Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Keyboard Woes and Obsessions

So, in a prior post I extolled my employers to stop being cheap asses and to invest in decent equipment for my lightening fast keyboard fingers to work on.  Well, my calls for a working keyboard were answered, however, my prayers for a decent keyboard were not really met... In fact I'm so befuddled with the outcome I'm not sure whether what I have now is an improvement.

Let me explain, I had a Dell, with horrible rubber dome keys.  I had one of these at home up until we got a puppy earlier this year and it was a god send when he ate mine, so imagine my excitement when at work my left shift and control keys were getting a bit stiff and unreliable.

Now, I reckon I type at about 85-92 words per minute, I am a programmer, and I can touch type for most of the time.  I generally work in bursts of typing, hitting the keys hard and repeatedly until a function or subroutine is complete and needs reviewing, or until my fingers physically tire; and tire they do on having to bottom out every key stroke.  Now I type so much that I soon rub the keys on the keyboard smooth.  I've done this to around five keyboard at my current employer, I've had five keyboard in just short of 8 years (excluding new ones with new machines - then I've had 11 keyboards)... but five just wearing out and becoming unreliable.

I estimate the replacement keyboard I receive to cost the company around twelve pounds.  Its not the cheapest piece of shit as I had envisaged in a prior post and looking it up on Amazon they go for £12.51.  Its still rubber dome equipped, its stand feet are too short - meaning I have it propped up on some cardboard - and it is so lightly constructed as I type is bounces around (it has no rubber feet as other keyboards generally do, so it skitters around on the hard desk surface).

So, putting these tree facts together:

  • Professional level typing
  • Wears out keyboards in around 11 months
  • Replacements disturb the work area being hard to handle
You'd think I had a pretty interesting argument for better investment in better equipment.  After all it is said that once you have your computer to work on the best thing to do is spend luxuriously to ensure you can use it correctly, and the keyboard is the primary interaction point for me; and so I strongly believe that I should be able to actively redress the situation with a vested interest in increasing my typing speed and hence work throughput.

Nope.  I just get the £12.51 hunk of plastic.  I point out that five of these things at that price is nearing £60, the price of one professional grade keyboard with mechanical switches.... I point out that the rich stay rich by buying one expensive piece of kit and it working for a long time, and the poor stay poor by buying a cheap piece of kit and having to continually buy more and more replacement pieces of cheap kit to replace them as they break down.  But my philosophy is falling on deaf ears.

Maybe its the economic down turn... not so much that they're being cheap, but that they literally can't afford a decent keyboard for me... or anyone else... I doubt it, but its possible.  More plausible however is that simply a decent keyboard is not seen as important.

On the personal side of my keyboard woes things are still not brilliant, I'm using a "Microsoft Wireless 1000".  It it perhaps the second worst keyboard I've ever owned.  Even after typing this little stretch of blog post (which, go look at it, ain't that much) is hurting my fingers, as I'm constantly in a strange stretching feeling between my third and index fingers - of both hands - also the function keys are a "secondary function" the function keys only being active when you have a "function" key toggle set down and they're small (only half the size of a regular key) which is a problem for a programmer trying to use the Function keys for debugging all the time.

I still miss the old Apple Aluminium keyboard I had, but I'm never going to buy another one because the build and materials quality is so poor for its price.  I worked out it cost about £25 a year, for that I can have three complete sets of these Microsoft keyboards in that same time span...

Wait a moment.. I just struck myself with the obvious tactic being employed by my employer... yes you heard me, I can get three sets of cheap shit crap keyboards for the price of one better keyboard layout...

So, why would I want one decent keyboard?  Because now I'm on the trail of mechanical keyboards.

Mechanicals live longer, they have (hopefully) better build quality than the Apple membrane keyboard, and they sound lovely compared to rubber dome keyboards.

Argh, I'm rambling... I'm just after a decent keyboard.  I think one of the problems I have is that the mechanicals I'm looking at are expensive, they're never on show anywhere for you to try, and their price makes "risking" getting the wrong one too much of a risk.

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