For Father's Day: The perfect keyboard

With the possible exception of your monitor and chair, your keyboard rates as the most important device in your office

There's nothing more "personal" about a personal computer than its keyboard.

First, a confession: I'm old school. I still feel that the original mid-1980s IBM Model M keyboard represents the epitome of keyboard design; boxy, noisy, homely, and unforgiving, I've never met a Model M I didn't like. I swear by my 20-year-old Northgate Computer Omnikey 102, a beast that rattles and clucks like a 20-pound rooster.

But you don't have to root around in the attic to find a good -- no, great -- keyboard. Several manufacturers are making worthy new keyboards that employ excellent mechanical switch technology. If you're looking for a great hundred-dollar-or-so gift for the dad in your life, these new keyboards warrant your attention.

A German company called Cherry Corporation has brought the old mechanical keyboard switch back to great effect -- five kinds of mechanical switches, in fact, each identified by the color of the stem that attaches the keycap to the switch. My personal favorite, the Cherry Blue, give lots of feedback, a very slight hesitation when the pedal hits the metal, and a loud click to go along with it.

If you're ready to trade in your mushy, embarrassing $3 generic keyboard, and replace with a workhorse worthy of responding to your fingers, a very thorough analysis just hit the Web. Check out Igor Wallossek's in-depth review of five top-of-the-line mechanical keyboards on the Tom's Hardware site. He steps you through the mechanics of key design, explains why the old PS/2 vs. USB argument doesn't really mean much, then goes through a detailed analysis of five of the most popular mechanical keyboards available today.

If Dad takes his typing seriously, have a look at the Ione X-Armor U9BL. Or you can always check eBay for a Model M or Northgate keyboard. It'll make him feel young again.

This story, "For Father's Day: The perfect keyboard," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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