM Model Ms, aren’t really interested to part with it that easily.
You can buy a new version of the Model M from a company called Unicomp. Today most mechanical keyboards are trying to compete and get to same feel of the IBM Model M with varying degrees of success.
When it comes to keyboards, mechanical ones are more pricier. Why?
The mechanical keyboards are the fewer in the mainstream market because they are more expensive to produce, because of the mechanical switches. These days, they are the preferred choice by gamers and professionals who are looking for a more old-school tactile feel in their typing experience. Well for one, as said earlier, they are more expensive to build and as shown in the rep of the Model M, they probably will outlive your computer. A good mechanical keyboard will last you a couple of decades. This makes them more longer lasting than the membrane ones. This is probably why many feel that they are better.
Now the Razor is probably my only experience with a mechanical keyboard. So my word is probably not going to mean anything. But I will say this. From what I’m told, the feel of a mechanical keyboard is very rewarding. I had a bit that in my brief stint with the Razor.
The drawbacks to the mechanical keyboards is that they are pretty noisy. So in a modern office environment, I’m not sure that it will be welcome. There is one that is made by a company called Matias that is said to be as quiet as a membrane one. If you are someone who spends most of his working life behind a computer, then you will appreciate a good keyboard and a mechanical one is the best choice. Good luck convincing the boss to get you one though. Unless he/she is a geek, justifying the cost will be a mission.
Most of my best experiences have been with Apple keyboards though. I just found them a delight to use. Sure that they are membrane ones, but they always has a special kind of feel. However they did not last as long as I had hoped that they would. However my A1243 is holding up very well in the time that I’ve been using it, which is about 3 years now. My past Apple keyboards didn’t last as long. Goes to the testament of good Apple design. Having said that, the stint with the mechanical Razor has prompted me to ask if I would be better off getting a good mechanical keyboard.
I recently learned that while the IBM model M was widely talked about and a great keyboard, there was another mechanical keyboard that pretty much won everyone over; those who used it. Its called the Apple Extended Keyboard or AEK for short. Made in two variants called AEK & AEK2, these are pretty much considered the best keyboards that Apple ever made.
Unfortunately it isn’t in much demand as much as the Model M these days. The reason is because of the connector. While the connector for the Model M is easily and readily available anywhere, the AEK uses Apple’s own connector which isn’t. There is an adaptor that cost pretty much the same as the keyboard itself. So getting one is going to be pricey.
However Matias, does make a new version of the AEK called the Tactile PRO.
For me though, I thought that even though it would be pricey, it would be nice to get one of those clicky AEKs for nostalgic purposes and considering that is it a mechanical keyboard, it would pretty much outlive Albert’s current specs.