Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, February 14, 2016

One Keyboard To Rule Them All

I never took a typing class. Never bothered trying to emulate people who knew how to type, either. But I've worked in IT, and thus with keyboards, since 1982, and I've also been writing that entire time.

So bereft of training or common sense, I've developed my own two-fingered typing style that has been variously described along a spectrum ranging from 'violent'  to 'dude, what the Hell is wrong with you?'

Which means I go through keyboards. A lot of keyboards. 

This wanton destruction of innocent keyboards isn't born of malice, or done with intent. The keyboards I learned on were 1970s and 80s era commercial mainframe computing units. They were solid steel affairs with sturdy mechanical keys and you had to hit them like you meant it. They were durable, too. We ran three shifts, every day, which meant those keyboards were in use nearly all the time. I can't ever remember replacing one of those metal monsters, either. You could probably drag them out of whatever landfill they now occupy, knock all the grated cheese off, and start banging away again like thirty years haven't passed.

A lot has changed since then. I'd bet my lunch money that the keyboard in front of most of you reading this is a plastic affair that would fly apart at the first solid whack over an ogre's pointed head. 

Those flimsy new ones are the keyboards I beat  to death on a regular basis. Even when I moved up to the more expensive gaming keyboards, I didn't solve my problem. Yes, the gaming sets tended to last longer, but their fate was ultimately the same as the rest -- a key would stop working. Then another. Then it was time to pony up for a new one, because you really can't finish a novel without using 'a' or 'e' at some point.

This time, though, I decided to go all out and see if I can't finally put a halt to this endless parade of hapless tortured hardware. I did some research, and learned a few things that might be of interest to any of my heavy-handed writer brothers and sisters out there. 

My criteria for finding a new keyboard were simple. I wanted the following:

* A metal chassis. No more plastic.

* Real mechanical keys. No membrane keys. 

* Lighting. I enjoy writing with the lights down, and while I don't look at the keys once my Two Fingers Of Hammering find their places, lighting is handy when you need it.

You may be wondering what makes mechanical keys different from the usual membrane keys found on most keyboards. 

For a full rundown on the difference, check out this article at the ever-helpful Tom's Guide  site. Then come back here. We'll wait.

The short version is this -- membrane keyboards are cheaper because you're just squishing a plastic wafer down with every stroke. Yeah, it works well enough for most, but if you're spending serious time typing, you really ought to consider treating yourself to a mechanical keyboard.

Mechanical keys have springs and plungers and other assorted bits of machinery. So you get a lot of 'feel' with each keystroke. The keys actually plunge down under your fingers, offer resistance, and pop back up. There's genuine tactile feedback, and none of that mashing on a pancake feeling I always got from membrane keyboards.

So I poked around, searching only for mechanical keyboards. I found plenty. Yes, they're pricier than their membrane counterparts, but I'd buy a single expensive keyboard every several years than a cheaper one every six months.

I wound up getting a Corsair K70 gaming keyboard. It's a beauty, too -- the base is aircraft-grade aluminum, with laser-cut keys and red LED backlighting. The space bar is textured. It's a corded model, not a wireless, and the USB cord is a heavy braided one, with a pair of USB connectors at the far end. It comes with extra keys and a textured detachable wrist rest.

It's heavy, weighing in at almost 3 pounds. 

Since 'unboxing' seems to be a thing now on social media, here's the unboxing of the K70.

I'm thrilled with this keyboard. It's every bit as sturdy as the old IBM mainframe units we banged away at back in the day. I'll be shocked if I have to replace it anytime soon.

Do mechanical keys make that much difference? Listen for yourself. Below, I recorded the sounds of a membrane keyboard being used.


Now, click below to hear what the mechanical K70 keys sound like. 


I hope you can tell how much 'clickier' these are. The feel is also entirely different -- the keys have travel, and resistance. Typing on this keyboard is a joy.

The mechanical keyboard is louder than the membrane. A lot louder. I imagine I'd drive any roommates nuts with this thing, but writing, like other unsavory pursuits, is best done alone.

(Top image: © Elnur | - Young Employee With Keyboard Isolated On White Photo)


  1. I like the mechanical sound better. You left out how much that puppy cost you, though. (I'm not in the market for one, tbh; just curious).

    1. Terry, Mr. Tuttle did include a link to the one he bought. He embedded the link in this sentence above. *I wound up getting a Corsair K70 gaming keyboard.

  2. Very fancy! I would like to know when and if the color on your keys flake or show wear with use and time. I have a lighted key board which I do love. It is plastic but I have noticed wearing on on A, E, I keys. As well as the space bar. I had to go look to see how long I have had mine. I ordered it 6/4/14, I hadn't realized I have had it that long! No wonder my keys are starting to show wear! LOL! Here is the one I have.

  3. I can't believe you do all this writing with two fingers. Have you ever taken a typing test online? Love to hear your score! I have clocked myself at 90+ on a good day and I type faster than I speak (which is quite the talent for a New Yorker who does everything fast!)