"Keyclick" and a Real F'ing Keyboard

Mon 06 August 2007
By John Mark Schofield in Technology

I first heard about the Unicomp reincarnations of the original IBM "clicky" keyboard on Mark Pilgrim's sadly defunct site. I've long been a fan of IBM keyboards -- I used to pick them up at thrift stores. If you bought three you could usually end up with two working keyboards. But they all had the HUGE keyboard connectors -- the predecessor to PS/2 connectors -- and weren't USB compatible without a lot of soldering. I moved on to inferior alternatives.

But then came Mark Pilgrim, and my introduction to Unicomp. I now have a $70 Unicomp keyboard at home and one in the office, and it's GOLDEN. It's like typing on chocolate. (But, you know, without the mess. And with clickiness.)

But the click is much more than JUST the sound -- the reason I love these keyboards is the tactile and audio feedback I get when I type. You KNOW when it's registered a keypress -- something that you do NOT know instantly on a mushy keyboard.

It's loud, though. My computer is in my bedroom, and my girlfriend can't sleep when I'm typing, even with earplugs.

All of this, by the way, leads up to my puzzlement about an article in TidBITS. Apparently the author is a big fan of clicky keyboards, but rather than get one, he's raving about a software utility that clicks the speakers every time you hit a key.

I can see -- sort of -- why you'd want that, but as the owner of a Unicomp keyboard, I get to look down on that sort of kludge. Seems to me you're missing out on the best part of the keyboard (the tactile response) and emphasizing the sound, a less important part of why the keyboard works so well. (Although, I must admit I like it when I'm on a roll typing and it sounds like I'm operating a chainsaw.) Still, there's not much you can do about tactile response in software -- this may be the only part of the problem they could fix.