F#CKING KEYBOARD – Why Input Matters

Writing in any medium means that we get fixated on a specific methodology of writing. Whether it’s pen and paper and we buy nice acid free moleskines that feel divine to write in with the best pens we can find (I like a good felt tip). Or it’s a typewriter and we need the right throw and action for it to feel right. Or it could be a laptop/desktop where we use a standard keyboard.

The latter is often considered as a given, something to just ignore and work with. I think differently, very differently. Keyboards are something that should be considered as the second most important thing when writing.

I just received a new macbook pro in the mail. It’s a 15 inch as opposed to my old 13 inch. The benefit being that now I can have spotify, a browser, and scrivener all open at the same time. Yes, my old laptop was just that old. Sadly old. The poor thing. It ran hot, had track pad errors, just a mess after 6 years of use. There are a lot of things that are better, including it being lighter than my 13 inch. How Apple achieved that I don’t know, but they did.

And the changed they fucking keyboard.

I’ve been using the same keyboard for nearly everything for 6 years now. I know how the keys feel, how much pressure they take, and even the spacing on them. That’s different now. Less throw on the keys means that the difference between a hit and a rest is less than before. Less weight means I don’t need to exert as much pressure. And finally, there are ever so slight changes in spacing.

Over time I’m sure that I’ll like the less throw and less weight. I grew up on IBM keyboards though that felt like a typewriter so I like a little heft to my keys and a lot of throw. When moving to my old macbook it had that weight. I couldn’t just lightly tap things and have letters magically appear. I had to put some work into it. I could rest my fingers on the keys without fear of them pressing anything. I’ll get over it though and probably like the new system. It’ll just take time to undo what I’ve been doing since I was six.

But they changed the spacing. I could swear this. It’s small. I’m talking fractions of a millimeter. But it changes a lot when that’s done. It’s the main difference between all keyboards, fractions of a millimeter. If you have a dell with bezeled edges you’ll get larger spacing than the Mac that doesn’t. Macs are tight. I like that. I don’t feel strained fighting for every inch on my keyboard. But here, and I see a little difference between my new 15 inch and my old 13 inch, it is that it is wider.

This could almost be an ode to keyboards. I bought my first laptop because at the time pretty much all laptops are the same technology wise, but I liked the keyboard. It’s how I input into my computer. It’s how I input everything. Having the perfect one is nearly magic because I type faster and more accurately.

In the end, it’s just like good pens and paper. Getting the keyboard right, getting the main mode of input right, can make the experience of writing that much better by making it quicker and easier or it can make it an unconscious struggle against bad design. And it is too often lost today in people just using the OEM keyboards that come with their desktops or the keyboards with their tablets. If you write primarily at a desktop, think about spending $50 at Best Buy to get a better keyboard. Go and try them all out and feel how easy it is to use it or how awkward it is. You shouldn’t have to retrain your brain to write.

It is easy to simply accept something as just working. But the difference that a good keyboard can make is the reason why some cost as high as a hundred dollars. The right feel is a terribly hard thing to get. IBM nailed it for year after year and now Apple has one of the quickest keyboards that I’ve come across. And it could be that they’ve made it even faster.

Keyboards. In the end, they’re almost everything.

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