I feel this guy’s pain

I know what Jeff Atwood is complaining about here .It can be really hard to track down a decent programming keyboard these days.

*Update*: I actually found one: the Belkin Wireless Keyboard. Amazingly enough, I found it at Big W, for only AU$60. I’m a little dubious about the wireless factor (I just know the battery will die some day when it’s really inconvenient), but it’s a nice responsive keyboard, and the keys are where they should be. The bundled wireless mouse will be a good “pairing mouse” as well – the fact that it doesn’t have a cable is a real plus for a pairing mouse, and means I can keep using my trackball.

You can get el cheapo ones that use PS/2 fairly easily, but getting a USB keyboard? It ain’t that easy…

The sort of keyboard I want to use has a few features:

  • All keys in the standard place. That means arrows in an inverted T, two rows of keys above them for the insert/delete/home/end/page up/down, enter key on one row only, above the enter key.

    Just for reference, here’s what a “standard” keyboard should look like:

  • It should be USB. PS/2 is on the way out, USB is the way of the future. Heck, PCs are coming out without PS/2 these days.
  • The Function Keys should be Function Keys by default; any “enhanced” behaviour is an optional extra.
  • The keys should be responsive, but not stiff… don’t need any more aggravation to my RSI, thank you very much.
  • No keyboard rest (at least not one that can’t be removed easily); I use my own.

Is that too much a list to ask for? Well, if not, here’s the things I’d like it to have.

  • NumLock on by default.
  • USB ports on the keyboard

That’s all I want from a keyboard. Honest. I don’t need fancy “media keys”, or a volume control on the sidebar, or a thumbprint reader, or an “ergonomic” split layout, or any of that. All I want is a standard bloody keyboard. Oh, and I’d like it to be less than AU$100, so wireless is out (and not really wanted, anyway) You think you can find one?

Look at Harris Technologies for example. They have 31 full-size keyboards on their books. 4 of them are out as they are PS/2 only. Of the remaining 27, 22 have mangled keyboard layouts. Of the five remaining keyboards, all of them proudly boast their “enhanced” function keys (which means they are on by default!). What’s a programmer to do these days?

Author: Robert Watkins

My name is Robert Watkins. I am a software developer and have been for over 20 years now. I currently work for people, but my opinions here are in no way endorsed by them (which is cool; their opinions aren’t endorsed by me either). My main professional interests are in Java development, using Agile methods, with a historical focus on building web based applications. I’m also a Mac-fan and love my iPhone, which I’m currently learning how to code for. I live and work in Brisbane, Australia, but I grew up in the Northern Territory, and still find Brisbane too cold (after 22 years here). I’m married, with two children and one cat. My politics are socialist in tendency, my religious affiliation is atheist (aka “none of the above”), my attitude is condescending and my moral standing is lying down.

7 thoughts on “I feel this guy’s pain”

  1. W.r.t. having numlock on by default, that’s not up to the keyboard, but up to the BIOS and/or the OS. Check your BIOS and/or OS settings, depending on whether you have a PC and which OS you use…

    Ever tried an IBM Model M keyboard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Model_M_Keyboard) by the way? “Classic” layout. Fantastic feel. Very sturdy (as in, they will last a hundred years and double as a murder weapon if need be).

  2. I know the BIOS has a setting for it, but… some keyboards seem to ignore it (both to have it on by default and off by default).

    Also, under Linux, X11 jumps in with its own toggle, which is annoying (as again, it’s off by default).

    I found the Model M keyboards a bit stiff; my hands got sore after using it for some time. My personal favorite keyboard is the Apple Extended keyboard from around 1990.

  3. Looks nice enough, but the Enter key is still “wrong” by my standards… though I’m aware that’s the way most European keyboards are, I’m more used to the US style.

  4. A bit left field, but have you tried an Apple keyboard? They fit your criteria, including the nice-to-haves, and cost AU$50.

    To be honest, I haven’t tried one under XP in a while, so I can’t remember exactly how the ALT, CTRL and Windows keys map on the apple keyboard (I think it was the standard PC locations), and the sound and eject buttons won’t work by default (there is something called AppleK Pro which can help here). Try one first.

  5. I like the Apple keyboards… unfortunately, I’d have to steal my wife’s to use it. 🙂 I’ll have to try it out and see how it works one day.

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