Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fear Me: I Have Become Mighty

     ...For I have a Unicomp Model M "buckling spring" keyboard!

     So far, so good, though it doesn't quite have the takkatakkatakka clickativeness of an old Chicony.   The keys are about where my fingers expect them to be, though, and the keycaps are smallish and concave, the way Ghu and IBM intended them to be.

     I have been dealing with the Applesque flat squares of the Acer keyboard ever since I moved over to that machine and my typo rate has never gone down.  The arrow keys on it aren't where my hand thinks they should be and the letter keys are harder to find.

     This one is an improvement, at least for me.  The clicking may drive Tam mad.  Time will tell.  Muwhahahahaha!

     ETA: It's already started to drive her nuts.  Yow.


Anonymous said...

Then I'm assuming the apparent typos in this post are examples of intentional wit.


Roberta X said...

No, I don't type worth a darn even with a good keyboard -- but I'm less bad.

CMac said...

But Unicomp refuses to make a keyboard with the old Northgate Ultra layout - that had the arrow keys laid out like they are on the number pad portion of a keyboard. I keep begging for one and they keep saying no. Don't know what I'll do if my Northgate keyboard ever dies.

Roberta X said...

Find another one on eBay? ;)

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Typecast your blog posts for a week on a manual typewriter. When you switch back to the clicky clicky IBM, Tam will be relieved.

Anonymous said...

IBM keyboard as in Model O?

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Nice, but I still like my DasKeyboard Model S.

John A said...

I vaguely (I was never interested) recall that some years ago there was software that would make the clicking sound when a key was depressed.

Hmm, just checked, my keyboard has keys with concave shaping. Again, never noticed. I do recall that the manual typewriters I grew up with in the Fifties and Sixties had flat keys.

I used to have two bits software that I now miss. The first turned off recognizing either keystrokes or mouse use - so you could clean them without shutting down the system and disconnecting the hardware.

The other is more desirable, but MS changed its software and no longer allows it: re-mapping the keys. The "caps lock" key is so badly placed and of such little use that people have been known to pull that key out of their keyboards: used to be able to effectively the same by software that made pressing that key do something else, like perhaps "F12." Or in extreme cases, move all the keys around to a Dvorak arrangement, etc.

Stranger said...

Unfortunately, Unicomp does not have a keyboard with the function keys where the Diety intended, in a 2X6 array to the left of the tab key. My secretary actually wept when her old Zeos KB finally died.

And yes, the arrow keys on most modern keyboards are a PITA. You get used to things that are inconvenient, but not willingly.

And then of course there is a little matter of USB only keyboards. They do not work well on DIN original computers running Caldera DOS.


Rob K said...

Welcome to the club! My co-workers haven't complained about the clickity. It's been said you can beat a man to death with one of these, and then type up the police report on it. Haven't tried it yet.

Stingray said...

Would that the ebay solution to Northgates be entirely viable. I've got two sitting in my parts closet I sorely miss using because A/T->PS/2->USB is not a daisy chain that behaves terribly well. Even just A/T->PS/2, I had to solder in a reset switch because something in there would derp with the omnikey's macro ability (lack thereof, more so far as I could tell).

The good news is the mechanicals are making a comeback (somehow just typo'd that to combat- I guess they do sound a skosh more like machine gun fire). Cherry MX has three grades of switches, red, blue, and brown, with varying degrees of tactileossity, and they are selling to a larger and larger selection of keyboard manufacturers.

I found a plank with all my other requirements that runs the red switches, which even being the "fastest" and least force requiring, beats any membrane or chiclet board like a rented red-headed step-mule.

LabRat got one with the blue (mid level) switches (from a different company no less!), and I definitely prefer the feel of hers. Neither is up to the bar set by the Model M, or Northgates, but they actually work with modern motherboards (some of which are even doing entirely away with PS/2 ports like mine), without having to break out the soldering iron.

And I may still be carrying a tiny candle of hope that the brown/heavy level switches are closer yet.

Anonymous said...

Try a Kinesis Advantage, with Dvorak/Qwerty switch-ability, key mapping, embedded number pad etc. Just the thing for someone with wrist and/or shoulder injuries.


jed said...

Count me among the fans of the Northgate. I had two of 'em, both of which died for reasons I don't recall. For those who like such things, there are still keyboards being made with the Alps keyswitches. I have been pondering such a purchase myself, and might in fact pull the trigger, as long as dental expenses don't exceed the current budget amount. Many things are competing for those dollars, however. Tires, e.g., and AR parts.

Further info at ESR's tactile keyboard FAQ.

@JohnA, yep, I pulled the caps lock off my existing keyboard. Completely useless. Even though, running Linux, I could re-map it. Why does Microsoft hate its users? Oh, well you're supposed to be using a touch interface now anyway. Back in the old days, I'd've been looking for a Win95 registry hack to just turn the key off.

@Stingray: Here are some Alps switch keyboards. IIRC, the Northgates are an Alps white.

Roberta X said...

On that CAPS LOCK hate: you guys are gonna need a time machine. It's in the same place it's always been, though my 1920s L. C. Smith & Corona #3 flipover portable *does* have a sliver toggle instead of an actual key for the function.

And in fact, it's just where it should me. You've been sitting with that Dvorak fellow at lunch, haven't you?

* * *

The Revolution will not be Televised BUT IT MIGHT BE TELEGRAPHED. IN ALL CAPS.


Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

You don't need to pull the caps lock key off. You can remap it, instead, to do absolutely nothing.


My life has been much simplified since I did this.

jed said...

Telegraphed? Didn't the last one of those just shut down in India? Maybe it'll be broadcast using CW.

Yeah, that caps lock key has always been there, and on a typewriter, it was possibly useful, and easier to avoid, at least partly because the effort to engage it was higher. On a computer keyboard, not so much.

jed said...

But, Fuzzy, remapping it do to nothing isn't nearly as satisfying as removing the thing and pitching it in the trash, or better yet, shooting it with a .22.

Roberta X said...

Google up an image of the Model M keyboard. Look right close at the capslock key. I'll wait.


Back? Okay, didja notice that it has a, well, a kind of "step" in it next to the "A" key? And sort of a "wide stance" away from it? In person, it is also *shorter* than the "A" key. All that so you don't hit it by mistake.

Dang. The keyboard guys could go eviscerate themselves on your doorstep at high noon on a work day, and you'd complain about it when you got home and saw.


Rob K said...

Au contraire, Bobbie! It has not always been there on all keyboard layouts. Its odd placement was often the bane of my programming existence in college, when using crazy things like dumb terms, X terminals, and Sun workstations. Many of those had a control key where the caps lock key goes.

jed said...

I've had keyboards like that. Doesn't help. Particularly when I'm reaching for the TAB key.

And they've already made a mess on my keyboard. Don't want it on my porch too! :)

jed said...

Now Rob, he knows whereof he speaks.

For an example of an out-of-the-way caps lock, see the space cadet keyboard.

Rob K said...

Yes, but I despised all of those keyboards. I even looked up how to remap the control-in-place-of-caps-lock key to caps-lock and vice-versa on the Sun workstations. IIRC, the caps lock key was where the left control key belonged on those.

Roberta X said...

Au contraire contraire! Touche! Fromage!

Look, IMHO, all those non-standard layouts are horrible preversions. By the time the IBM Model B electrical trypewriter* came out, the keys were all where they needed to be (and had been for some time on professional machines)and any subsequent deviations during the computer industry's Pre-Cambrian Explosion died the horrible death they deserved.

I'm a staunch Tory on this issue, only with the hashmark version of the pound sign.

;D :>
* You would not believe what a boon they were to pulp writers and the like.

Seerak said...


But Unicomp refuses to make a keyboard with the old Northgate Ultra layout - that had the arrow keys laid out like they are on the number pad portion of a keyboard.


Unfortunately, Unicomp does not have a keyboard with the function keys where the Diety intended, in a 2X6 array to the left of the tab key

Um, have you guys seen the PC122 terminal-style keyboards that Unicomp has? It has the cross-style formation for the arrow keys (reminds me of my old Coleco Adam, talk about Z-80's) and there's a 2x5 grid of keys on the left side.

(Brought to you by way of a 1989 Model M from clickykeyboards.com, whose prior life was in airline ticket booking.)

Seerak said...

Eesh, just googled the Northgate Ultra. Should have done that before posting. Stranger wasn't kidding when he said that the arrow keys were laid out "just like on the keypad".

That would be a disaster for me when gaming, I need the open space around the arrow keys to prevent from getting offset by one in the middle of a maneuver and having to stop and look down to re-position my fingers. That's why I don't WASD.

It's also why I don't need the big Backspace key; it's location on the corner makes finding it fast easy for me.

Thumbs up on the tall Enter key though. Too many spurious backslashes on line ends with the single-row Enter, my only beef with the Model M.

Rob K said...

I agree with you completely, Bobbie. They were horrible perversions and they befouled my hands every time I had to use one. But not all others were raised in the one true faith, and we must be patient with them as they come to truth.

Seerak, I hate the fat/tall enter key. It pushes the \| key out of it's proper place. That Northgate Ultra is a special perversion in its own right! The escape key where the `~ belongs? The `~ and the \| down on the space bar row? How are you supposed to write code with that placement?!! Madness! :-)

But yeah, a year or so ago, after reading several articles on the topic, I decided that since I type all day for my living, I should have the proper tool for the job. I got my own Unicomp Model M. I've been very happy with it.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

The escape key where the `~ belongs? The `~ and the \| down on the space bar row? How are you supposed to write code with that placement?!! Madness! :-)

Aye to that; that's an old perversion that isn't limited to the Northgate Ultra. Whenever I was cursed with a keyboard of that layout, I always went hunting for one more canonical.

Although I don't have the same feeling about the "fat" enter key. I liked it when I had it, I'm fine with the "skinny" one on the Das. It doesn't bother me either way.

FWIW I also spent a lot of time using DEC keyboards optimized for OpenVMS, which is a whole different animal.

Evyl Robot Michael said...

I've got a couple M keyboards. The one I'm running on my office desktop is about a 1995 model. It's black with an integrated mouse like the pencil-eraser mice on old laptops. It's nice to see that there's a modern alternative!

Opinionated Grump (Rich in NC) said...

being late to comment on this thread, I remind youze all of WordStar, which used the pinky placed ctrl key to facilitate cursor movement.
IBM Boca Rat-an created a 'yeah us too' keyboard, and Bill made Word, and we've all gone to Hedoublehockey stick since. I miss the old days. [yeah, a coupla days after the dinosaurs died, I know]
Rich in NC