CODE Keyboard

“You spent $150 on a keyboard?” – My wife

There are two kinds of people in technology: those with an opinion about their keyboard, and everybody else. I happen to be one of the first.

Buckling Spring image courtesy of Wikipedia.

I grew up using the IBM Model F and M keyboards. They have a spring in the key switches that buckles as you press down. That gives you two things: a prominent clicking sound from the keypress, and solid tactile feedback from the key. You definitely know when that key switch actuated.

Years ago I had to give up my Model M keyboards. They’re built to last but it was getting harder to find working ones, it was getting inconvenient to adapt them to USB from PS/2, and a case of carpal tunnel made it painful to use a keyboard that required a decent amount of force to type. This also pleased my coworkers, who didn’t particularly like the stream of loud clicking when I was in the office. And so I settled on a series of Dell keyboards, mostly because we had some sitting around. The multimedia controls on the newer Dell Business keyboards are nice, and I’ve been using those for a while now.

“Does it do cool things?” – My six year old daughter

In a few weeks I’m not going to have coworkers within 50 feet of me, and my old keyboards are getting a little, well, old. So I thought I’d treat myself to a new keyboard. Over the last couple years I’ve been lurking in the community around keyboards, marveling at the incredible love that people pour into the devices at their fingertips. In particular, Massdrop has a quite the stream of interesting keyboards and customizations, many available for purchase. There are cheaper options there but I don’t like ground-effect lighting for my keyboard enough to spend $500, though.

Turns out you can buy a faithful clone of the IBM Model M from Unicomp, but I think I’m past the mega-clicky stage of my life. I don’t want people to hear all that when I’m on the phone. So after looking around I decided on a 104-key CODE Keyboard, which is a collaboration between Jeff Atwood of Stack Overflow fame and WASD Keyboards. You can choose the switches that are in it so you get exactly what you want for noise, feel, and actuation pressure. The keys have backlighting, which is great. The keyboard weighs a couple pounds, so you can defend your home office with it if you need to, and it has big patches of rubber underneath so it does not move. It’s got a standard USB cable (micro to A), so you can replace it or customize it, and a bunch of routing options underneath. And best of all, it’s simple & clean.

It’s got six DIP switches on the back to customize it if you are a Mac, Windows, or UNIX person (if you’re used to a Sun keyboard that swapped Ctrl and Caps Lock). I flipped the sixth switch so that the keyboard Function key can do the multimedia controls (versus an OS “menu” key). If you want to customize it further you can just order a WASD v2 keyboard and customize it fully, from a variety of languages and layouts to what color each key is. I liked the compromises and the LED backlighting in the CODE model, but I can order new keycaps in the future if I want.

“I AM A BAT. I FLY.” – My three year old son, unfazed by a new keyboard

Best of all, I was looking for a reason to try it out, so I wrote this. It’s definitely a different feel than my old keyboard, but that’s what I wanted. I like it so far. At the beginning here I was doing a lot of double capitalization (WRiting THings Like THis), but 600 words in that seems to have cleared up. I think this keyboard and I might get along just fine.

Now I need to find an amazing mouse to go with it. Thoughts?

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