Keyboards

Over the years, I've found ergonomics to be more and more important. Who knew sitting in a chair and wiggling your fingers for 35+ years was bad for you?

A particular area of ergonomics I've been forced to learn a lot about is keyboards. I've collected quite a few, and leave my thoughts about them here, in the hopes they might be valuable to someone else.

Below is a sort of photo catalog of the keyboards I own at the moment.

Keyboardio Model 01

My latest addition to the stable is very recent - at the end of October 2017 I received my Keyboardio Model 01!

I had first seen the Model 01 in Vancouver, when I happened to be in town on business at the same time as it's creators were giving a demo at a local Maker space. I got to touch and feel one of their prototypes, and on the spot added a second one to my existing order :-)

The Model 01 was a long (long!) time coming, however, and I recommend reading the epic tale of it's creation on it's creators blog - it's very entertaining, if somewhat frustrating while you're waiting for it!

My initial week of using it: It was worth the wait.

It is in an entirely different class from most of my other boards. The build quality is a bit reminiscent of the venerable IBM Model M - it's a tank, and feels like it (like the model M) will last for many decades.

Unlike the Model M, though, it is also a masterpiece of ergonomics, with a layout a bit like my Kinesis Advantage 2, in some ways, but in a fully split form factor.

I'm using the long interconnect cable, meaning I can separate the two halves of the board by over a foot, allowing for a nice wide shoulder position. I have a Kensington Pro mouse (which, despite it's name, is a trackball) on either side of it, allowing both left and right hand mouse work easily (I have to switch frequently, due to advanced RSI)

I'm not using the feet so far, just laying the keyboard flat on the desk. I tried the included 8-point "stands", but found they weren't stable enough for me, and so far I'm liking the rock-solid stability of the two halves flat on the desk. The option for variety is nice, though, too.

Atreus

The Atreus is a kit, requiring some assembly, but allowing one to customize the board in whatever way one prefers.

I've built two of these, one "normal" (relatively), and one "fancy", with special keycaps and a high-gloss finish. I use both of them on a daily basis right now (as of July 2017), as I have three working positions, two of which have an Atreus at them.

It's a small keyboard - with a suitable case, they're easy to travel with, and I've toted mine around the world quite a bit.

You can set the firmware for any layout you want - I use pretty much the default, as I've found non-Querty to be more trouble than it's worth, unfortunately.

Unicomp

Unicomp is the company that took on the designs for the original IBM Model-M, and make a number of variations of this venerable design.

Having used a genuine Model-M for quite a few years, I can say the Unicomp is pretty good. It's not quite the same, of course - the feel is a bit less "solid" than the real Model-M, with a bit more side-to-side movement in the keys, and the click is just a tiny bit less firm and sharp.

Overall, though, for the price, it's one heck of a solid keyboard.

I have two of them, and the only reason they're not in day-to-day use is that the ergonomics of the Model-M style are not ideal for fingers that have been at it as long as mine have. They also have a numeric keypad, which adds those few inches to the movement to reach the mouse or trackball, which matters over the long term.

IBM Model-M

Although I did actually use a few Model-Ms back when they were new (yes, and mainframes roamed the earth), my current one was found in the "traditional" way: at a garage sale :-)

It turns out a well-known problem that can occur with Model-Ms is the plastic "rivets" that hold the backplate to the frame can shear over long use (and I mean long use, like 20 years), so while I was giving it a full cleaning, I decided to do the recommended mod, essentially bolting the front and back together. Should be good for another 30 years or so :-)

These keyboards are a tank, with a feel unlike anything on the market before or since. A huge plate of steel lurks in their heart, and all the keys back against it. Along with the true "buckling spring" style mechanical switches, this gives the Model M it's classic solid feel and distinctive sound.

They're huge, and they're heavy - you wouldn't want to travel with one. In a pinch, I'm sure you could repel boarders if you happen to be on the high seas with one.

Kinesis Advantage 2

My current everyday keyboard is a Kineses Advantage 2.

Oddly enough, I tried one of these (probably the original, not the "2") a year or two ago, and didn't like it (and sent it back to the retailed I purchased it from).


FingerWorks

Kinesis Freestyle

Sun Workstation Keyboard

Arguably a bit of a classic now, this is a Sun Microsystems keyboard from a SparkStation I owned for many years, until it finally succumbed to a hardware failure.

I have the optical mouse that goes with it as well, both fully operational.

The keyboard has a very light touch, not particularly clicky, and many extra keys, making it a physically very large board.

Honorable Mentions

A few other boards I haven't owned, but have tried, that deserve your consideration if you're looking for a good one, in my view:

Das Keyboard

A nice solid mechanical keyboard. I don't recall the model of the one I tried, but it had at least as good a feel to it as the Unicomp, and with better ergonomics.

ErgoDox

I'd have one of these if I hadn't seen the Keyboardio first. Available even with Cherry Green switches, I understand.

These used to be only available as a kit, but the folks at the link above will put one together for you.