As a professional programmer, I spend an awful lot of time using a keyboard. When I went to apply for my first game industry job at Maxis, I had to apply through a temp agency, and one of the things that the temp agency made me do was their typing test. I scored about 90 words per minute on that test, and had a very difficult time then convincing them that no, I didn’t want a secretarial job; I wanted to go work for Maxis. I still tend to score between 90 and 95 words per minute; at that sort of speed, having a nice keyboard is quite important, both for health and comfort.
Over the years, I’ve tried lots of keyboards. Shortly after starting at Maxis, I settled on the original Microsoft Natural keyboard as my favourite. When my second Natural keyboard died a few years back, I went in search of a new one, but was underwhelmed by the more recent revisions of that keyboard. So I went on another round of testing keyboards, and eventually switched over to the modern slimline Apple “chiclet” laptop-style keyboards as the best-feeling keyboards for typing on. I’ve been using them for the past three or four years, even going so far as to buy an extra one to use at work, instead of using the cheap membrane keyboards that work was providing. Compared to those membrane keyboards (and even to most other laptop-style keyboards) the Apple ones just felt precise and responsive, with a really nice tactile feel. As I type this post, I have three of those Apple keyboards within arm’s reach. But I’ve always been vaguely curious about mechanical keyboards; keyboards with each key mounted on a separate mechanical switch.
Mechanical keyboards are absurdly expensive, but are loved by writers and many other heavy keyboard users (to a level that seemed, I will confess, to border on the irrational and obsessive). Well, taking advantage of my current “working from home” status (and despite of my current “not receiving an income” status), I bought myself a “clicky” keyboard to use on my work-from-home computer. The precise model of the keyboard doesn’t really matter; the important thing controlling the feel of the keyboard is the switches it uses: Cherry MX Blues, one of the most popular “clicky” switches around; they produce a rather noisy “click” as you press a key, and a softer one as you release the key again. When you’re typing at 90wpm, it can make quite a racket. Reminds me a lot of typing on a real typewriter, although it’s not actually nearly that loud. And you never jam the keys.
The keyboard was delivered this morning, and I’ve been using it all day. Observations after a day’s usage:
- As I mentioned above, it was absurdly expensive. More than three times the price of the Apple keyboards I’ve been preferring lately, and those keyboards were already absurdly expensive.
- I’ve always been a bit obsessive about maintaining a quiet workplace. Noisy computers, noisy hard drives, noisy fans, noisy neighbors, etc. all really drive me to distraction. But for whatever reason, I don’t mind the noise of the keyboard at all. My old co-workers (who now appear to have discovered this blog) will tell you that at work, I always kept a pair of earplug headphones in my pocket, for when I needed to focus, or when some sort of noisy disruption was going on (builders, fire alarms, etc). But I’m perfectly okay with the noise level of this keyboard. (I suspect I’d be less okay with it if someone else was typing on it, though!)
- The typing action on this keyboard is downright sexy. Light, fast, responsive. Even though the keys can be pressed a much longer distance than the Apple ones, they require much less force to press. What’s more, you don’t have to “bottom-out” the keys the way that you do on the Apple keyboard; press them halfway; you can hear and feel the moment that they’ve been pressed far enough to register, and can release the key immediately, and move on to the next one.
I guess this is just my way of saying that I’m absolutely floored at the difference. It’s to the point that the Apple keyboards, which I loved to type on yesterday, are starting to feel like typing directly on a desk; just flat and jarring.
Which has kind of left me with a problem. I now have two computers which I’m using on a daily basis (in fact, often simultaneously), but only one absurdly expensive keyboard, which means that it’s going to be a lot less pleasant to type on one of the two computers.
And there’s another problem. This keyboard is far too noisy for nearby workmates to put up with it (and I imagine that the somewhat-quieter Cherry MX Brown switches wouldn’t be much better in that regard), so when I eventually start working in an office again, I’m not going to be able to take it with me.
Clearly, there is only one option: I will have to become absurdly wealthy so that I can buy another absurdly expensive keyboard, and then never work in an open-plan office environment again. I know, it’s a terrible price to pay, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice if it’ll mean typing bliss. :D