|Apple Extended Keyboard (AEK) photo by bujcich|
Having sailed past the 40-year mark a few years ago, I’m an older geek. Also, I’m a sentimental geek. If I had some sort of infinite garage, I’d store every piece of electronic gear I’ve ever owned, a personal personal computer museum. Maybe once a year I’d play Ultima IV on my old Apple IIgs, or run Alias Sketch! on the Quadra 840av. It would be a fun few hours of geek nostalgia.
Obviously you wouldn’t want to attempt to do work on those ancient artifacts. I’ve been known to cling to old technology, but at least my computers are from this millennium and, crucially, can run the current generation of apps and operating systems. Even if you could somehow get one of those old machines to run modern software, you’d find their processors unbearably slow, their memory and storage ridiculously tiny, their CRT screens uncomfortably small, and their mechanical mice clumsy, even with a freshly cleaned mouse ball.
Notice I didn’t say anything about the keyboard. Unlike everything else in computing, keyboards have hardly changed. The standard desktop keyboard layout solidified in 1984 with the IBM Model M. Steve Jobs banned arrow keys from the original Mac keyboards, but they eventually appeared on the Apple Extended Keyboard in 1987 and the layout hasn’t changed since. Get a PS/2 or ADB to USB adapter and you can still use these keyboards today.
And how do the old keyboards compare to a modern one? Wonderfully, I would say.
Modern keyboard enthusiasts are usually gamers, and the high-end keyboards they splurge on are mechanical-switch keyboards. Mechanical because each key has an individual switch with moving parts, as opposed to rubber membrane dome-switches you find in the cheap, mushy keyboards included with a new PC. Well, guess what: most keyboards made before 1995 were mechanical. Not only do the old keyboards hold their own against their modern counterparts, they’re often far superior. (Don’t get me started on the “butterfly switch” keyboards Apple currently sells.)
|Photo by bujcich|
Together with the mouse, the keyboard is how you use a computer. It’s your input, the thing you actually touch. What you see on the screen is the output. Improving your keyboard, mouse, and screen can drastically improve your computing experience, and therefore your overall quality of life.
|IBM Model M photo by Raymangold22|
And then there’s the nostalgia. Every time I type on this AEK it brings me back to the 1980s. Like listening to an album by The Police, it reminds me of a time when the world was just opening up to me, a world I hardly understood. This keyboard feels like that time. A time when computers were new and exciting and the word “Macintosh” conjured up feelings of elegance, sophistication, and possibility. Maybe it seems absurd to say a keyboard could bring back feelings like that in a person, but I’m telling you it can.