Options for a modern buckling-spring or mechanical keyboard

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I'm typing this posting on a keyboard that's only a couple years shy
of my own age, an original IBM Model M.  Every dome-switch keyboard
I've briefly replaced it with either had the wrong feel or started
wearing down under my heavy Vim and Emacs usage.  Meanwhile, this
ancient IBM -- on which, starting when I got my first computer, I've
logged more keystrokes than on all my other past and present
keyboards combined -- keeps happily clicking away without the
slightest sign of mechanical wear.

But using a 101-key Model M on a modern Macintosh presents some
difficulties, and the most glaring deficiency is the dearth of
modifier keys.  Because there's no Windows / Command / whatever key
on this beast I'm stuck relying on a Sun workstation-style mapping
of Caps Lock => Control, Control => Command, Alt => Option: which
itself would be fine, except that the shape of the Model M's Caps
Lock key, ostensibly intended to prevent it from being accidentally
pressed, makes my Control modifier occasionally ungainly.

So I'm looking for a more modern replacement, something with a
similar feel and durability to the original Model M but with
sufficient modifier keys for OS X and, ideally, a built-in USB
interface.  Here are the choices I've come up with so far:

  * Unicomp Customizer -- The modern 104-key version of the IBM
    Model M.  It doesn't have the detachable cable (or the
    replaceable key caps?) of the original, but it uses the same
    buckling spring switches, which are rated for a minimum of 25
    million keystrokes.  18 month warranty.
  * Das Keyboard II -- I'm impartial about the blank keys.  The
    typewriter-style "scoop" design of the F and J buttons is a nice
    touch, though.  Has gold-plated Cherry MX mechanical switches
    rated for a supposed 50 million keystrokes.  5 year warranty.

  * Tactile Pro II -- A built-in USB 2.0 hub and Macintosh power
    button are a plus, but I'd want to find this keyboard used
    somewhere because it's twice as expensive as the other two I've
    mentioned.  Some reviewers warn of nasty shadow key
    combinations, but others could not replicate the problem
    (perhaps the controller was updated at some point?).

    This keyboard uses the same Alps mechanical switches found on
    the Apple Extended Keyboard, which are rated for somewhere
    between 10-15 million keystrokes minimum, depending on whom you

Right now it's sort of a tie between the Das Keyboard II and the
Unicomp Customizer.  But maybe someone can share some personal
impressions of any of these models, or suggest some other option
that I've missed entirely.  In particular, I'd love to hear
comparisons between the feel of the Das Keyboard's Cherry MX
mechanical switches and the buckling springs in the IBM Model M...

Thanks in advance and happy clicking,

(P.S.: I realize that the Das Keyboard II is a customized OEM
version of the Cherry G80-3000, but I haven't been able to locate
the latter anywhere in the U.S. for more than five dollars below the
Das Keyboard's asking price; and that's a price I'm willing to pay
to not have the G80-3000's silly L-shaped Enter key ;) )

Mark Shroyer
http://markshroyer.com/contact /

Re: Options for a modern buckling-spring or mechanical keyboard

On Sun, 9 Dec 2007 21:46:31 -0500, Mark Shroyer

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You may want to look in other directions. Like:
Your IBM M may be hard to replace. So don't.
Your IBM M lacks some keys. So can't you add them?

I am thinking along the lines of a notebook USB type numeric
keypad with programmable key options.
Maybe it's not your solution, but it may be worth considering.

Kind regards,
Gerard Bok

Re: Options for a modern buckling-spring or mechanical keyboard

I don't, unfortunately, have an answer to Mark's question -- instead,
I have something to add to the inquiry.

Does anyone know how much noise the Cherry/Das Keyboard mechanical
keyboards make compared to the Unicomp/Model Ms?

Re: Options for a modern buckling-spring or mechanical keyboard

On Thu, 3 Jan 2008 12:57:47 -0800 (PST), jayjech@gmail.com

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I don't know, but considering that every mechanical keyboard
I've ever seen was significantly noisier than a typical
throwaway membrane-switched keyboard, if their being too
noisey is a factor then you may have to use the throwaway
keyboards instead to reach the desired result.

Re: Options for a modern buckling-spring or mechanical keyboard

Mark, apparently it's possible that the Unicomp keyboards have a
membrane layer underneath the buckling spring switches.  I don't know
if this makes a difference to you.

Quoted from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki /
"It is a common misconception that the IBM Model M and its derivates
are mechanical-switch keyboards. In fact, the Model M uses membrane-
sheet switches, much like those found in a dome-switch keyboard.  The
buckling spring mechanism (U.S. Patent 4,118,611 ) atop the switch is
responsible for the tactile and aural response of the keyboard. This
mechanism controls a small hammer that strikes the membrane switch."

High-end Cherry keyboards, as well as the Matias Tactile Pro, use
"true" mechanical switches.  On the other hand, buckling spring
switches are what you're used to, and they're very well-liked.  I
haven't seen a lot of hype about "true" mechanical switches, but there
are plenty of Model M fans out there.

I think I'll probably be purchasing a Das Keyboard II, just because
I'm curious to see how the fully mechanical switches compare to the
hybrid mechanics of buckling switches.

@kony -- thanks for pointing out the loudness of mechanical-type
keyboards.  This may sound strange, but I'm actually interested in
getting the loudest keyboard available.  I love getting a lot of aural
feedback while working  :)  You helped me realize that this is kind of
a moot point, though: any mechanical-type keyboard (buckling spring or
fully mechanical) will be loud and lovely  :)

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