Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Tactile Pro Keyboard

Adam Engst writes about a subject dear to me: keyboards. My favorite keyboard, in terms of feel, was the ADB keyboard that shipped with the Apple IIGS. Unfortunately, it didn’t have F-keys, Home/End, or Page Up/Page Down, and the arrow keys were arranged in a line. The keyboard that shipped with the SE/30 was flawed in the same ways, but it also had a good feel.

The Apple Extended Keyboard II combined a full set of keys with a solid, “clicky” feel that wasn’t too loud. I believe it was the best Macintosh keyboard ever made, and I continued to use mine after getting a USB Mac until it finally wore out. After that, I tried every Mac keyboard I could find and eventually settled on the Micro Connectors flavored keyboard (the Micro Connectors Web site seems to be down), which I use to this day. The Micro Connectors is a decent, but not great, keyboard. The feel is solid, but not as smooth as the older Apple keyboards, and it’s extremely loud.

(On the PC side, I was quite happy with the old PS2 Dell QuietKey. It had a great feel, and it truly was quiet.)

Engst reports on the Tactile Pro, which he says is similar to the Apple Extended Keyboard, but with USB, volume and eject keys, and detailed keycaps. Sounds great.

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I got one of those small iMac keyboards. I prefer those because of their small footprint and really like the layout with pageup/down keys right above the numeric keypad and small F-Keys (who needs them anyway?)

Unfortunately it's quality isn't too good and recently it seems to be even 'stickier' than it used to be. So I consider getting a new one. This one sounds good as far as the touch is concerned, but eeek, they print loads of ugly things on the keycaps - using what looks like Apple's pretty traditional typeface, though. That makes it look a bit busy.

And the final important question would be whether it has a mechanically locking caps lock key. I always found that one really convenient.

I'm weird about keyboards. I either like keyboards with really short key travel (like the PowerBook keyboard) or really clicky keyboards (like the Extended Keyboards). I'm not really sure why the disparity in taste exists, but it does.

I'd like to at least get my hands on a Tactile Pro to see how it feels. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like there a huge market for stores carrying somewhat niche Mac peripherals right now (and the Apple Store doesn't appear to carry non-Apple keyboards).

Darn, posted before finishing the last thought...

I suppose it could be worse. I could be using one of the new Apple keyboards with the handy gutters between the key groupings :)

Funny that Michael should post this today. I pulled out my Color Classic earlier to format some floppies I was pulling data from. I have an Extended Keyboard II and an Apple ADB Mouse II to use with the CC, and I was thinking about how much I liked the feel of the keyboard and the mouse over the latest Apple USB keyboard and the two-button Kensington mouse I use every day with my Cube.

So I may be investing in an iMate myself. Unless Michael wants to sell me his... :)

I also bought an iMate when I saw how miserable the first small Apple USB keyboard was that came with my first G4. I've worn out several Apple II Extended keyboards over many years. Fortunately they're still readily available on eBay, often for less than $20.00 plus shipping. For the moment I see no reason to downgrade to any other keyboard as I've seen no "improvement" in the various USB keyboards Apple has shipped since that first one that came with the hockey puck mouse.

You forgot to mention that the Apple ADB rodents, also readily available on sites like eBay or from dealers in older Mac equipment, is vastly superior to the hockey puck and I've never seen anything that exciting about the Apple mice that have followed it.

I liked Apple's ADB mice, but then I got the black Pro Mouse with my G4 and I think it's the best yet.

So on Saturday, I decided to pull out my Microsoft Natural Keyboard for another go. It has much more tactile feedback than the black Apple Pro keyboard that came with my Cube. Still not as good as the Apple Extended, but I'll probably stick with the Natural until I either get a Tactile Pro or an iMate...

Got my Saratoga with my first Mac (7100/66) and still use it with MDD G4/OS 10.3.5 or iBook/OS10.2.8 today via iMate. No driver needed, love it.

Had some keys' gone unreliable then found their solderings under the board cracked. Could be from heavy typing. Resoldered them. Fine now. Don't smash your keys even it's the Saratoga.

I spend a lot of time on my imac G4 and recently lost the spongebob-square-pan-of-a-keyboard that came with my "sunflower" in a misguided attempt to remove crumbs and hair from under the once comely, clear-plexiglass shell. Hey! Do not ever ever use cleaning fluids, much less alcohol, which I thought would evaporate quickly, and thus, be safe. Bad dog! Eventually the keyboard came back to life, letter by letter, but "z" and "/?" were hopelessly lost, and I got tired of searching for a copy on every open page (the letter Z is not as common as you may think). Adversity being the mother of invention, I went surfing.

There are quite a few wonderful alternatives available by searching under "imac keyboard", but I began to realize how resistant I was to change, especially since I am evidently a design slave, who kneels before the altar of Macintosh superiority. Like Abel, I couldn't bear the idea of offering anything else but a genuine apple pro keyboard to my beautiful, one-eyed god.

I got over it, at least for awhile, with the Macally USB keyboard. Ugly, yes it is, and sporting a fat ass too, but the touch and feel of this keyboard is, dare I say, BETTER than the Apple II ADB, which I saved with the beige boss. The key layout is similar to the pro, with media controls, and an on-n-off button to boot. And did I say it was $15 on ebay? Yadayadayada.

If my mother was still alive, she'd tell me to leave well enough alone, that price really is an object, especially when the thing ain't broke. But dammit, she hated computers, thought her Ford Fairlane 500 was an eyesore (especially after I backed it into a hydrant), and she didn't have to look down her nose at this hideous thing. Why oh why are the good ones so homely?

If the design gods at Apple really heard our prayers, they would acquire Matias for their keyboards (I hear they feel divine, and aren't bad on the eyes), dispatch with the wires, and end the madness. But no!

Thank goodness for Craigslist AND wireless mania. A quick search for another Apple pro keyboard netted a brand new replacement, for $20. Seems the pros come in second to it's tailess alternative, and therefor, make good closet stuffers and ebay pucks. Now you may ask, is it really wise to go back to rubbing a sponge?

Yes, stupid, if it's pretty. -Zane

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