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A look back: The Bloomberg Keyboard (2017) (bloomberg.com)
147 points by dmmalam 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 104 comments

My favourite trade floor keyboard I Own is definitely the Wey. Fully programmable. Swappable modules for Bloomberg and Reuters. Picked the thing up at a yard sale and recently locked myself out of the thing by accident


What the what?? That is one of the most intense things I've seen in a while! Three full color screens on a keyboard... woah.

Bloomerg also use the keyboard as a "non-tariff barrier". As a systems integrator trying to work with their systems in the 90s they insisted that we buy a batch of a specific pantone gold colour for our keycaps.

So for people looking for easier to use data sources - even with more modern data feeds they're heavily license restricted and there's a lot of proprietary lock-in.

That current “starboard” keyboard is atrocious. Over the last couple years I’ve killed probably five of them with trivial levels of coffee spills. They seem super-sensitive to any kind of debris. Way more than any other keyboards I use, including those of laptops.

We keep a running tally on our trading desk on how many starboard keyboards we each go through a year. Average seems to be about 3 per person! I did 5 last year, although one did get dirty and I just wanted a replacement hehe. Q/A must be terrible.

I have a stack of new ones next to my desk at work. It feels like not even a day goes by that I have to replace one. The typical culprit is coffee, otherwise the keys fall off with relative ease.

A day? Have you guys considered putting coffee in a place where you don't spill it so easily?

I use the keyboard as my daily driver writing code for the Terminal itself. I’ve had the same Starboard on my desk for over half a decade. I guess they don’t stand up to fist mashing and coffee spilling? Typing normally on it works quite well :)

I'm guessing jnichols35 does IT support in a large-ish office?

That is correct, I just got a ticket in for another keyboard replacement due to a key popping off.

Edit: This is a new one for me https://imgur.com/gallery/QTFMw2D

So it's like, not just keycap? It's gone for good now?

I guess there's no incentive to make them more durable. You know this better than me, but I doubt corpos care about the cost of replacing those keyboards.

Just after I updated that comment I got another keyboard with multiple keys missing. I believe the keyboards are replaced for free as part of licensing them out.

I worked IT for a High School and kids would tear laptop keyboards apart. The school wouldn't replace them so I had to do my best to fix them. When I saw a keycap come off when I started here and they said replace the whole board I sighed with so much relief.

I hope this becomes a new TV trope, the trader perpetually spilling his coffee on a keyboard.

Your keyboard(s) must drink more coffee than you.

3 or more per person?? Any idea what these things costs?

I can barely get a replacement iPhone each year.

No idea, I think BBG just replaces them for free as part of a terminal subscription (~27k USD p/a per user).

The real reason they get broken so often- the temptation to obliterate a free, delicate artifact is pretty strong when you just make a losing trade to the tune of $2.4m.

How expensive are these things? Sounds like there could be a big market for repaired / refurbished keyboards.

From another comment, they are "free" with their $27K/yr subscription.

Maybe stop spilling coffee on your keyboard?

Is there any open alternative to a Bloomberg terminal? With Google Finance now gone I’d like to get see what is out there for free.

Data aggregation is how the Terminal built its user-base, but messaging is what actually keeps people there. Bloomberg Chat is where most large trades get negotiated -- so if you don't have a login, you don't really have an identity as a trader. Makes it hard to switch.

It's a terrific example of network effect as moat. Several years ago, six of the largest banks got together to fund Symphony as a Bloomberg-killing chat tool [1]. More than $100M invested later, it's still only successfully competing with Bloomberg for internal chat at financial firms [2]. Inter-company chats are still happening mainly on full price terminals that costs 100x what Symphony costs for a seat.

[1] https://symphony.com/press/releases/consortium-leading-finan... [2] https://www.ft.com/content/f16d73ee-a910-11e7-ab55-27219df83...

An interesting exception is the energy sector, which used Yahoo Messenger until it was shutdown: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-oil-traders-yahoo-idUSKCN...

Ah, thank you for that explanation. I used to work at a Commodities trading business. I never understood before why Yahoo Messenger was part of their standard Win desktop build. My Precious Metals desk never used it. Makes sense, though, if it was for the energy traders in Houston.

I'm curious what they use now.

WhatsApp is huge. It's an international market and end end encryption is valued.

My firm prohibits whatsapp for business use and I know it's not the only one.

Yes it's a compliance nightmare. Context for my WhatsApp comment is SE Asian market if that makes a difference. Also curious if prohibitions are effective or if people still negotiate on other channels and then document on official one.

At least in my products negotiation really does happen over compliance approved channels.

HKG, SIN would shut down if WhatsApp wasn't available.

ICE Chat and Cloud 9 come to mind.

In general it's going to vary from product to product.

> messaging is what actually keeps people there.

May be true for some people. There are hundreds of thousands of users, I have no idea how many are chat-dependent traders but surely not all of them.

Usually when I hear people talk about alternatives to Bloomberg, my first though is that that they have no idea how many things Bloomberg actually covers. Sooo many products, so much data, you wouldn't even believe the scale. And yeah, as others have mentioned, massive network effect, essentially everyone in the capital markets. Sure, you might find an alternative for some very narrow specific thing that it does for a lot less money. (Worked there for many years, foreign exchange and bond trading stuff.)

For example, last year I kicked the tires on Bloomberg's PORT suite of portfolio performance attribution and risk measurement functions to get a sense of what they offered and how programmable it was. In addition to the standard extensive help docs, they had 56 white papers totaling ~1400 pages (as of June 2017) explaining the calculations. And that's for a small star in the Bloomberg constellation.

Google Finance is a laughable comparison to Bloomberg. Bloomberg is basically a self contained world. When I last dealt with it in the early 2000s, it had an internal messaging system, real time feeds for news from all over the world, and ability to trade and query on all sorts of markets around the globe. IIRC, your Bloomberg messaging handle is yours basically for life so no matter which company you work for you can still be reachable. It also integrates well with Excel and provides a huge amount of complex financial calculation functions (which I suppose Google or some other alternative might be able to do too, assuming they can hire the people who has the expertise). Oh and around the clock support. The only alternative that's even remotely close to that is Reuter's service. You can see why that's the only alternative -- very few organizations have the means to tap into all these data sources from around the world in basically real time.

You need to use a Bloomberg terminal and observe its users use them to really get an idea of what it provides before you can make a reasonable suggestion for an alternative.

Sadly no. The only viable (and closed) alternative to Bloomberg Terminal is Eikon from Thomson Reuters [1].

However, I find Routers finance news & details much more accessible than those from Bloomberg as they offer a bunch of rss feeds, depending on category you'd like to track.

[1] https://eikon.thomsonreuters.com/index.html [2] https://www.reuters.com/tools/rss

I remember Thompson and Reuters joined forces shortly after I left Bloomberg (I worked there on the front end team). I think they wanted to take it on together.

No. Thompson bought Reuters, after the latter made a series of strategic blunders.

What were your reasons for leaving?

Maybe it was - All the work and none of the big bucks.

It’s not the terminal, it’s the people that feed information and research. The terminal is just access to that information.

There are barely any true proprietary alternatives, let alone open ones.

That's true. There's a reasonably steady flow of articles on prospective "Bloomberg Killers"; this one in Institutional Investor (July 2017), Can Anyone Bury Bloomberg, is the best researched and informative that I've seen so far:


i used to work at Sentieo (competitor to Money.net), can answer any questions that dont get me sued.

How legit a tool is Money.net? The founder's book on oil is amazing, but I've always been curious about Money.net

I tried it a long time ago (1.5 years?), it sucked.

It had pretty much the same fundamentals information you could get anywhere, including the tools that come with an Interactive Brokers account. And...that's it. Nothing else.

I wanted to pull up some options data and run some calculations. Very doable on something like Bloomberg, provided you read the manual (the school nearby has a terminal; I could certainly never justify the cost). It's like money.net had never even heard of an option. No analytics capabilities whatsoever.

what the other guy said. if you're a Bloomberg user, all you'll notice are the missing things. it is a prosumer offering, it doesnt suck, it just isnt targeted for you

I worked there in a past life, still miss having access to the terminal. Ive always wished they launched a consumer version for <100 USD a month.

What is something cool/useful that you did on it that's not available from other internet sources?

Easy hunting for M&A in X space, customer lists, and then you can switch over to commodity data, or pretty much anything else you need, from research reports to data pulls into excel for models.

From the dumbest things to the really esoteric like filings of some obscure Hong Kong based firm or data on plasma waste to power projects in XYZ region.

Bloomberg is pretty absurd.

>Bloomberg is pretty absurd.

I love it!

1. Connectivity of news with data - a lot of news stories had links where you could dig in to datasets that were relevant to the news.

2. Availability of information under one symbol space allowing you to create views that pulls in information about very disconnected fields.

3. A company wide focus on converting things into "symbols". Most memorable example was the symbol for number of kidnappings in Mexico. The breadth of data available is truly impressive.

That is so interesting. What was the symbol for that?

Mortgage backed security data & analytics.

Not sure if you actually mean it or referring to The Big Short. If not joking what function do you use for it?


For bond trading and analytics, often no one has the data other than Bloomberg. INTEX has a lot of MBS and ABS data, Trepp has CMBS data, and I guess there are some muni and corporate specialists, but Bloomberg has it all and at your fingertips with an ergonomic UX, and any analytics you can think of. If you want to actively trade fixed income, you just can't do it without a Bloomberg.

The previous post is valid. Other examples, corporate actions (up to date and historic), identifiers for instruments as they appear on particular secondary markets (eg, what is the name if this security on aquis europe), current and historic close prices (for any venue you could name), otc/si trade reports. The broad spread and generally high quality of data is what drives the platform.

try https://www.money.net/

not as extensive but pretty good.

Check out www.tiingo.com. I use it for my casual needs.

Try KloudTrader. We are currently building one.


Bloomberg excels at many things, but most of all it squarely nails the UX for users who're getting things done for a living. I really miss my BB keyboard; but I'm happy to still enjoy the Bloomberg font in my regular Unix terminal.

Any details about the font? Download links?

There's an installer, but it won't install unless you already have the full Bloomberg Terminal suite installed.

I have the font which I yanked from one of their pieces of software Year’s ago, it’s a decent font, can’t share for obvious reasons.

I truly do wish we have an open source / SaaS version of the bloomberg B-Unit[0].

I would easily pay $10/m for a "personal" version and I know companies that would pay 2x - 3x that for enterprise deployment. Although to an extent - it's redundant now that we have phones with biometric authentication.

[0] - https://www.bloomberg.com/professional/support/b-unit/

>I would easily pay $10/m for a "personal" version and I know companies that would pay 2x - 3x that for enterprise deployment. Although to an extent - it's redundant now that we have phones with biometric authentication.

You're off by a factor of 10 on how much a service like that will cost, especially in enterprise.

What do you want to use it for? Can you not using something like Google Authenticator for 2-factor auth?

I imagine that beyond the obvious "what if I lose control of my device(s)" justification people really just want dead simple authentication. It's a password you always have on you and as long as it's never copied its quite secure, atleast in that you have a complex password unique to you that can be applied in an instant while still being a significant form of verification.

that said, I'm sure that spoofing a fingerprint is easier than I'm imagining and that there's probably plenty of insecurities in BMA..

That 1995 infrared keyboard seems to be exactly the same as the one used with the Virgin Webplayer [1], an internet appliance which Virgin peddled in the late 90's. I have a few of these around here, used one of them to create a solar-powered waterproof and possibly bullet-proof machine to take with me on a canoe expedition from Whitehorse to the Bering strait. Another one was used as a file server for about 6 years, yet another one as a remote camera monitoring terminal to keep watch over what happens in the barn. With 200 MHz of Cyrus MediaGX 'power' (comparable to a 125 MHz Pentium) it wasn't the fastest of machines but it still works for these purposes.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Webplayer

A question about keyboards in general - don't you find that keyboards with numeric keypads are so wide, that the mouse has to sit at such a distance laterally, that it strains your wrist to use the mouse?

My mouse is to the left of my keyboard, are there any right-handed programmers ?

No, us righties just tape stuff from stack overflow together. I don't think that counts.

Why would you strain your wrist? You don't need to have mouse strictly perpendicular to the display, it can sit at an angle and you only move it relatively to the "resting" position. I use large and ten-key keyboards everywhere and my mouse has at least 20-30 cm of free space to the right side of keyboard - no fatigue issues at all and my wrist on mouse hand is always straight.

I'm fine with the classic PS/2 layout on desktops.

But I do have a problem with laptops that have numeric keypads. Manufacturers seem to add them to their higher-spec products (the ones that are developer-worthy) in order to signal their higher value. When I really would rather have the option to not have it and let my hands center themselves under the screen.

You would find plenty of people who might argue that using the mouse would slow them down. I'm no keyboard purist but I do like an interface where I don't have to take my hands from the home keys. Also if you consider laptop keyboards the trackpad usually sits just south of the space bar keeping it nearer the hands.

That's true I've heard some people say they basically never use the mouse. I wonder how feasible this is with MacOS in its current incarnation.

unfortunately MacOS has a lot of keyboard shortcuts that are different depending on what application you're in (vs windows)

also there's a lot of annoying little things - if i'm typing in one space, and switch spaces, my typing cursor is still off the screen until i bring an app in the current space in focus

you can still do it, but there's a lot more context-specific stuff to be a keyboard poweruser on MacOS vs windows/linux

I found this was true for me after a while. I also noticed that, while typing, my hands were not in front of me but off to the left, which caused further stress. I've switched to a numpad-less keyboard and my pain has decreased.

Note that they've got the patent for keyboards with speakers in, which is why you can't get them anywhere else.


Check out Verbatim's keyboard from a decade ago (with built-in speakers):


It didn't sell well. The reason keyboards don't have speakers today, is more likely because there isn't much demand for it. It would add bulk, cost and complexity to keyboards, with a likely underwhelming audio result.

According to the article, their first speaker-integrated keyboard was released in 1992. That's 26 years ago. Patent term is only 20 years in the US. The patent must have expired long ago.

Compaq released a keyboard with speaker in 1994 (Vocalyst keyboard, as part of the Deskpro XL system).

Intergraph workstations in mid 90's almost universally came with NMB keyboards with integrated speakers. The keyboards were bulky and had half inch quite rigid cable. Notably, John Carmack used such workstation for Quake 2 development.

I'm sure that I had a keyboard with speakers in it years ago in the early 2000's.

I really love vintage computer design. Looking at these Bloomberg keyboards, although made for a high-end market, makes me wish we had good computer hardware today. Besides Apple/Microsoft/Thinkpads, I pretty much dislike every single piece of computer hardware out there.

Oh, and I want to see an complete and utter cessation of RGB lighting in computer products.

Besides my chair (a HM Embody whose price I still don't like thinking about), the most comfortable/enjoyable thing I've ever bought for my work was my first mechanical keyboard, a Vortex Pok3r 60% keyboard with a set of SA profile keycaps. A good keyboard makes a world of difference. At the moment, I'm actually in the middle of building a custom 65% keyboard. Just waiting on the PCB to arrive after the first one was damaged in transit.

It's a bug. Once you get bit, you'll gladly jump down the keyboard rabbit hole.

pckeyboard.com makes and sells the only buckling-spring keyboards on the market. They're missing a big plate of steel to make it weigh an extra pound, but they appear to be as reliable as the Model M that they are based on.

No lighting available. PS/2 or USB, black or white-tan, with a pointing stick or without. Reasonably priced.

If you want a high quality keyboard, get a Cherry http://cherry.de/cid/index.htm

Looking at the later keyboards reminds one how much common ground there is between traders and gamers....pscyhologically speaking.

I don't think its psychological, having dedicated keys is better for almost all applications than having to re-purpose a general purpose input device.

Care to elaborate or do you just like to let everyone know when you've noticed something obvious?

Somewhat interesting video from Bloomberg on their hardware, starts with a bit of historical footage: https://vimeo.com/90701077

Can't help but think that the 1996 models look a bit like the old little toy Casio keyboards from back in the day, complete with tinny speakers protected by plastic grating. :-)


Anyone else finds their blog hideous?


not that part but their header disappearing and reappearing is annoying. I'm on a smallish laptop screen, scrolling up to look at a picture immediately results in less space to read and covering the photo I just scrolled up to see.

So I have to scroll up to the photo, and then scroll down a little to make the header disappear.

Weird. On Chrome OS X the font looks properly anti-aliased.

2004 "Centerboard" and 2008 "Freeboard" were abominations. I don't know about traders but no self-respecting programmer at Bloomberg used these keyboard. Most replaced them with Microsoft Ergonomic or anything else to make typing bearable.

Anyone in the finance industry know why the keyboard would require speakers? Did the terminals use audio to deliver financial information or news reports?

The keyboards had speakers because at that time not many business PCs had speakers connected if they had soundcards. This provided a physical volume slider to listen to news out loud as well as a headphone/mic jack for private listening. Later uses allowed using the mic for squawkbox like functionality communicating between employees on various desks. The Terminal has had streaming audio and video since forever now. (Audio use cases involve things like earnings calls, investor relations as well as news.) Aside from A/V, the Terminal also has had text to speech for news for a very long time as well.

What a great review of the keyboards. This is such exquisite exotica in my view.

Weirdly long gap in the visual story between 1996 & 2004

Some of the early versions look like they were really trying to do some great innovation but disappointedly after all this time ended up at an IBM style keyboard that was around in the 80s.

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