Worst (and Best) keyboards

Seems like for some reason I didn't actually post this when I wrote it on Jan 10th 2008, so I'll post it now

I've just read over the PC World "10 Worst Keyboards of all time" article. Out of the 10 there was only 3 I hadn't actually used (the IBM PCjr, the original PET, and the Atari 400. All the others I've actually used at least once. I found it interesting on the selection of the Sinclair keyboards, the ZX Spectrum one suffered all the same problems as the Timex 1000 but the metal "cover" also came off over time. I replaced the key membrane on my speccy at least once and upgraded the heat sink to try and stop it failing again (didn't really help in the long run)).

My current vote for the worst keyboard of all time is actually the iPhone/iTouch - yes it doesn't have a real keyboard but an on screen touch one instead, and the later lacks Bluetooth for connection of a "real" keyboard. I don't own an iPhone/iTouch just played with friends so maybe it gets better over time.

My favourite keyboard - Sun Microsystems Type 7 (USB) US UNIX layout. The layout is critical despite being a Brit I hate the UK keyboard layout with a passion it sucks for writing C or shell code because " and # get moved! The UNIX layout is also important so that Control is on the same row as return - caps lock has no use since I stopped writting COBOL code.


I've similarly used the majority of these keyboards, too - about the only ones I've not had my hands on at some point are the Aquarius, PCjr, Timex Sinclair 2068 and TI 99/4. I've certainly had the discomfort of typing on both flavours of PET.

However, I have to include one other in the list - a Control Data terminal (I forget which model, but hey, it was 20 years ago) which had such a strong return action in the keys, that you had to use it like an Imperial typewriter - you'd hold your hands a couple of inches above the keyboard and accelerate your fingers downward, in the hope of making electrical contact pn the key before the rturn spring bounced your finger back up to where it started.

Also, my own favourite keyboard belonged to a high-end (for its time, in the early '90s) Tektronix vector graphics terminal; the keys felt pleasant enough, but not only was it equipped with a rotary encoder, but it had the ultimate numeric keypad; one which went up to F :-).

Posted by Dave Walker on May 09, 2008 at 03:35 PM BST #

I'd used the Atari 400 one... long enough to realize that I would wait patiently for the 800XL (which was my first home computer).

Posted by Dan McDonald on May 09, 2008 at 10:29 PM BST #

I am one of the (un)fortunate owner of a brand spanking new Sun type 7 keyboard. UNIX US layout.

And I absolutely hate the fact that the [SHIFT] and [CONTROL] key positions are switched in comparison to a normal/standard keyboard!

WHY is Sun such a stubborn company?

(I grew up on Sun type 4, 5, and 6 keyboards. They all had these two keys switched. It was an extremely frustrating experience. I do not know how to use the [COMPOSE] key up to this present day. Never did find any documentation on using it.)

Posted by UX-admin on May 10, 2008 at 08:46 AM BST #

UX-admin: WHY didn't you order the PC layout then? Type 7 available in both layouts. And the Special key reference is right there on the <a href="http://www.sun.com/desktop/products/peripherals/keyboard/">main page.</a> Talk about <a href="http://blogs.sun.com/jimgris/entry/i_can_t_let_myself">efficiency</a>...

Posted by artem on May 10, 2008 at 10:50 AM BST #

There is a PC layout Sun keyboard?

I always lived with a UNIX layout one, whatever that means. I never saw a Sun type-anything PC layout keyboard. Not that anyone bothered telling me up until now. And I still haven't figured out what the [META] key does.

Or the funny key with a rhomboid on it.

Posted by UX-admin on May 10, 2008 at 02:26 PM BST #

Update: OK, I know how to use the [COMPOSE] key now, although it doesn't have the characters that I'd need.

But the docs still don't say what the [META] and the rhomboid keys do? What do they do?

Posted by UX-admin on May 10, 2008 at 02:34 PM BST #

I have used Type 5 and Type 6 keyboards in the past and absolutely liked them, but I dislike the Type 7. Because there is so little frame around it, I somehow press down the Find key with my palm every once in a while.

I also get keys bouncing on me, but that might be the OS's fault, not the keyboard's, since that is the second exemplar I tried with the same behavior.

Posted by Colin on May 16, 2008 at 10:06 AM BST #

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