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No-Nonsense, Compact, USB/PS2 Keyboards? 35

Posted by Cliff
from the no-frills-hardware dept.
JonMartin would like to poll the collective wisdom and experience of those Slashdot readers who would like to assist him in his quest for his idea of the perfect keyboard. Check out his description and see how well his ideal matches to yours.

"I am hunting for my perfect keyboard. I have not been able to find any vendor that matches my dream spec exactly, so I thought I would ask here before I start to compromise.

Here are the desired specs:

  • the main part of the keyboard must be a 101-key layout, so no Win95 keys or internet keys (I would tolerate Win95 keys if they were out of the way - ie. above the numeric keypad)
  • USB connector (but must still work with PS/2 adaptor in an emergency)
  • 2 USB ports (obviously these will not be expected to work with the PS/2 adaptor)
  • straight Enter key (not the big-L type)
  • no 'ergonomic'split layout
  • compact footprint (regular sized keyboard, but no extraneous molding that takes up desk space) maybe 18"x6.5"
  • good quality and construction
If you know of any keyboard that meets or comes close to meeting all of these, jump in and share the info."

JonMartin mentions that a few of his requests are quite subjective, so he's willing to try a few to see how they work out, so try to leave out those recommendations that are sold "as-is", please.

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No-Nonsense, Compact, USB/PS2 Keyboards?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've been looking for exactly that without success. The best thing you can do is to try to get a used Cherry-G81 (or G80) keyboard and connect that with a PS/2 to USB adapter [google.com].
    Next best solution might be an Apple keyboard, but those have other problems: they don't work with PS/2 and the F and J marks are on D and K.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    almost meet your specs.

    - No win95 keys
    - Straight enter key
    - Not a split keyboard
    - Compact compared to the latest "internet keyboard" 1 million and 1 key nightmares
    - Strong enough constitution that you could classify it as a dangerous weapon

    Just no USB. I'd get one of those plus a USB hub. If you ask me you just can't beat the M board (and yes, I've tried. I've not broken one yet).

    www.pckeyboards.com used to sell that model. Maybe they still do...
  • the F and J marks are on D and K.

    I thought these were called keyboard nipples.


    "The last thing I want to do is deal with a bunch of people who want something."
  • This is probably not at all what you want (even if you could find another one) but I have one of those old IBM heavy duty, can use and blunt weapon, keyboards. But it has two cool features about it. The first being that it comes in black, the second being it has the little trackpoint thing embedded in it just like a laptop kb. I've got it plugged into my linux box at home, I don't really use X, but the nipple is handy for copy/pasting in gpm.
  • I am typing on the new apple USB keyboard. The keyboard nipples are on the F and J keys. Not the D and K keys.
  • And of course, Ctrl+Shift+Esc brings up the Task Manager in one stroke.
  • Bullshit. All the programming is done on the keyboard. I use it with ANY operating systems. This one I have it hooked up to the linux box.
  • It works with any OS because all the keystroke programming is done on the keyboard hardware. I use one with a Linux box. Really it's the coolest thing you'll ever see and it's OUT OF PRODUCTION. So whatever out there is what's left.
  • I really like the IBM KB9910 keyboards that IBM has been shipping with their desktops for a while. You can also get them at Compusa for around $30.

    They are a membrain type keyboard but are pretty responsive, come with a built in little wrist rest at the bottom (more like a sloped piece of plastic) that is not obtrusive. They have windows keys however, and they bug me, but it's at least nice to type on...
  • Are there _blank_ keycaps available for keyboards?

    I see that for the Happy Hacker Keyboard [pfuca.com] they do Dvorak ones, but I was hoping to have a completely blank keyboard... just to freak out anyone who still needs to look at the keyboard when they are typing ;)
  • the linux console on at least some distro's has a number of virtual console features setup to those keys(last virt console, next console, etc)
  • When I learned to type in high school, lo so many years ago, we had old manual office typewriters that were, I guess, 'specially made for learning to type on. They had NO markings on the keys at all.

    There were also some other "newer" machines (still manual, though) that had the keys marked, but the teacher (I assume) used coloured nail polish to paint over the markings.

    It was a good idea, I think, as it did force everyone to learn the proper key positions and not look at the keyboard while typing.

    To this day, I cite my high school typing class as the single most-useful class that I ever took in school.
  • press the windows key, and the taskbar will appear at the bottom of your screen
    Actually, Ctrl+Esc does just the same thing. I know a lot of people who go to the task manager in WinNT with C-A-D and then click Task Manager with mouse. Argh! And the context menu is opened by Shift-F10. Sometimes I think the Win-E (Exploder) is useful a feature, but more often it is not that important. -P
    --

  • Of course, if you use a different OS,... Then the windows button is useless.

    My window manager (Sawfish) defaulted to using the Windows key for task-switching. Basically, Windows+Tab does for me what Alt+Tab does for Windows. I've actually come to prefer it that way.

  • I hand painted mine (matte black) using acrylic paint - 2 back breaking coats. Went down to the local "computer superstore" and played on all the models they had until I found one that had the best feel. Looks absolutely great!! Can't see the keycaps, lots of comments from passer-bys. $US15 for keyboard + $US5 for paint, paintbrush and sand paper from the hardware store. (Didn't end up using the sand paper.)
    However, I recommend Spray painting... Cleaner finish, easier to get the job done. (Might cost a little bit more though.)

    Tip for learning dvorak at the same time: Download a picture of a dvorak layout and keep it hidden under your desk for emergencies.

    -ShunScene
  • OK, ctrl-esc will do the same thing for the start menu. But there are lots of other nice shortcuts that you can do with it in Windows. The Win+D will actually toggle between apliaction windows and a clean desktop. Win+M will minimize all windows. It is also very easy to get KDE to pop up its menu with this button (set in Kcontrol in KDE 2.1.x). Of course, on Linux you can basically map it to anything you want.

  • Ortek's MCK-91 (also called MCK-800) line is fairly good. I've been using one for about three weeks: Its a laptop-layout keyboard, featuring Fn and friends. Comes on USB and PS/2 versions, USB featuring two extra ports. Except for the Windows keys, it seems it meets most of your requirements. I like the extra space i've got on my keyboard.

    It comes with extra keys, but i didn't mind running yet (know when you look to a driver cdrom and you feel it's really crappy? yes, i got that feeling).

    Hm... i've got a picture on it on my weblog [weblogger.com].

    MCK-90 is reviewed here. [hardwareseeker.com]. It's the USB version.
  • could you use the ps2 controller as a USB adapter with the right driver?
    That would be a cool hack.
  • I have a PS/2 to USB adapter. I have no clue how it works, and have never used it, but on one side its a PS/2 port with a Keyboard symbol, and on the otherside is a USB adapter.
  • It's actually the same protocol. USB keyboards are nothing more than PS2 keyboards with a USB plug (unless you have a fancy keyboard with an USB hub).

    That's why most standard keyboard now are USB/PS2 ie the either come with a PS2 plug and an USB converter or an USB plug with a PS2 converter.

    Obviously if you want to use all the fancy features, I guess that you will need to plug you USB plug inside a real USB socket. You might want to check on that, I'm no specialist.

    Oh yeah, and Apple keyboards are flimsy, but comfortable.
  • You can use the software to program the keyboard or press the select key twice, the yellow light next to the extra keys comes on, enter the keys you want to save then press select again. To use the keys you press the select key once, green light comes on then the keys are activated. The software is useful to store your settings in case the battery in the keyboard dies or you want multiple setups for different things.
  • If you are using Windows, then it's helpful to get a keyboard with windows keys. Of course, having the buttons above the number pad is preferable. Their only practical use is to minimize a program that is not working or to shut down the computer when a full screen program crashes. You can often press the windows key, and the taskbar will appear at the bottom of your screen, so you can use the start menu (this always works when nothing is crashed, but if a program is frozen, it might not work). Also, pressing 'Windows + D' will minimize everything (and it might not work if a program is frozen).

    Of course, if you use a different OS, ignore what I just said. Then the windows button is useless.
  • The happy hacker meets all of your requirements except for the bit about the extra USB ports.

    What about the requirement that the main part of the keyboard be a 101-key layout? The happy hacker is a super cut-down 60-key thingie with no function keys, no numeric keypad, no arrow keys, no separate delete & backspace.. might be cool for people who grew up with a Sun Type 3 or whatever it's based on, but I think for most people it'd be as hard to use as switching from qwerty to dvorak.. I certainly would never want one..

  • amen

    I've paid $35 - $70 for used, 10+ year old IBM M type keyboards. At my local best buy they will sell me a $10 keyboard. They also have other keyboards for more, including up to $70. I takes at most 5 seconds on any of those to conclue I don't want one in my house.

    So whatever you think is best, try it out before you buy. With the cheap keyboards typeing is a pain. With the good ones I can't wait to get back to typing.

  • Actually, Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2 (now that's a product name!) has 2 downstream USB ports, too.

  • You could do what they did in "Hackers," and just spraypaint it. Or get an IBM "M" series board, and remove the keycaps.

    --
  • USB and PS/2 use different data formats and protocols. I believe that the dual mode USB-PS/2 mice and keyboards use a controller chip that can operate in both modes, selecting whichever mode is compatible with the device at the other end of the wire. That does not mean that a PS/2 device will work on a USB bus simply by changing the connector.
  • Whats with the requirement about the Windows keys? I just recently bought a new PS/2 style keyboard. I needed another keyboard and this one had a bunch of extra Internet related keys. Figured if it was good I'd use it onn my main system, if I hated it I would put it on one of my other systems I use less. This keyboard is relativly small, it is smaller than the IBM keyboard I have. The enter key is a straight key. The Windows keys do not take up very much space from anything. And the 'extra' buttons are located above the number pad so they don;t take any more space either.

    It is from NEC. I looked at some USB keyboards, but I dislike the idea of using USB for keyboards when PS/2 works with everything.

  • I looked on the website and the thing is self-progamming. Press the Select key twice, press the function key you want to program, enter the keystrokes, press Select again to finish.

    OTH, with 142 keys the damn thing is a battleship! It's bigger than the old IBM 3270 keyboards I had to work on. Definitely not for the original poster.

    I had one on my desk, and the thing is definitely not self-programming. Without software support, you're sunk, which means (unless someone writes something for Linux), it's only of use for DOS and pre-Windows 3.11 users.

    These things were made in the late 80s and have been sitting around looking for a home forever. If you pick one up, you'll even find that it's got an XT/AT switch, and the cable has been chopped off so a mini-DIN (PS/2) connector could be attached in place of the standard DIN (IBM PC/XT) connector that sat there before.

  • Actually, Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2 (now that's a product name!) has 2 downstream USB ports, too.

    Happy Hacker at Pfu [pfuca.com] for those who don't know it. (Karma already at 50, not whoring with links, etc.)

  • For programmers, I HIGHLY recommend the Adesso/Ortek MCK-142 Pro. http://www.monu-cad.com/keyboard.htm These have 24 programmable keys, you don't need software to program it. I know the price is steep but it's going to save you lots and lots of time in years.

    Last I knew, the MCK-142 Pro required a DOS mode TSR to enable all of its special functions, including the extra 24 buttons. There's no way of using it in anything beyond Windows 3.1 (i.e., no Windows 3.11/Windows for Workgroups, Windows 95, 2000, NT, etc.).

    Is the situation different for Linux? A quick browse around, and I'm not finding any MCK-142 Pro utilities for other operating systems.

  • The happy hacker meets all of your requirements except for the bit about the extra USB ports.

    I've noticed happy hacker clones at the computer store in my home town.

  • I guess you're right. I didn't even realize it, since you can switch to the function keys and pad so easily.

    As far as the whole sun type 3 thing, it isn't too challenging to remap keys, although after needing to remap the keys with every fresh Linux install, I've just learned to deal with the control key where it's at. I actually like it next to the 'a' better than down low.

  • I looked on the website and the thing is self-progamming. Press the Select key twice, press the function key you want to program, enter the keystrokes, press Select again to finish.

    OTH, with 142 keys the damn thing is a battleship! It's bigger than the old IBM 3270 keyboards I had to work on. Definitely not for the original poster.

    "What are we going to do tonight, Bill?"

  • by cfish (61161) on Thursday June 28, 2001 @03:02AM (#123656)
    As a keyboard enthusiast, I can recommend a few keyboards. The best keyboards are the ones that uses machanical switches. This includes the "Buckling Spring" and "quiet buckling spring" and "ALPS" switches. Buckling Spring: these are the old IBM clicker keyboards, now made by www.pckeyboard.com. They have a lot of different styles to choose from. They recently came up with a programmable keyboard. They also have quiet buckling spring keyboards if noise is a concern. ALPS switches: The most famous company that makes ALPS swtiches was Nothgate. Unfortunately Northgate went out of bussiness. Right now, there are a few manufacturers that makes keyboards with ALPS switches - Focus keyboard(Focus 2001 keyboard), Ortek/Adesso (MCK-142 pro), Avant (Avant Prime corresponds to Northgate Omnikey101, Avant Stellar corresponds to Northgate Omnikey Ultra). For programmers, I HIGHLY recommend the Adesso/Ortek MCK-142 Pro. http://www.monu-cad.com/keyboard.htm These have 24 programmable keys, you don't need software to program it. I know the price is steep but it's going to save you lots and lots of time in years.

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