20 February 2009, terribly early in the morning
I bought my Unicomp Spacesaver keyboard about a half year ago. At the time it was a little tricky to quantify how nice the keyboard felt. It was certainly a step up from my previous Dell piece of crap keyboard, but just how big a step?
My Unicomp keyboard is classic in its design. It is a modern version of IBM’s Model M keyboard. Most keyboards you use today are lamer iterations of this sort of design. My previous keyboard certainly fell into the lamer iteration camp. Keyboards have generally gotten worse over time, not better.1 The primary reason for this is that the way older keyboards are built is more costly than the way modern keyboards are built. Most modern keyboards use membrane and rubber dome technology to register your keystroke. You need to push the key you want to type all the way down for it to register as a keystroke. Because of the way they are built they generally don’t last very long, and over time get more elastic feeling over time. I was at my coworkers desk typing on his keyboard yesterday. His keyboard is a few years old now, and I have no idea why he hasn’t replaced it. Each key press would send my fingers every which way. The keys were very loose and provided no feedback that they have been typed. The difference between my coworkers keyboard and my own is like night and day. My former keyboard, which wasn’t nearly as old, also suffers from that wiggle and softness, though to a much lesser extent.
My Unicomp keyboard uses mechanical keyswitches to register each key stroke. There are a few pluses to using this (old) technology. First off, you don’t need to depress the key all the way down to register a keystroke, generally about half way through the travel of the key the keystroke will register. Accompanying this is usually some sort of tactile and audible feedback that you’ve typed your key. These sorts of keyboards are much more hardy, and will probably last for ages. The Unicomp Spacesaver is definitely solid and well built. I could probably knock someone out with the keyboard, and then get back to typing with it.
The dilemma with these sorts of keyboards is that they are wicked loud. My keyboard is basically the only thing that makes noise on my side of the office. Still, half a year later my coworkers haven’t killed me yet.
1 At home I use a Apple Aluminum Bluetooth keyboard, which feels totally different. It’s firm and nice to type on in its own way. I have yet to see another keyboard like it.