Keyboard rant

by Michael Alderete on 11/11/2001

I recently bought a new Macintosh, my first in three years. The new systems don’t have the old keyboard connector (ADB), just USB connections. They come with a keyboard, and mouse too, but both of them suck.

Oh, they’re pretty enough, but when you use them intensively, day in and day out, the form-over-function flaws start to drive you nuts.

I found a wonderful replacement for the mouse, a Logitech wireless optical mouse, which is easily the nicest mouse I’ve ever used. It’s also beautiful to look at, proving that highly functional does not require ugly. Wish Steve Jobs would learn that lesson.

Which brings me to the keyboard. The Apple Pro Keyboard is, as I said, beautiful to look at, but the actuators are kind of stiff, and the key action is spongy. This means that I’m constantly missing letters and capitalization, because the key doesn’t press correctly to my touch typing. And the combination is causing my hands to hurt, from hitting the keys too hard.

What’s truly awful, though, is that there is no decent third-party replacement for Apple’s keyboard. Oh, there’s dozens, or even hundreds, of USB keyboards, any of which I can use on a Mac. But they all have Alt and Windows keys, and no Option or Command keys, and Alt and Control are in the wrong places. The few that are Mac-specific, with the right keys in the right places, are not very good.

The thing that I don’t understand is that Apple once upon a time made a truly awesome keyboard. The Apple Extended Keyboard (the original, not the “II” version that came out later) is almost universally revered among Mac journalists as the best keyboard they’ve ever used, on any platform.

I’m certainly in agreement with them. I’ve had an Extended for as long as I’ve owned Macs, more than 10 years, taking that one keyboard from an SE with two floppies all the way to my last system, a Beige G3. It took a huge amount of abuse, never gave me any trouble, and the key action is, even after 10 years of heavy use, truly a writer’s delight.

But it’s an ADB keyboard, which means I can’t use it on my new G4, unless I buy an adapter. I don’t really want to do that, because I don’t trust it to be compatible long-term.

Also, Apple did do one thing really right on their Pro keyboard. The addition of Volume Up/Down/Mute and CD Eject keys are a real convenience, and those don’t exist on my 10 year old keyboard. I really want to find a very good modern keyboard that’ll work with modern Macs. So far as I can tell, such a beast does not exist.

If you have recommendations, let me know!

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