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Why I use the IBM Model M keyboard that is older than me (yeokhengmeng.com)
152 points by yeokm1 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 167 comments

Yesss, another Model-M post, this always allows me to shamelessly promote one of my pet projects: https://github.com/zevv/bucklespring

"This project emulates the sound of my old faithful IBM Model-M space saver bucklespring keyboard while typing on my notebook, mainly for the purpose of annoying the hell out of my coworkers."

I couldn't get it to run on Windows, so I wrote one that would: https://github.com/tom-seddon/GfyKeys

I think there was some stuff that bucklespring does that mine doesn't, but once I'd got it basically working, I found I didn't really like it all that much. So I didn't bother doing anything more with it.

It doesn't seem to work on Windows 10 :(

Well, that is now beginning to look like a theme... It worked when I wrote it, but maybe one of the updates has changed something. I'll have a quick peek next week.

Thank you for trying it, at least ;)

It's one of those things where I know I'd go bonkers within 10 minutes, but still feel the strange desire to try it :P

If you need any debugging info, just leave another comment here as a reply. I go through my replies every so often.

Just tried this out, and I'm definitely getting a kick out of it. Though I do have a bug(?) report: the "-s" (stereo width) option doesn't seem to have any effect using version 1.4.0 here on my Ubuntu system. "-s 0" sounds the same as "-s 100" to me.

Awesome! I might have to turn this into a Mac menu bar app to make it easier to use and control.

(Hmm... I wonder if I could add binaural positioning...)

(Oh wait, that already exists! I bet it'll sound great with my soon-to-arrive, head-tracking Audeze Mobius.)

The fact that it properly implements stereo is kind of amazing.

I'm also glad that it is trivially turned off... :).

Thanks for sharing!

Trying out today at work :)

Oh my word. That’s great.

Since we're talking Model M, I will leave here my two cents about this whole mechanical keyboard wave that's been going on for some years now.

And before everyone downvotes me:

- yes, I own a mechanical keyboard (more than one, actually).

- Yes, one of them is a Model M. I also own an Unicomp Endura Pro (the one with the TrackPoint).

- Yes I have used some other Cherry-based keyboard (cherry blue and another color I didn't care remembering)

- Yes I have used a Topre-based keyboard.

Well, here is my two cents: mechanical keyboard are pointless.

It's one of those memes of this industry (like stickers on laptops). While I acknowledge that some membrane keyboard typing experience are atrocious, sometimes it's just a matter of brand/model. For example the "Dell Business Multimedia Keyboard" typing experience is remarkably good (link: https://www.amazon.com/KB522-Dell-Business-Multimedia-Compat...).

Quite frankly, I'd throw my Endura Pro in the trash can if that Dell Keyboard was available with the addition of a TrackPoint.

Mechanical keyboards offer no real typing aid, no speed-up, they are heavy, noisy (the "hey everybody look at me" kind of noisy), they have unnecessary accessories (rgb lighting wave effect? but why?) and above all they are unreasonably expensive.

Quite frankly, the best keyboard I have used so far is the ThinkPad USB Keyboard (1st gen, basically an X220 keyboard within a nice enclosure with a decent palmrest). It's light and checks all of my boxes. And it's not louder than a regular keyboard.

The aid that they offer to typing is that they don't actuate only when you bottom out so your fingers can more accurately determine when they have pressed a key, and you don't have to press the keys down so much. It is definitely noticeable in comparison to many rubber dome keyboards, IME, but to each their own. It is less noticeable on laptop keyboards as the travel distance is so low anyway.

* lots of mechanical keybards are awful though

> your fingers can more accurately determine when they have pressed a key

In my own, singular/personal experience, this has never been a problem for me, even with the much maligned MBP keyboard. When the key stops traveling, you have pressed the key.

Not discounting anyone who doesn't have the same experience - just offering my own.

You're missing the point. The whole point of a mechanical keyboard is that you don't press the key all the way down; you stop when it clicks. This is good for RSI because your finger doesn't abruptly decelerate because of mechanical bottoming-out.

I had a Model M back in the days when you could still buy a real Model M, and I was happy to get rid of it. I think everyone should use whatever type of keyboard fits them best and I'd never tell anyone they're using their keyboard wrong if that's the keyboard they like, but my favorite keyboard is the one on my 2015 rMBP. (disclosure, I've never used the keyboard on the brand new Macbook so I have no opinion on that)

I was glad to get rid of my Model M not only because, like you said, it was obnoxiously loud, but also because the keys were so damn heavy. Every mechanical keyboard I've used, I feel the same way on. I end up feeling like I'm forcing my fingers down, which tires out my wrists and forearms. Typing on a previous-generation Macbook keyboard, the keys respond almost the second I touch them, with barely any pressure needed at all. It feels a lot nicer and more responsive. I'm sure eventually I could find a really nice mechanical keyboard I like, but yeah, they're really expensive so I don't want to buy a bunch of them.

I personally don't like the feeling or the sound of typing on a typewriter, which mechanical keyboards feel like to me. I'm very happy with my current laptop's keyboard. Along the same vein, my 2013 MBP with the mechanical trackpad click is awful and hurts my finger over time when I click it. I much prefer the new force touch trackpad that doesn't really click, since it takes a lot less pressure to activate.

I suspect it depend on what purpose you are using the keyboard, and to a much larger degree to the amount of experience one has with one type of keyboard.

To make a analogy, a professional car racer is likely to have a strong opinion on the sound of the car engine, the behavior of the car and how much pressure is needed to turn the wheel. What would happen if you put a race driver in a car with noise cancellation so they can't hear anything, change the turning strength of the wheel so you need a fraction of the strength, and removed any "tactile feel" from the car (increased suspensions and so on). I would suspect that in the short time their racing ability would drastically drop, and possible long term. Hearing and feel are very core senses and gives ques to muscle memory, and it make some sense that cutting them off would likely harm performance in a competitive environment.

Personally I know that when I go and type on a membrane keyboard I tend to type with more mistakes, hammering the keys way too hard and have to look down more often at my hands. I suspect that 90% of that is down to muscle memory, but I am yet to be convinced that it is 100%.

- If you use 'normal' layout then you can use any keyboard. But mechanical switches allow to build ANY layout you would like (see links)

- You can program most mechanical keyboards (https://github.com/qmk/qmk_firmware) and move any key whenever you like and use additional features like assigning different actions on key 'tap' and 'hold'

- You can customize keycaps



I did notice one thing on my Cherry-MX brown: I was never ever left in doubt if a key registered or not. On my old membrane keyboard, sometimes I needed to double check if it registered (because I didn't pressed the key quite right), and when I was unsure in a password field, I needed to fully delete it and then type the password again.

Not a big thing, but it's a small improvement.

I spent about 3 months at my new job having to type my password multiple times before grabbing a work mechanical keyboard. It's still not as nice as my one at home, but it's a big drop in the rate of error.

Great post and sums up my experience as well. Have tried all you have and more (accept never got around to trying a Topre. I refuse to spend more on a keyboard than an i5 CPU). Amazingly, that Dell keyboard is ALSO the same exact KB that got me to just the same two cents as you! Typing on that Dell KB522 right now and have been for 7 months after someone recommended it to me in a popular online keyboard community.

Dell has history of making some of the best membrane keyboards. I had a SK-8115 for 3 years, then used one of their Taiwan RT7D5JTW Quietkey keyboards for 7 years and then I went through my mechanical phase for a year. Only to end up back on a Dell membrane.

Glad to see someone else confirm my thoughts.

Maybe the whole industry can reach the true typing nirvana: that Dell keyboard, with trackpoint.

I had one of those Lenovo keyboards with a Trackpoint until an unfortunate accident involving a cup of coffee. I went with something more ergonomic in its place, but I really miss that trackpoint...

Does anyone know why so few keyboards come with a TrackPoint. Having a trackpoint in the middle of your keyboard saves so many extra movements. Is it because of some IBM licensing costs?

Probably because of people like me. Had one on a few keyboards (including current Lenovo) and I was recently wondering why they still have them. I've never found one second of benefit, it just irritates me to even try it.

Not that it's the right view at all. Who knows what "most people" prefer but the lack of them might indicate a general cluelessness of how to use them.

It's possible other manufacturers don't add it because when they've tried it doesn't move their sales needle at all. Those who want it are particular about usage and eg just use Lenovo?

No idea why they never caught on. I haven't seen a desktop keyboard with one for ages. Lenovo used to do one but now all they do is the actual laptop keyboard in a desk case and that's it.

I got an IBM one years ago when I bought a T22. No idea of model, it wasn't mechanical, but it was the best keyboard I have ever used. Mostly because of that trackpoint, the buttons were exactly where you'd rest thumbs under the space bar anyway. Tackpads and mice always feel second best to me.

Even the key feel was great (and I have a UK made Model M and tried a selection of mechanical gaming keyboards that have all been disappointing apart from the M).

Tex Yoda: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/tex-yoda

Also, the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard has a couple of addon modules for trackpoints and trackballs: https://ultimatehackingkeyboard.com/

I agree that the X220 keyboard is a great one, definitely up there with the best keyboards around. And I also love the last-gen mbp keyboards. But a carefully tuned mech can offer a great experience imo. I see it as one of those things where the costs outweigh the benefits until you tune the thing perfectly. As you said, nearly all mechs are stupid loud - and for no reason because key dampeners (the little rubber o-rings) exist - it's just that nobody uses them. Same with the material used for a backplate. These are choices that a lot of mech buyers discount or aren't even aware of, but they make a big difference especially to the people that have to listen to you type 8 hrs a day. If you get blues in an open office you are an asshole.

And for the record my coworker's Model M drives me insane.

I have been on exactly the same journey!

I don't understand why so many people are in love with the Model M. I used one for nearly 3 years before switching to a Cherry MX blue keyboard.

After using a modern mechanical keyboard, I would never switch back to a Model M. Probably because of time, on the Model M every key has a different feeling. You never know where the activation point of the key is, because it is a little bit different for every key. The same is for the feedback the keys give you when pressing them down: those old springs just don't give you that reliable feeling the Cherry MX Blue keys give you.

I went through the cherries and never found one I liked remotely as much as the Model M, so to each their own.

Ironically the only thing I found that I liked as a replacement was the Apple keyboard, and that couldn’t be more different.

(I assure you, it could be much more different. Ever tried a rubber keyboard? Not rubber dome, rubber. Flexible keyboards, roll ’em up and take ’em with you—or toss ’em if you prefer, they were awful to type on. I haven’t got the foggiest idea why they were a thing for a couple of years about thirteen years ago. My school got a bunch of them for a year or so.

Or touch keyboards, they’re also much more differenter than Apple keyboards!)

Good point, I admit I was being facetious. An even further one would be one of those "keyboards" which project a keyboard image on a table!

I can tell you why I like the Apple keyboards, including the newer butterfly ones. As much as I loved the Model M i never used it correctly as I always bottomed out the keys instead of relying on the tactile feedback to know when to stop. As a result what I really want to feel is the satisfying thunk at the bottom of every keystroke. Something about the travel distance and feel of those Apple keyboards is just close enough to comfortable that it became good enough.

>I don't understand why so many people are in love with the Model M

I think it's similar to people who like the audio quality of vinyl records, but play them on a classic 1960's record player, negating the actual benefits. It's not really about the better quality, it's about the nostalgia and retro feel. I know a guy at work who types his personal notes on a mechanical typewriter. Not because it's easier or better, but because he likes the way it makes him feel to use a mechanical typewriter.

Doesn't matter what you play a vinyl on, vinyls are just going to be worse than CDs, despite what proponents tell you.

When you extract the audio by literally scraping a piece of metal across the surface- every time you play a vinyl, you degrade it. The "warm" quality of the audio proponents talk about is just noise introduced by the degrading material.

When CDs were new, many of them were mastered poorly. So there is a very specific few years where you want the vinyl instead of the CD. That's the most you can say for vinyl.


> vinyls are just going to be worse than CDs, despite what proponents tell you.

In terms of pure measurements, absolutely. In terms of experience? Well, it really depends on the person (and I am someone who much prefers modern digital music formats over analog).

I fully agree with the argument that digital can sound better than vinyl when properly mastered, but nothing you say here is correct.

You’re not scraping metal across the surface unless you’re using a phonograph with steel needles to play 78’s, which are not “vinyl”, and you hit the arm such that it goes perpendicular to the grooves, which is not a good idea, because it will make an unpleasant sound and badly damage the surface.

Digital material is still often mastered poorly. Some older material is still not properly mastered, despite multiple “remastering” releases.

I've used a Model M from 1985 for the last 6 years. I don't know how much it had been used before and I've recently started to think that it might have started to wear off. But all that time it has been the best keyboard I've ever used. I'm serious, my typos went down to less than half, instantaneously.

The sound does annoy me, though.

The cherries I've tried (mechanical keyboards - though I don't know the model names) felt like cheap toys in comparison. I think the inexpensive Dell SK-8115 is much better than those. The Dell has distinctively shaped keys and a solid activation point. Not a mechanical keyboard, though, and probably wears off quicker.

I find the old Model Ms to be heavier than newer Unicomp ones, which I really enjoy.

But I really can't stand most Cherry keys; blues are the most tolerable of the lot but they sound so 'tinky' because of the little click jackets.

Now Kailh Box switches, that's where it's at. Less wobble, better dust (and even some water) resistance, better tactility, a better click mechanism... Cherry isn't remotely the best game in town.

I used modern mechanical keyboards with a variety of switches for a while. Recently I got a Model M (a few months younger than me) and I like it a lot more.

As far as the feeling, it could be that the plastic rivets holding your Model M's internal "sandwich" together have failed. If you do a bolt or screw mod to put the pressure back on the parts that failed you'll have a much more consistent feel.

Couldn’t agree more, I think the Model M is way overrated. The main issue I had is that, for me at least, my fingers would quickly become fatigued. I’ve found modern Cherry MX switches to be much better, not to mention quieter. Plus there’s a whole world of custom keyboards centered around the Cherry MX “ecosystem”.

> I don't understand why so many people are in love with the Model M. I used one for nearly 3 years before switching to a Cherry MX blue keyboard.

Because people like different things. I've grown to love cherry blues, but buckling springs are still my favorite.

I beg to differ. If there’s one thing consistent with a model M is its feel. Are you sure your keyboard is working properly? I do have two, and all keys have the exact same feel and weight activation.

I also own a topre hhkb and it’s a totally different experience - specially the model S with the additional rubber rings.

I remember using model m’s at our high school’s library and not being particularly impressed by them.

Having started typing on IBM keyboards before the Model M, and eventually struggling to adapt to non-“mechanical” keyboards, it’s now hard for me to understand why people want to use them. I didn’t want to go to the “soft” laptop keyboards but learned to love them. It turns out the springs on the loud keyboards caused me a lot of repetitive stress discomfort and actually slowed down my typing.

I effortlessly type faster and more accurately on a model M than on my laptop. I actually feel more prone to RSI on the laptop. The laptop keyboard has a flat profile so your fingers have to reach further for the non-home-row keys. The keys are less defined on the laptop and are much easier to press down accidentally, and it's somewhat harder to tell when you've pressed one, so I find that I can't relax my fingers on the home row as much as on the model M. Despite the keys being easier to press down, I feel like I have to keep my hands more tense on the laptop keys. So, ymmv.

I ended up taking a gamble on a keyboard with Topre hybrid switches, without having tried one first. I actually really like it.

The keys are quieter than mechanical switches (they make more of a soft ‘thunk’ than a ‘clack’). Typing speed and accuracy are quite good. I only use it for work, though, so I have no idea how well or poorly it would perform for gaming or other tasks.

I generally use a CM Novatouch TKL, which is a keyboard with Topre switches with MX stems (for keycaps).

Sadly it's apparently impossible to buy those switches by themselves (for a custom build) without desoldering from a donor board.

It’s an alpha geek status symbol.

I had an office neighbor who used one of these things. Obnoxious and loud. Personally, I fought back by playing the teletype sound effect that would play in the background on 1010 WINS in NYC at moderate volume to improve my cognitive function.

To avoid discomfort I have a small selection of keyboards. A change is as good as a rest.

The Falcon Z-77 87 Key Mechanical Keyboard is my most recent acquisition. Being left handed I don't need the num pad as it is on the wrong side, however, due to moving away from Vim I did want those home/end keys, hence the 87 key keyboard with novelty programmable backlit keys. I can grey out the useless Windows keys and get the important Vim keys in green!

This I do get tired of though, so, if writing words rather than code I swap over to my Logitech K810 where there are no home/end keys. This is a soft touch keyboard with backlighting and no 'noise pollution'.

Then there are the built in laptop keyboards to use too.

IMHO the Chromebook keyboard layout is the future.

Variety in keyboards is an accidental discovery, with the Logitech K810 it works across devices - up to three - and with Synergy it works across more. I had thought that getting the optimal keyboard was the way to go, whereas in use I prefer the occasional change.

The keyboard that does get the most questions is none of the above, it is the 'Tron' style flat keyboard on my Lenovo Yogabook that doubles up as a drawing tablet.

I'm in the middle camp: I have two Das keyboards, and I like them a lot, but I don't have a problem using my Dell laptop's (or my Mac book's) keyboard either. I don't see what all the fuss is about, both types seem about as comfortable to me.

I bought Das because I thought I wanted a better keyboard and remembered that back in the day I loved my mechanical "click" keyboard. It turns out I was wrong. The (brown) switches were waaay too loud for my (and my coworkers') taste and the quality of build was simply appaling given their price tag. Not totally bad, but worse than any "normal" Logitech kbd. I got rid of it after ~5 months.

So this wouldn't work with blues, but for browns, blacks, and reds you can always get O-rings to put under the keys. In college I played lots of video games late at night while my roommate was sleeping and once I installed O-rings on my MX reds he never had issues again.

Cool, didn't know that. Is the feeling any different? Anyway, that keyboard is gone and I am never buying one based on reviews only again. :)

Like the sibling comment said, it is a little less "clacky". The harder you tend to type the larger the difference you will notice. I tend to type lighter without bottoming out too much, so the difference wasn't as stark. Also, the key travel is cut down just a little, but I didn't mind one way or another.

The feeling is a little less fun, but still better than a normal keyboard.

Disclosure: I’m not the one you responded to

There are lots of different type of mechanical switches, maybe you need to find the right one? Many are soft and/or silent, if that's your thing.

>it’s now hard for me to understand why people want to use them

Cargo cult (which could also be on the inverse side).

Nobody measures anything in this industry -- like the relative RSI or typing speed between the two kinds of keyboards. So people can go around and stick to their personal preferences (even while they could slow them down compared to the other type of keyboard), and insist of their superiority, what actually holds true be damned.

The best keyboard that I have personally used is the old IBM Thinkpad keys. They had a slight curve for accommodating touch typists, instead of the flat keys in the modern keyboards. I could type at 100+ WPM in the old IBM thinkpads even when I am sitting in a dark room. I struggle to reach around 80 wpm in the macbook pro and modern lenovo thinkpads.

The new macbook pro with the touchbar is the worst keyboard that I have ever used and I ended up buying an old model Macbook just because of the keyboard.

I wish Microsoft or Google releases a good developer oriented laptop with proper keyboard (Preferably licensing the old IBM thinkpad keyboard style) and full-size buttons for arrow keys, boatloads of extensible RAM and a gorgeous screen. Apple seem to not care anymore about macbooks :(

The keyboard is the main reason i stick with my X220i, even though it's getting a bit long in the tooth and somewhat challenged in the CPU department. I certainly don't get anywhere near the rated uptime out of a battery, since it's working the CPU a lot harder now than with 2011-era software.

Still, the build quality and keyboard are absolutely second to none. Hardware- and build quality-wise the best laptop ever made. It's 7 years old, and the hinge is still as tight and smooth as a new one.

I wish I had gotten one of the full-size desktop Thinkpad-style USB keyboards, back when they still made them.

> I wish I had gotten one of the full-size desktop Thinkpad-style USB keyboards, back when they still made them.

They stopped? That's a shame, I was hoping they'd work out their quality issues. I really liked mine except that it seldom registered the letter j. Which was a real problem for me as a vi user. Not to mention typing passwords. I have the endura pro now, mainly for the pointing stick, but I find that the implementation is nowhere near as good as trackpoint. Also the endura pro seems to draw a heck of a lot of current.

Yeah, now they only make one with the new chiclet keyboard, and only as a compact model, with no numeric keypad.

They used to make one with the old-style Thinkpad keys, with a full 104/105-key layout, trackpoint and touchpad.

I've been using a Logitech Ultra Flat for almost a decade now, and while it seems to be holding up fine, it won't last forever (unlike a Thinkpad keyboard).

I have never seen a keyboard without curved keys.

Laptops with flat keys, yes, but laptop keyboards are a last resort.

Then you've had the good fortune of never having to use an Apple desktop keyboard made in the past 10 years.

Call me weird if you must, but I truly appreciate the Apple keyboards. Probably my favorite is the new model Bluetooth keyboard. I love the very very minimal key travel and low activation pressure. I used to have to use “natural” keyboards to keep carpel tunnel at bay, but the previously mentioned features seem to accomplish the same goal. My only nit with it is that I wish it was a full size keyboard including numeric keypad, but I’ve gotten used to not having it now. I also mostly like the new laptop keyboards too, but they can be a bit noisy for my taste when I’m typing fast, especially on the 2016 12” MacBook.

I agree. The best keyboard I've found to stave off finger and wrist pain is the Macbook keyboard. I've never tried the brand new one, but the 2015 and 2013 I have, the low key travel really helps the wrist pain a lot.

It is definitely a matter of personal preference. I am a big fan of the Thinkpad keyboards and despise the butterfly keyboards. Apple does still make a full layout version of the bluetooth keyboard though. Though thanks to the built in battery there probably won't be people 30 years from now writing articles about how much they love their retro Magic Keyboard.

> Apple does still make a full layout version of the bluetooth keyboard though.

Wow, somehow I had missed that. It also comes in Space Grey with black caps. Needless to say, going to grab one!

It was easy to miss, they introduced it a whopping 2 years later than the small version.

Amazon Basics keyboard has flat keys

Unicomp (http://www.pckeyboard.com/) is a great source for the IBM Model M style keyboards.

I bought a keyboard from Unicomp hoping to get something as great as the Model M. It arrived with keycaps popped off during shipping and failed not long after that (https://twitter.com/mcculley/status/659798006208856064). I have since bought several Das Keyboards for myself and my staff. I love them.

Of course, we have private offices. I would not advise using these great keyboards in open floor plan offices or coworking spaces.

> I would not advise using these great keyboards in open floor plan offices or coworking spaces.

That says more about having open floor offices than having to restrict personal use of the single most important input device in many offices.

I would advise everyone to start using these keyboards in open floor offices. That'll certainly hasten the end of this terrible fad (the open floor offices, not the keyboards).

I agree. That’s why I favor real offices for doing real work. Still, I occasionally work in close proximity to others. I would not bring along one of these keyboards to such situations and suffer along with my laptop keyboard.

I have a Unicomp with the Ctrl and caps lock keys swapped out of the box, it was one of those "Linux" or UNIX models. I'm old enough to have used a real Model M in high school and I couldn't tell the difference between them when typing. It's a great keyboard and I hope it never dies.

Interesting! I bought one a few years ago, and other than slightly cheaper plastic extrusion, I can’t tell that there’s anything worse about this than a classic Model M.

To your second point, when it came time to get a mechanical keyboard for a open plan office, I bought a firm, but non-clacky Cherry switch keyboard. I quite like feel of it... there’s something satisfying about the Unicomp / Model M, but I can’t help but think the actual typing experience of the Rosewill generic Cherry keyboard isn’t a bit better.

Seconded. They’ll even build you a custom keyboard layout. For example, I have a dvorak keyboard that doesn’t need to be messed with in software. You can get them in PS/2 or USB configurations.

Back in 2012 I started a side business, picking up old computer parts (for a fee) from businesses. Apparently, it's difficult to throw them away because of the lead content.

I then took those components and either sold them as is or in the case of Model M keyboards - I could make them USB compatible and sell them for $100 - $150 (as opposed to $40 unaltered). I still have a few laying around, which I used through college.

Having worked with innards and written a few controllers for conversion(s) of keyboards. I have to say, unlike many, I see the appeal.

I'm currently writing this comment on a Corsair keyboard, and although there is tactile feedback - I can tell it is not a mechanical keyboard. "There's a clickety-clack, but not a snap" When you have a model M your keys (as shown in the article) essentially, buckle - and it requires more force. To be honest, after using the model M for a bit, you actually get stronger fingers...

That feeling is often preferred, I personally can work on a mac fine, but flat keyboards I can find irritating because I like the feedback mechanism.

Some people might be interested in 'Das Keyboard' (German for 'The Keyboard'):


German for "The Keyboard" is "die Tastatur".

In German the word "das Keyboard" refers to the musical instrument.

I have several of their keyboards and love them. For a while, they were using Chinese copies of Cherry keys and those weren't as good, so I always make sure I get a model with Cherry keys.

My reason for preferring mechanical keyboards is due to spinal nerve damage I have as a result of a dual disk fusion some years ago. I have limited sensation in over half of my fingers and the additional tactile and audio feedback of a mechanical keyboard makes a real difference. I tried one of the current MacBooks in the Apple store and it was awful. There is far too little feedback for my damaged hands. I use my current 2014 MacBook with an external Das Keyboard normally, but it is usable when I take it on the road. I'm not convinced that would be the case with the current MacBooks. Not to pick on Apple too much, the standard throwaway mushboards that come with the Dell systems at work are similarly unusable for me.

I have the Model S Professional [1] and very happy with it. It's the Clicky - MX Blue and was a gift from someone who I shared an office with. I think they weren't too happy about how loud it was. Thankfully, I now work in my own office so I don't have to worry about it being loud.

[1] https://shop.daskeyboard.com/products/das-keyboard-professio...

That volume knob is something I've wanted on a keyboard for ages. How programmable is it without their proprietary software and cloud integration? My keyboard is the last thing I want cloud connected.

I have bought several of these for myself and my staff. They are great and I highly recommend them. (This comment was typed on one.)

The Model M keyboard is the "I use arch btw" of keyboards.

Model M: “the old is good”.

Arch Linux: “… um, no. The new is good. Why do you think I left Ubuntu in the first place?” (Having more control is one aspect of it, but rolling releases and not having to add a PPA to get a newer-than-five-years-ago version of a package is rather compelling too.)

My arch linux using co-worker is currently awaiting delivery of one of these:


Omg it can come in Cherry silvers! It looks so comfy, I wonder how good it feels

I've been using one for about six months now. The ortholinear layout and the custom key mapping reduced my WPM to near zero for about a week, and it took about a month to get back to full speed, but now you'd have to pry it from my cold dead hands. I love it so much I take it to the office and back home with me every day. I guess I should buy another one.

Haha this is true. I use a Model M keyboard, btw.

> If I can build an ultimate keyboard, I would say a combination of the capacitive buckling spring of the Model F + the modern layout of the Model M + Windows/Command key. Alas, no such product exists and I think the benefits of the modern Model M layout supersedes the slight benefit of the capacitive buckling spring.

There's a company at least claiming to do that (but I don't know how true to the original these capacitive switches actually are): https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/

Ordering seems to have closed yesterday, but given it's a weekend, maybe you can still sneak one in?

Unicomp makes model M type keyboards, and they don't use capacitive buckling springs, so it's not quite the same thing.

Ah. I missed the capacitive part. That said, from what I've read, the difference between the capacitive buckling springs and the membrane buckling springs is negligible. I used a Model M for years, and it was fantastic to type on.

I did mention it at the end of my blog post.

"A small fun fact is that a guy is intending to remake the Model F keyboards, you can check out his site here. Hope you look at your keyboards differently from now!"

The issue is that I want my full size layout like the Model M and modern keyboards. He does not seem to be making that version.

I've met the guy at keyboard meetups and tried his prototypes. They feel exactly like a real Model F (or at least as exactly as you can get to inconsistent-due-to-incredible age keyboards).

You can keep ordering until you can't; it's an illusory deadline.

Question: in open offices, what's the consensus of the etiquette regarding the use of loud keyboards?

Loud keyboards are incredibly annoying and inconsiderate in an open office or any other kind of shared space

Open offices are incredibly annoying and inconsiderate to those trying to do real work on proper keyboards (and trackballs).

Why do people who use laptops during their daily train commute seem to type REALLY LOUDLY!??

My colleague who sits beside me is okay with it :)

There are no rules in my office. No one would use "blues", though. Plenty of people, including me, have mechanical keyboards around - just not audible ones. Of course they would give you the "classical" caps hitting the chassis sound, but that is quite normal and acceptable where I work.

Probably a dick move, depending on the ambient noise level of the office.

Typewriters are still worse, though.

I never learned to type "properly", or, should I say, never completed learning. We were told very sternly in catholic school typing class not to fiddle with the IBM Selectric "golf ball" lest the typewriter malfunction and we be permanently removed from the class.

Being a curious and tinkering individual, I was presently kicked out of the class. (Insert here rant on rewarding curiosity in schools, rather than punishing it.)

Today I have a bizarre, hybrid typing style, somewhere near touch-typing with a lot of error correcting, and occasional hunt-and-peck. It's odd... the hunt-and-peck occurs more when I'm typing nonsense like passwords. Words (and quasi-words in code and the shell) seem to come out just fine.

That said, it's nice to see that even in my 40s, I can improve at something over time.

A lot of the improvements in my typing, I owe to returning to mechanical keyboards. (I think... this is completely unscientific.) First, I switched to a Das Keyboard Ultimate, without labeled keycaps. This really forced myself to get away from the crutch that was the labeled keys.

Lately, I've switched to a Kinesis Advantage 2 ergonomic keyboard. This has helped more with my hand positioning, which seems to have improved even going back to a "default keyboard" -- I've noticed that when traveling and using my laptop keyboard, my typing has also improved.

I will fully admit that in addition to attempting to improve my typing and treat/prevent RSI in a non-scientific manner, I bought these keyboards for the eccentric nerd factor. As one does.

I went a long time before learning to touch type properly. I had a fast-ish quasi touch / hunt and peck style I suspect similar to what you describe.

I ended up learning to touch type by 1) switching my keyboard to dvorak in software 2) printing a paper dvorak map that I taped just below my monitor (aside: a big surplus HP CRT with BNC connectors in those days) 3) Forcing myself to use only the correct finger to hit each key, then returning to rest in the home row.

This was back in college. I was a journalism major at the time, and so my inability to touch type had become a liability. It took me about a week of slow suffering before I was off to the races.

If RSI is a problem for you, you might consider training yourself to type on a dvorak layout. There are lots of claims about dvorak (some true and some hyperbole), but one thing that is absolutely true is that the amount of finger travel is much lower. Back when I learned dvorak, I actually measured finger stretch distances from the home row on my keyboard, and compared a corpus of my emails to figure how much travel would have been required in qwerty vs dvorak. Dvorak was substantially less.

There are theoretically better layouts than dvorak, but I think dvorak strikes a great balance between ergonomics and being available and easy to switch to on every operating system.

>There are theoretically better layouts than dvorak, but I think dvorak strikes a great balance between ergonomics and being available and easy to switch to on every operating system.

I disagree, and I'm a Dvorak typist. In any modern OS, Colemak at the least should be commonly available. Workman is a very good layout too, and should be pretty commonly available.

Dvorak's main advantage is that it's been around a long time, but it's not really the best layout IMO. One day I want to learn Workman as it seems to correct the flaws I see with Dvorak, and it should also (just like Colemak) be easier to learn for Qwerty typists than Dvorak.

It's a hard balance. Dvorak is vastly better than Qwerty and is ubiquitous. I have seen Colemak pretty commonly, and Workman once in a while. I don't doubt Workman might be marginally better than Dvorak, but I don't know if it's enough better for me to be the change that I want to see in the world.

Workman vs. Colemak probably isn't a huge gain. However, either of those have a huge advantage over Dvorak for someone who doesn't already know Dvorak and knows Qwerty, because they're just not that different from Qwerty the way Dvorak is. They also preserve the left-hand location of C, V, and X since those are so commonly used for cut-and-paste operations.

Again, this is coming from someone who's proficient in Dvorak, but not Colemak or Workman, but right now I would not recommend Dvorak to someone interested in trying an alternate layout; I'd point them to these newer alternatives instead.

I’ve considered Dvorak, but I’m very reluctant to make the investment in lost productivity while learning. I’m not certain my slow suffering would be limited to about a week.

My wife switched (she was already a touch typist) and it was only a few days of diminished productivity for her. I think I might have been the bad case :-)

> the hunt-and-peck occurs more when I'm typing nonsense like passwords

Actually one of the reasons password manages are recommended is that entering passwords is never as fast as typing normal words so it's easier to shoulder surf.

All my passwords use pronounceable combinations of letters, so I can type them as fast as my normal typing.

It has to do with mental grouping [0]. Words aren't a bag of letters, their order has a particular meaning. The mental overhead of "tbwvpcrwx" is 9 letters, while "WrtCdEvrydy" is, for me, 5 things: "w" "r" "t" "cd" "evrydy" (and I assume based on the capitalization, 3 things for you).

With regular use, your mind creates a mapping of "thing" to "keypresses". As long as a password remains a 9-thing bag of characters in your head, those 9 things will be slower to type than a 3-thing set of letters. But if you can create mental meaning from them, your password-typing speed will increase to where it's indistinguishable from normal words.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magical_Number_Seven,_Plus...

(Quick edit: "WrtCdEvrydy" just dropped to "3 things" for me right after posting, I now have "Wrt" in my head as the fake-word "wirt".)

Passwords really do need to die.

I was lucky enough to bag one of these on eBay 10 years ago, someone was selling a god awful computer and I asked if I could just take the keyboard for a vintage computing project. Cost me 10 pounds. I bolt modded it, but eventually sold it as I wanted to fund my HHKB addiction which is a solid keyboard, just more portable than a Model M

Thankfully, a friend gave me another Model M recently, and it's now awaiting a clean and a cable

I’ve recently fallen down the deep dark rathole that is mechanical keyboards and I heartily encourage others to do the same :)

For those of us that spend a majority of our working (and leisure?) time typing, it only makes sense (ha!) to customize and optimize the tool you use to accomplish that.

This is apparently a love/hate thing for some, but I really like the feel (and sound — THOCK) of Topre keyboards. They use electrostatic capacitive switches and are super satisfying.

Also it’s kinda fun to build crazy customized stuff :)

Shameless plug - check out /r/mechanicalkeyboards to catch a glimpse of the depths of obsession that exist...

Brings back memories! I learned touch typing using two IBM Model M keyboards that my friends dad got from some bank office he was hired to clear out (the bank had closed, I think he drove half a trailer filled with those keyboards to the recycling center, would probably be worth quite a bit today!)

I took two, spray painted one black and switched over every second keycap so I had two keyboards with every 2nd key completely black.

Today I use a Logitech G413 mechanical keyboard at work, it's descent, but I still miss the old battle-tank Model M sometimes :)

If you don't like those "yellowish" keys, get some peroxide cream, put a layer over all yellowish surfaces and leave it on the sun for a few days, applying more cream if needed. You'll get them back to normal ;-) I've recently "resurrected" my old Creative Prodikeys that way. Applies to any older yellowish plastic stuff, e.g. you want your retro Amiga 500 to look good again etc.

Do you have some before and after pictures?

The 8-Bit Guy has a fantastic video on YouTube comparing a few different methods of restoring yellowed plastic, including the peroxide in the sun method: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZYbchvSUDY :)

Damn, that was a really cool video !!

Here's a link to his results for keyboard keys (they all initially looked like the control key): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZYbchvSUDY&t=780

and for an computer case (essentially everything was as brown as that rectangle you can see): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZYbchvSUDY&t=1120

If you can get it, the cheapest mechanical keyboard is the TVS Gold Bharat keyboard - made in India and is built with Cherry mx blue keys.

It is a hit or a miss now, they are using Long Hua blue switches, which are Cherry MX Blue clones.

If you can find an old one for sale - that is more likely to have Cherry MX.

I've used computers for the past 30 years and having switched to ultra flat keyboards (cherry strait being my personal choice) of modern age I just can't see how old type mechanical keyboards can beat the experience.

Can someone explain to me what advantages draw them to mechanical keyboards?

Not hating, just trying to understand the phenomenon.

1. They feel really nice to type on

2. They are often very well built

I have a ortho chiclet keyboard which I think is pretty nice, and miles ahead of any membrane keyboard. But 99% of the time I still end up using mechanical keyboards.

> 1. They feel really nice to type on

Ok, I guess this is as subjective as it gets, but don't you think that flat keyboard with small key depression and quick reaction time beats mechanical in terms of typing speed?

Old keyboards aren't flat intentionally. It's because the profile of the keys is designed to make them easier to type on (so your fingers have to move less distance to reach all the keys). If flat was better, keyboards would have just been flat from the beginning. It would make manufacturing easier, after all.

I really don't know which is meant to be quicker. But rarely when typing am I constrained by the length of travel or weight of the keys (within reason).

So it (almost) all comes down to what feels nicer.

I think this is mostly because of a sound old keys make.

Interesting that there's no discussion on the size/shape of the [Enter/Return] key. My first computer in the 80s came with a larger, L-Shaped [Enter] key[0]. Didn't think much of it at the time until all I saw afterwards was the thinner, bar-shaped style.

I think part of the reason is that I never use the right-hand shiftKey - which has always seemed obnoxiously large (because I never use it). Also not a keyboard junkie, I always type on whatever keyboard the computer/laptop comes with. To this day, I do miss the larger [Enter/Return] key but can't justify carrying an extra keyboard because of a single annoying key.

[0] https://i.stack.imgur.com/Z0VXC.jpg

I bought one of these for myself last year, as it was on my wishlist from when I was a kid. My primary school had IBM PS/2 computers in ~1992 when I was in grade four, so I bought a vintage Model M keyboard made in 1992. I learned to type on these keyboards, so I've always had a sort of affinity with them.

Buying this keyboard was one of the best purchases I think I've made in my life. It's just a joy to type on and brings a love for computing hardware back that I feel I've lost as computers have become commodities.

If you're on the fence, pull the trigger.

I got mine from https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/store.

Guess what, I still use a Logitech G11 (display-less version of the above). I purchased around 4 of them for my other workstations. Yes, the rubber dome has a different feel after some usage but you can get used to it after a few minutes. The added 18 custom keys and on the fly macro recording options are great. It's huge, but also spatious. The backlighting is dim and begins to strobe after a few years.

I guess I'll have to look for alternatives in a few years when used ones in good condition will be hard to find, but as of now, I'd still purchase them. That's the thing with tactile tools you use every day - you just get attached to them.

Given the price they're going for, having a Model M seems more like a status symbol now than a true devotion to mechanical keyboards.

I had a co-worker with a Model M. It was certainly nice (and heavy), but I had a hard time justifying paying 3x the price for it when my $40 generic mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX switches (or maybe they were "Blue" Cherry-like switches, come to think of it) were nearly as good.

I suppose if my keyboard starts to crap out in three years then maybe the Model M would be the more prudent investment, but, for the moment, it's holding strong, and I didn't need to break the bank to get one.

My last genuine Model M was from 1987 and it died a few years ago. I bought a Das Keyboard and it has been a great replacement :)

The layout of Model M and the tactile feedback is simply the best.. I type much faster on it than anything else.

My keyboard at work is a 122-key IBM Model F. I bought a relatively expensive adapter to plug it into a modern computer, and I don't regret it at all.

While I know there was a bit of a reboot-project a year or two ago, other than that there really hasn't been anything that quite matches the feel of the Model F, and it's an absolute joy to type on. It's also a wonderful tool to make a lot of noise and annoy coworkers, so it's great on two fronts.

The way I figure it is that I spend a majority of my day typing on a keyboard, so it's worth it to me to have the tool that feels right to me.

I have tried and tested many mechanical keyboards, cherry mx blue, brown and black. I feel like I'm disturbing my co-workers with the clicking, and always felt that there is something off with my typing. Sometimes, a bit clunky and nervous, as the keys need to much force and doesn't bottom out.

It's funny that the author compares the expensive mechanical keyboards with the Logitech K120, which I have found to be the best and most comfortable keyboard that I have yet to try. It's even more funny as it is one cheapest ones you can find (10-15USD), almost makes the keyboard even better!

What do you like about the K120? (The price on Taobao is apparently 42RMB delivered domestically within China which is only USD$6.35.) Personally I grew up with Model M's but have not used one in decades. I do feel the keyboards on most laptops are crap... side-shifting / imprecise travel, weird noises, stuck keys, etc. That's OK with me, I type less these days anyway!

Its quite, I always hit the right keys and it might be the layout that makes me not think about where the keys are. I feel like my fingers strikes the keys in a comfortable and confident manner. I type fast on it and use it for both my Mac and PC setup.

The keystroke is short, but gives a sound/click response that's very subtle.

6USD is real cheap :) I might even get a few to just have backups.

Every time I change keyboards (particularly to/from Mac, but also new laptops on a given platform generally have slightly different layouts) I feel like I go through the 'readjust to key position' thing. It's not a biggy these days, having done it perhaps 30+ times.

Right now my biggest whinge is there are too many meta keys. Ctrl+Fn+Win+Alt+Shift is just overkill. Bring back home and end (switching to Mac years ago this was my biggest gripe), down with the Windows key, larger space bars for all! Often I find myself trying weird meta combos to get the functionality I need, I feel like I use so much different software on so many platforms it's basically easier to brute force search the meta-space than remember the damn platform-specific hotkeys half the time :)

Yeah I had one before I got a mech keyboard with cherry browns, and it's honestly a great keyboard for the price. It feels decent, and the keys and the layout all just feel right. Very light actuation force though.

Ah, the Model M. The red Swingline stapler of techies.

Hint: If you think you "need"a Model M, or even a Cherry MX blue board, YOU'RE TYPING TOO HARD. Get an Apple keyboard and practice typing with a light touch.

Or maybe different people have different keyboard preferences.

I grew up using the Model M's in various computer labs. For my own computers I didn't have enough money so I stuck with membrane keyboards. I recently got some Cherry MX browns.

Nothing is like that Model M IMO. It is probably straight nostalgia thinking about it. I've tried nearly every keyboard type due to working in consulting and using all kinds of laptops and desktops but I have a new personal favorite: the Chromebook Pixel keyboard. It feels like sex to type on.

In the era of RGB keyboard, coming back to a non illuminated one would feels really broken. Luminance and typing effects really helps to type faster. After tested a bunch of them, I stick to a Corsair k70 cherry mx brown for programming, not much downside, just deliberately noisy. Ear that: https://youtu.be/op_9KodHoYA?t=39

Is there a keyboard which has solved the issue of the noise?Also, do you know any keyboard with a higher typing surface to allow less precise positioning of the fingers?

Today, my prefered keyboard (for coding) is the one on my Lenovo X1 carbon. Silent, precise but "fault tolerant". Very impressive. Only issue is the layout a full keyboard would be way better.

Totally bought one from ClickyKeyboards this morning after reading. Thanks for the write up. Currently switch between a Vortex VTG-8200 and the iMac Pro keyboard. The vortex is nice.


I have not used a lot of mechanical keyboards, but I think there is a spectrum where laptop flat keyboards are on one end and clacky big mechanical keyboards are on the other end.

For some reason I find that I like keyboards somewhere in the middle -- boards with good key travel but also a fair bit of mush in the key presses. Currently rotating between Topres and MX Brown switches this year.

After trying a few different brands of mechanical keyboard, I found WASD Keyboards to be very sturdy and customizable. I have my configuration setup in a Model M style, but with Cherry clear switches.

Although, I would love doubleshot PBT caps for the colemak layout, but that is not available. Other caps tend to fade quickly.

I'm also interested in trying other switches.

I really wish someone resurrected the beam spring keyboards. I'm quite sure all design patents on those are long expired.

The sad part is that in my case (while still using an original Model M from PS/2, circa 1992)it is some thirty years younger than me.

Only for the record, there are guys specialized in procuring, restoring and reselling Model M's:


This article talked a lot about keyboards, but failed to say why. What is the advantage of a Model M? I used one for a long time, and it's in the closet now. I can type faster on modern keyboards, because my fingers don't move as far. I suspect the only real reason to use a Model M is perceived "hacker cred."

My first computer was an IBM PC XT, so I have a nostalgic attachment to the sound and feel of my Model-M. No, neither of the M's I own are the one from my first PC, I acquired them from a former employer who had a small pile tucked away in a storage closet that everyone had forgotten about.

I think the XT was a model F

I think you're right that they shipped with an F, but mine was used (I had it in the 90s) and it came with an M.

It's a matter of taste, but I love my Unicomp "Battleship" PC-122 keyboard. It's noisy, but it feels great and the sound is reminiscent of a time when computers were built to last rather than being thrown away to be recycled when they break.

But then I'm a nostalgic.

I used to own a model M back in the early 90's. It was a joy to use and you could drive a tank over it without damaging it. Unfortunately I lost it during a house move. These days I settle for keyboards with Cherry MX blue switches. But I still want a model M with springs.

I use a model M as well! I have some that I saved from an old office of mine, but sadly I didn’t save all of them. (They had thrown out 20-25 the week before while I was on vacation. I guess that’s what happens when you miss out on spring cleaning).

After so many hours gaming, I can no longer use keyboards without the left ctrl key under my left palm. It feels so foreign I can barely type. I recently discovered this playing around with some older keyboards with the larger bezels.

Never had an M but I'm a big fan of cheap chinese mechanical keyboards, they are getting better and better every year.

Model M's are great - but if you use one in an open plan office then there's a special place in hell for you ...

Open plan is a special place in hell. Might as well use a decent keyboard while you are there.

I tell people that there's a circle of hell reserved for people who steal office supplies and take long shits on the job. It consists of an open-plan office where you have to prepare long complicated reports that are due by COB each day, working cheek-by-jowl with your fellow damned.

Behind you, there are rows of demons eating apples, crisps, pretzels, nuts, and other crunchy things. Maybe some of the demons should be working Model M keyboards, as well.

Don't forget the demons drinking from sports bottles that gurgle.

If that is a clicky keyboard and work with others that is grounds to be fired.

And I still can't find any advantages (even in the article) except "you have to try it".

For me, if the "digging in" distance and spring-out resistance is satisfactory it's a good keyboard. I only can't stand the laptop flat ones

I have also have one and gave it to my son who wanted it. It has the old connector. Found out after giving it to him they are valuable.

But NOT older than me. I am old.


Do you mean a PS/2 connector, or a five pin DIN? Or even one of the earlier connectors; I had an IBM keyboard once that was something I can only imagine predated the 5 pin DIN. PS/2 to five pin DIN (and vice-versa) was easy enough, but I never did get that keyboard connected to anything.

I'm typing this on a Model M I picked up from my keyboard corner just now. As I recall, this one doesn't work well; pretty soon, it will stop registering some keypresses. Never have been able to work out why :/

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