Hardware

Input this: Wild and wacky keyboards

Who says that keyboards have to be boring?

Chances are good that you spend a significant amount of time sitting at your computer typing away on a plain old white keyboard. In this gallery, I’ll present a collection of 19 very interesting keyboards and one accessory that you can use to spice up your plain old white keyboard.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

42 comments
Computer Dave
Computer Dave

Back in June of this year a very good friend was in a VA hospital, dieing of esophageal cancer. He was unable to speak but he was still sharp as a tack. I set him up with a laptop and a text-to-speech app but he had lost the fine motor skills needed to use the keyboard. I sent an e-mail to BigKey Keyboards and they responded by sending out a BigKey XL - at absolutely no cost! This simple gesture allowed Kevin to communicate with his friends and family during his last few days, something he could not have done without the over-sized keyboard. Thank you BigKey Keyboards - a real American company if ever there was!

SirWizard
SirWizard

This is a keyboard of sorts, or more simply, a button box: X-keys Pro from PI Engineering, "The No Slogan Company(tm)". See www.xkeys.com. I have both the older PS/2 version and the USB version, which also lets me program mouse clicks into the text stream. I can program just about any key combinations and text strings to any key. The key covers are clear, so you can print whatever labeling you want. I use various colors to help denote the function. You can make a shifted key set or create application specific key functions. There is a smaller version with 20 keys and the Pro version with 58 keys. The folks who created the X-keys also have a nice sense of humor. The packaging includes a "Nutrition Facts" panel showing calories, fat, cholesterol, fiber, protein, and so on, either alone or prepared with a half cup of peanut butter. While it provides no Vitamin A, Vitamin C, or Calcium, it does supply 100% of any daily requirement for Thermo Plastics. And I quote: "The nutrition label on this box is being supplied as a convenience to our customers with specific dietary questions. While every effort has been made to follow strict federal package labeling guidelines, (FDA/CFSAN - 21 CFR 101. updated 05/97) this label should not be used to imply that the contents of this package are edible. Actual ingestion of the X-keys Pro is not recommended and will void all warranties."

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

It has a universal swivel in the middle that allows you to clam shell it, turn the halves in different directions and so forth. I asked the tech I got it from and he told me that the reason it wasn't in production was that the inventor couldn't get the price he wanted and refused to let any produce it.

sharrison
sharrison

The german engineered Das Keyboard has gold plated mechanical switches, it clicks like a tap dancer on a hot tin roof. The other really awesome part about it is hte fact htat you can get it without letters or numbers on the keys (the ultimate). As you cna tell I rellay luve mine.

gueibor
gueibor

Ooooh, God... I wish someone would come up with a hybrid featuring the built-in trackball from #13 on the ergonomic #11 keyboard!

douglaswlloyd
douglaswlloyd

Anybody remember the Dvorak keyboard? Short-lived, but there are still enthusiasts around.

Timespike
Timespike

The military keyboard looks like it would be great for use on public transit, too. Pair it up with some video goggles and you could use a laptop without ever having to take it out of your bag.

SWThomas
SWThomas

I've been using one of these for about a decade now. Before I got it, I had major problems with tendonitis in my arm, wrist, and hands, plus shoulder muscle pain. These are all gone, and disappeared shortly after I started using the keyboard. It does take a learning curve, but for me it was well worth it.

bobp
bobp

The FrogPad at the same site is interesting also.

zage
zage

I was ready to mention it but I checked the replies before.... I get one of this when searchin' for a compact, mobile KBD...and let me tell u that this thing is a weird device.....it really does what is described...and got this futuristic characteristic.... U can see it in the CSI:Miami "Silencer" episode.... The only issue I got with it is that the batt has reached its service life and is practically difficult to get a spare one...also I tried to get one with similar characteristics to adapt it, but this one is almost unique in size... Any interested can get more info @: http://www.itechdynamic.com/ (manufacturer) http://www.vkb-support.com/index.php (support)

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Yes, the Das Keyboard is a really nice keyboard. Thanks for reminding me. The version with blank keys sounds really interesting. Here is a link for those who want to check it out: http://www.daskeyboard.com/

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...anyone else seen this funny keyboard? I'd love to include a link here and add it to the collection.

online
online

I believe Kensington used to make an ergo keyboard with a trackpad. One of my co-workers had one about eight years ago, and we had one in our server room as well (where space was limited for mice).

GoodOh
GoodOh

I agree. I was quite surprised to not see this one in the collection. The most awesome keyboard ever IMO. Have been waiting to see a mass market version ever since I first saw it (years ago it seems). The Das Keyboard provides a readily available base. Speaking of which, where's the Das in this lineup?

Jaytmoon
Jaytmoon

You forgot the "Any" key

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...to the Wild and Wacky Keyboard collection! I'd forgotten about that one. Thanks for sharing! Anyone else out there have a keyboard to suggest?

zclayton2
zclayton2

Check the link at the end of his descriptions. they lead to the commercial or Datamancer's site. purchase info is up to the seller, not the reporter.

lowtimeppl
lowtimeppl

IBM PS2 (386 era!) keyboard, modelled on their 3270 mainframe terminals Indestructable (believe me, as a Junior PC Tech, I tried..) Responsive Ergonomic Good tactile feedback - not too much pressure required They don't make 'em like that any more..

jakay
jakay

I have fond (NOT) of my fold up keyboard for my Palm.....pretty slick space saving design for the time though! Great set of pictures!

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

I use the adesso wkb exclusively, as I have 3 computers in the living rooom around my sofa, and mice don't work very well on your legs :) What is cool about them is that they are almost exactly like my laptop keyboard also. and you don't have to remove your hands from touchtyping to use the mousepad.

SWThomas
SWThomas

I posted my comment under the picture of the Kinesis "Advantage" keyboard. So when I said, "one of these", I was referring to the Advantage keyboard.

kwheil
kwheil

I still use the old Gateway2000 Anykey keyboard. When you push the special "Program" key the next key you hit will record all subsequent keystrokes until you hit the Program key again. To return the key to normal just hit Program then the key and Program again. With two complete sets of function keys there are plenty to use. It's great for macros on the fly without software and really useful for repetitive tasks in Photoshop, AutoCAD, Excel or any other application.

fatedtodie
fatedtodie

CL850 Projection Keyboard Celluon Laserkey (I would provide a link but they are like 4 lines long due to the horrible name of the product). The feature I find most odd is the "laser" mouse.

seanferd
seanferd

Those are great keyboards.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...which was employed on the keyboards of some very early laptops. You can think of it as the precursor to the Trackpoint, the little red, joystick-like, mouse controllers found on the IBM/Lenova ThinkPads. If you are interested, Computer Hope has a nice photo of a J-mouse on an old Zenith laptop: http://www.computerhope.com/jargon/j/jmouse.htm

SirWizard
SirWizard

The previous poster, who uses the Gateway2000 AnyKey keyboard, did not come anywhere near describing how marvelous a keyboard it is. Before I push that idea a little further: That keyboard was the Gateway2000 branded version of the Maxi Touch keyboard manufactured by Maxi Switch, Inc of Tucson, Arizona (USA). I have used, and continue to use the Maxi Touch since long before they stopped manufacturing them circa 1995. While I could get my hands on them, I had acquired a number of spares of the Maxi Touch and AnyKey keyboards. I have given some to my relatives and closest friends. Shortly before Maxi Switch got absorbed and defocused, I called them up to try to find where I could buy more of the Maxi Touch keyboards. The sales rep said they'd gotten thousands of calls for them, but had stopped making the keyboard as a retail item because it was too expensive to manufacture in competition with cheap $15 keyboards. I said I'd be willing to pay $100 a piece, as would everyone I knew who had ever used a Maxi Touch (or AnyKey.) He said nobody could convince the management [nowadays known as Dilbert's boss] that they should charge more and make a hefty profit from their vastly superior keyboards. All he could recommend was to find someone with a Gateway2000 account and buy the (by then discontinued) AnyKey keyboards as replacements before the nearly exhausted supply ran out. Before we get to the special features of the Maxi Touch (and AnyKey), it is a hefty, ruggedly built keyboard with minimal key-click and just the right tactile feel. The Maxi Touch has unlabeled keys surrounding the inverted-T arrow keys, while the AnyKey has (rather wastefully) arranged the same block of nine keys as diagonals amid the orthogonal arrows. Of course, those can all be reprogrammed as desired. There are numerous other conveniently located extra keys. You can look up all the details at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gateway_AnyKey. Everything is customizable/reprogrammable, and the bank of extra function keys on the left are well suited for numerous other purposes. Each key can have a CTRL, SHIFT, or ALT variant, so there are plenty of keys for either single key or "shifted" use. I never bother contorting my hand to copy or cut or paste, because I have those as single-press keys. I also never type my email addresses, the individual parts of my home address, my phone numbers, or many other strings that I've programmed. I've also got useful functions including delete a line to the clipboard, delete to the end of the line, paste unformatted into Word, reset Excel column widths, and so-on. Yes, there are software approaches to remapping and programming keys, but having extra keys right there among the other keys is not something software can duplicate.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Thanks for tracking down the Ctrl-Alt-Del Keyboard.

kewlgadget
kewlgadget

Since a few of you are interested in purchasing the Laser Projection Keyboard as seen on CSI Miami, here is the link to purchase the item/ learn more about it. It is bluetooth, and can connect to a PDA, PS3 Computer or phone. Very sweet gadget: http://www.kewlgadget.com/?p=107

Robby-rice
Robby-rice

I tried it very briefly about a year ago (not sure if it was the Celluon, but it was along the same idea) and was quite impressed. You obviously have to have a flat surface, but worked very nicely.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Yes, the Celluon is indeed a very unique keyboard device. I didn't include it because it appeared to me that this device was primarily designed for Cell phones. And while that may be true, I now see that the Web site does specifically list Windows XP\Vista in the compatibility section. http://www.celluon.com/index.html Has anyone out there used this device?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...been of interest. I had several friends ask about a regular keyboard with a thumb track. I will look around and see what I can find.

jgwinner
jgwinner

Dell Laptops can still be ordered with the thumbtrack. It takes getting used to, but once you are it's great. Does anyone know if a regular desktop keyboard is available with the thumb track? I contacted the Mfgr a few years ago and they said no, only OEM keyboards (laptops). Darn! == John ==