I need a keyboard …

I learned to type when I was nine-years old. My handwriting was spastic, the third-grade teacher attempted to convert my left-handedness to right-handedness by tying my left hand to the back of my belt and tossing blackboard erasers to me so I could learn how to catch them with my right. The result was further chaos in penmanship, so my father gave me his old Remington manual typewriter and that was that. No typing lessons, just the order to stop writing things with my crabbed left hand and start pounding keys.

I graduated to an electric Smith-Corona when I was 14; went off to college with an massive IBM correcting Selectric (which I parlayed into some serious cash by starting a paper typing service for desperate classmates) and by the time I finished my first novel (unpublished, don’t ask) in 1980, I was up to 100 words per minute using only my index fingers and thumbs.

I edited that novel on the first Wang word processor — an amazing machine that stored the product on 8″ floppies that looked like old LPs. When I graduated and got a job at the Cape Cod Times, I went back to the Selectric, moving to a Hastech editing system at the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune. The job interview at the Tribune went pretty much like this. The managing editor grabbed a book, told me sit down and start typing. I started typing. He watched for about 30 seconds and said:

“I see you can’t touch type. Good. I don’t hire touch-typists or journalism school graduates.”

Indeed, almost every journalist I have ever seen types the way I do — two index fingers flying like dervishes, with thumbs whacking the space bar. This method of typing pounds a keyboard like a drum, and as a result I find myself yet again in the market for a great keyboard.

People of my age learned to type on typewriters, where some serious physical effort was required to smack the letter onto a ribbon. Electric typewriters were actuated, so the effort required was a lot less — like power steering in a car — but it wasn’t until I sat down in front of the original IBM PC and its massive, heavy, metal keyboard that I understood bliss.

In the 90s I converted to a “natural” ergonomic keyboard — the split kind — after discovering that moving the keys apart an inch decreased my typo count. I am so accustomed to the ergonomic form factor that I have serious issues with a traditional rectangular keyboard.

Now I love the keyboards on my ThinkPads. I have heard their praises sung far and wide. But when I work at a desk I like to dock the notebook and attach a USB keyboard. Shortly after arriving at Lenovo I went to the local office supply and bought a Microsoft 4000 keyboard. Slick. Black (so it sort of matches the black of the ThinkPad) but covered with useless media management buttons I never use. What I lust for is a Lenovo external keyboard — what we call our “UltraNav” model that has a TrackPoint embedded between the G,H,B, and N keys. Having the pointing device on the keyboard is an immense boon to a fast typist as one’s hands don’t have to leave the keys to move the mouse.

The only problem for me is the UltraNav doesn’t come in an ergonomic format. I went searching last night and it appears external keyboards come down to this:

  1. Crap plastic traditional rectangles
  2. Microsoft Natural Ergonomics (I go through two a year)
  3. High end Lenovo/IBM style ones that are only available as rectangles
  4. Off the chart ergonomic ones for carpal tunnel sufferers like the Kinesis ergo

I need a new keyboard now. Any suggestions?

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “I need a keyboard …”

  1. Good lord…that’s virtually my story although I was forced to learn touch typing by a middle school teacher with a metal pica pole.

    I stick with the MS Naturals, but run through them like socks, as you do. The true sign of a one who learned on a manual typewriter is the loud clacking of the keys. The plus side of the natural is their easy to come by, relatively cheap and work with just about everything. That said, I’ll anxiously await reports on what you choose.

  2. And I thouht I was the only lefty that goes through three keyboards a year. I’ve blown up one Micosnot natural so far and went through a Logitech keyboard in slightly more than two months.
    I’m abanging now on my Ultranav and ilove it. best buy i’ve made this year.
    buy a gross of Natural keyboards and preposition them in RTP and Cotuit.

    type well,

  3. David: A couple years back carpal tunnel forced me to check out alternative keyboards and after trying a whole bunch of them I found a really odd one that has worked for me really well. The one you mention last: Kinesis Advantage MPC USB.


    Amazon has it at: http://tinyurl.com/yeruw8

    It took me a little getting used (one week) but I have never had carpal tunnel again because the keyboard design forces my hands into the right posture. And I type crazy fast!

    Of course it took me a month to get used to all the different keyboards I have (kensington ergonomic at home, ThinkPad X60s laptop and Blackberry 7100 with the “two letters on each key”). 🙂

    Good luck.


  4. I went with the Microsoft 4000 Natural Ergo — it’s what I have in RTP and was only $61 at CompUSA
    Thanks to all for suggestions.

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