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Review of the Model M-Inspired Unicomp Customizer Keyboard

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the lust-lust-lust dept.

Input Devices 383

ThousandStars writes "I wrote a review of the Unicomp Customizer Keyboard, which is a modern version of the IBM and then Lexmark Model M much beloved by nerds and hackers. The pros of the Customizer: it's sturdy, remarkably similar to the Model M, has great tech support, and uses a USB interface. Oh, and it's Mac-friendly. The cons: at $69 it's somewhat expensive, and its noise won't be music to your cubemate's ears." Note: this is one of the very, very few buckling-spring keyboards you can get new these days, instead of prowling through thrift stores, eBay, and university dumpsters.

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FIRST (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23585767)


Niggers (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586177)

yes, niggers. no frosty piss, no natalie portman, no hot grits, no steve ballmer throwing chairs. just niggers. that is all.

We will be right back after this slashvertisment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23585797)

enjoy your "review" and please don't forget this comment comes with GREAT technical support

I didn't realise that they had a name... (3, Interesting)

fictionpuss (1136565) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585803)

...and an internet fan-base, I guess that explains why I haven't been able to find a $2-3 replacement clicky keyboard in a charity shop over the last few years. Sometimes internet, you really suck.

You should have bought more than one! (5, Informative)

freenix (1294222) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586109)

The model M is not immortal and any good nerd has at least three in the closet. I have only had one of these die on me and it was probably a wiring problem that I can fix but it was nice to have more waiting. They seem to be going for about $25 on ebay, so the internet has not let you down by letting people share their love. Perfect knowledge and many providers is a fair market so $25 is a fair price for a used keyboard. Finding a cache in a dumpster is like finding several hundred dollars on the street and you should save them all for yourself, your friends or just to sell them.

New keyboards like this are worth their price if you type a lot. It does feel good to type on and it will last forever. The only problem with the new ones, like the reviewer noticed, is the windows keys which decrease the size of Ctrl and Alt so that you might miss them.

Re:I didn't realise that they had a name... (1)

wordsnyc (956034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586141)

There was a guy on eBay about six months ago who had a whole buncha Model Ms new in the box for sale. I bought two for $28 bucks apiece.

But still, when my wife gets me to go to a thrift store, I still make a beeline for the pile of keyboards in the back.

Re:I didn't realise that they had a name... (0, Redundant)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586171)

Sometimes internet, you really suck.

Wow, you're right! [] I looked up "internet" on the internet [] and it does indeed suck.

"Give a man a fish, he is fed for a day. Teach him to use the 'net, and he won't bother you for weeks" ~ Oscar Wilde on the Internet

"The Internet is a Series of Tubes!" ~ Sen. Ted Stevens on the Internet

"Ah, the internet. Giving voiceless, pubescent young teens a place to rant about everyone in their lives to a bunch of people who either think it's funny or want to rape them." ~ Unknown_Entity on The Internet

"Its where we truly belong. We are accepted, not teased or harassed" ~ The Nerd Association on the internet

"It's not all just cybergeeks and girls with their tops off!" ~ Internet Expert on Internet's contents

"Mmmm...very interesting invention...let's use it to destroy Microsoft!" ~ Steve Jobs on the Internet

"The internet is for porn" ~ Your Mom on the Internet

"lo1 u r a n0ob!!11 u cant evn sepl inturnet proply!!!!!1!" ~ A noob on The internet

The Internet is a complex system made of, but not limited to, a series of tubes, telegraph wires, pony expresses, hobo signs, tortoise shells, and smoke signals. It was originally built by Al Gore to distribute pornography and is owned, operated and monitored by the Illuminati. It is mostly used for access to porn, theme songs, ultra-porn, and cans of spam. It was originally designed to accumulate the knowledge of mankind, and by learning and sharing the newly synthetized knowledge generate singularity. But it turned out to be much more effective in accumulating and amplifying idiocy, creating a being not known before: the troll. Behold! The end is near! Bow down before your alien overlords!

UnNews:Phoenix Lander discovers dirt on Mars []
Jesus Christ endorses Obama []
US ships to leave Burma; No WMDs found []

This offtopic flaming pile of dogshit brought to you by the internet. One more comment that truly sucks.

"No Karma Bonus" checked for accuracy. "Post Anonymously" not checked, but polka-dotted. If the internet isn't your overlord, why does the button say "submit"?

Geezer alert! (4, Interesting)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585809)

At $69 it's somewhat expensive

Yet you are comparing it to the IBM model M. When that model was out over 20 years ago [] . A cheap keyboard was over a hundred bucks back then.

Tell me again how we should be glad gas prices are low "after inflation?"

Of course, that hundred dollar keyboard was connected to a four thousand dollar PC with a color monitor (green). It had no mouse. It held less than 1 meg of memory and ran at less than 16 mhz (the 286 five years later; the 8088 was 4 mhz, a thousand times slower than today's CPUs).

I paid $70 for my keyboard/mouse combo. Of course, they're wireless and the mouse has no ball.

Re:Geezer alert! (5, Funny)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585929)

No wires or ball? You got ripped off buddy.

Re:Geezer alert! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586465)

He's not your buddy, guy!

Re:Geezer alert! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586073)

USB Model M keyboard, under $10.

I have bought several Model M keyboards, and they have ranged in price from $2 to $5. You can find USB to PS/2 adapters for about $7.

It's nice that you can pay the $70 and have the near instant gratification of mail-order. But personally, I know that I like the Model M. I have only heard second-hand reviews of the Unicomp keyboards. I wouldn't want to pay $70 based upon second hand information.

Re:Geezer alert! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586239)

>color monitor (green)

Mine was amber, nyah, nyah! Amdek Video 310A. The thing refused to die - it went from my main PC, to secondary PCs, later to servers...

>16 mhz (the 286 five years later)
The fastest 80286 I recall was a Harris Semiconductor labeled model that was clocked at 20 Mhz in an Everex STEP 286/20 PC.

Man, it was fast!

Intel 80286 [] for the curious.

Re:Geezer alert! (0, Offtopic)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586645)

All you youngsters and your mice with no balls. I recommend only a kensington pro trackball -- that's mousing with big balls!

Hear Much? (1, Insightful)

Azarael (896715) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585821)

After 22 years of loud clicking, I wonder if you'll sustain any hearing damage.. A sturdy keyboard is a great thing, but at least put in some rubber or something to muffle the sound.

Re:Hear Much? (5, Funny)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586305)

The clicking is the best part. When you are typing up a storm, the whole office better know it. When something is broken and everyone it waiting for you to fix it, and everyone hears "CLACKITY! CLICK! CLICK! CLACK! CLACK! THUNK(spacebar)! CLACK!" the only thought in thier head is "Man he must be doing something complicated".

Re:Hear Much? (3, Informative)

JPLemme (106723) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586735)

I love my clicky keyboards. The problem is that when you surf the web ^H^H^H stop to think about work-related things everyone around you knows it because of the silence.

Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1, Troll)

millwall (622730) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585831)

How many people here have in the last couple of years actually tried to type on a Model M?

I will tell you from recent experience that typing on one of these old beasts will slow you down immensly.

In this group-think-world the reponsiveness of the Model M sounds great; but in reality, it fails miserably.

Please, stop the Model M fanboism.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (2, Insightful)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585913)

"How many people here have in the last couple of years actually tried to type on a Model M?"
All the time,what's the problem? I just prefer to know when I hit bottom as I type. I'm a pretty shitty typist, anyhow. YMMV.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (5, Insightful)

splutty (43475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585963)


Interesting comment, however I completely and utterly disagree. Most modern keyboards (and I've gone through quite a lot), are simply not tactile and 'fast' enough. There are a number of keyboards (Looking at you, DELL), that I have serious problem with considering the speed I'm typing. More often then not, letters will be 'switched around', because I hit them in such fast succession. I've never had this problem with a Model-M, or with certain Cherry keyboards with microswitches (nor by the way, with this HP-KU keyboard, which comes with detachable numpad and card reader)

If you claim that a Model-M will slow people down, then I think you've either never typed on a tactile keyboard, or you're a slow typer to begin with. Of course I could be terribly wrong, and the positive effects of the Model-M surely vary for people, but in my experience I'm typing a LOT faster on my keyboard at home (which is an original Model-M/PS2) than on pretty much any other keyboard.

I think the main reason for that is twofold. First you never have to fully depress the key, plus aside from the 'noise' it also gives you a very tactile response, and even pushed the key back at you. This basically limits the amount of force and movement my fingers have to make to type anything, and for me at least, speeds my typing up enormously.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586201)

What's fast?

I don't type all that fast, but I am rarely held up my typing speed.

I just scored 62 wpm here: []

I don't think that it enormously fast (looking at the high scores...), but it is fast enough for the vast majority of the work I do.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (3, Insightful)

WarwickRyan (780794) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586255)

It took me a fair while to find a keyboard that I could type quickly and comfortably with. I've tried the Dells, the Model M, Saitek Eclipse, Microsoft Standard, Microsoft Natural and Logitech Wave.

Only one which is comfortable for writing and coding is, surprisingly, the Logitech Wave.

Don't get me on the subject of mice, though. There isn't a single ergonomic mouse on the market suitable for southpaws like myself :(

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

Jamu (852752) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586679)

I don't think I could go back to a keyboard that doesn't allow my wrists to be kept straight. Putting any undue stress on something as complicated [] as your wrist [] is just asking for trouble. The same goes for keys with a heavy action. A study keyboard is great but make sure your hands and wrists can outlive it. The best affordable keyboard I've found for myself is the Microsoft Natural 4000, which is a lot like the original one. The keys are also in the correct places unlike Microsoft's other "Natural" keyboards. No matter how great the keyboard is, it's you, that you should be considering first.

Re: Logitech Wave (1)

DuctTape (101304) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586851)

I had the predecessor to the Wave, or one of them, and while this was not ergonomic, it was solid (and not Microsoft). But unfortunately after a few months, the keys would "stick" if I hit them off-center. That is, I hit a key (usually a modifier key) off-center, and it would not go down without considerably more force. This happens to me a lot with the Dell keyboards, but those are so cheap you can get a new one every few months. Still, this was annoying enough so that I didn't get the Wave and went back to a Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 [] . Notebook-like key action, though the curve is too little for ergonomic benefit, and too much to just approach it with straight arms.


Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585981)

Um yeah, I used one until the PCB crapped out last year. Replaced it with a Das Keyboard [] , which also has buckling springs. It's a little less sturdy than the Model M though, I wish I had gotten the Unicomp model.

Maybe you just have weak hands?

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (3, Informative)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586245)

A quibble - Das Keyboard does NOT use buckling springs. It uses a different type of keyswitch - I'd guess Alps or similar. The old Northgate keyboards, also a cult fave, were similar. Similar tactile feel, but less of everything - less noise, less force feedback. Some prefer them over the stiffer and louder IBM keyboards.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (3, Informative)

GeneralAntilles (571325) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586393)

No it doesn't. The Das Keyboard has Alps switches (which are noticeably inferior to buckling spring).

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (2, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586739)

I've looked, but I haven't found any actual confirmation of that. Apparently the keyboard is made by Cherry, who makes the switches as well.

You're right though, the switches are noticeably different than the Model M's. Inferior is a matter of opinion, they're a little quieter which is OK by me. I'm mostly disappointed by the light construction of the case. Also the board isn't as curved as the Model M, so it's a bit less ergonomic.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (3, Insightful)

Bud Dickman (1131973) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586059)

I used a Model M daily. I type faster on it.

Shock! Gasp!

Different people work better with different models of keyboards.

"I will tell you from recent experience that typing on one of these old beasts will slow ME down immensly."
Fixed that for you. Don't presume to speak for me.

Mod Parent Waaay Down (2, Interesting)

mpapet (761907) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586113)

Our dev has a DASkeyboard that I test drove for a couple of hours. Great.

One of the things I like about the older keyboards is the finger precision required is actually a bit less than newer keyboards. That makes me much more productive when I'm tired.

I think maybe you and Marcel Proust might have quite a bit in common if you can't handle a Model M. Man Up!

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (5, Informative)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586131)

That runs contrary to most other's experience and ergonomic principles. The buckling spring keyboard offers 3 types of feedback - visual (character on a screen), tactile (when the electrical contact is made, the key "gives"), and auditory (the famed "click"). Rubber dome keyboards only really offer 1 of these - visual. The tactile and the audible are generated by the key hitting the bottom of the stroke and are dependent on the force with which the key is struck, so typists tend to continue the stroke until the key bangs into the stop, then return the finger. In a buckling spring, it is possible to type without ever making contact with the physical limit of key travel, so finger motion and shock is reduced.

In other words, you're a troll.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586317)

As I type this I can feel the laptop keyboard as each finger hits the bottom of the laptop. i prefer it as it doesn't jar my hands while I type.

too each their own.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586473)

I find low action keyboards to be more jarring to my hands. It's as if I hit a wall halfway through the stroke. With a mechanical keyboard like these, it's springy, so I never feel like I'm pounding on something. The key clicks and my fingers bounce right back up.

A laptop with buckling springs would be a dream.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586257)

I regularly use an old Model M at a console in a server room. I type faster and more accurately on that keyboard than any of the others I use around work.

Your comment leaves me wondering whether you've actually typed on a Model M.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

InlawBiker (1124825) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586815)

If you're not terribly picky, a trick to getting a good clackity keyboard is to make friends with the I.T. guys. In our shop it used to be that every server came with a quality server keyboard and mouse. They immediately get thrown into a pile because the servers are all on KVM devices. Just go in and ask for one. They tend to be a lot nicer than the mushball keyboards the desktop PCs come with.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

dedave (609713) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586301)

I own a Unicom. Love it! And I can rock 80 wpm on a good keyboard. I can get maybe 60 on a bad one. Fast typists need good keyboards.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586355)

Dude, I still have two working M's (this post courtesy of one of them) and wouldn't change them for anything, included the optimus maximus.
And yes, I type quite a lot.

As for being slowed down, well I happen to be also a keyboard player (I mean synthesizers) and prefer an unweighted touch to the traditional weighted piano keyboard. I will certainly play much better and faster on a unweighted keyboard than on a piano or weighted one, but I'll never dare to say that unweighted keyboards are much better than weighted ones to a classical pianist, even if I'm deeply convinced that it's true, because it's still important what we're used to and what we learned to play/type on.

So, you probably don't like the old model M because you didn't spend a lot of time using it.
If that's the case, please don't do it, or once you get used to it you'll spend the rest of your life wandering about flea markets and surplus stores for old model M's, spare parts and keycaps, etc.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (3, Insightful)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586459)

I knew a tech who got one and loved it, but damn those things are loud. It's like a gigantic tailpipe for geeks.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586469)

I can maintain roughly 105 WPM on either the laptop keyboard or the cheap Dell keyboard available to me at work, but it's more like 120 WPM on the Model M I use at home. In addition, my accuracy is better on the Model M. So yes, I have actually tried one, I am a very fast typist, and I am a faster typist on a Model M than on a typical modern keyboard.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586491)

I#m lvoing mine!!1

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586515)

As a peer post says, "Interesting comment, however I completely and utterly disagree. " I'm not sure what typing on an "old beast" will do, but I'm the original submitter and obviously like the new Model Ms quite a bit. From my experience, I type faster and more accurately (he says as he scans this post for the typos someone is going to find and get an easy +5 Funny). Granted, this might be in part a placebo effect (oooo, I must type faster with a badass expensive keyboard!) or from familiarity, but in reality mine seems quite nice.

The only real attempt I've seen to quantify keyboard design and speed is here [] , and although the study is somewhat old, it seems to support the Model M fanbois.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (2, Informative)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586793)

$69 for a keyboard isn't particularly expensive. True, keyboards around that price usually have whiz-bang features, but not always.

G11 Gaming Keyboard - $69 [] (And while I like the feel of it for gaming, it sucks to do real work on!)

Das Keyboard II - $79.99 []

For an outfit as small as Unicomp seems to be, a somewhat minor markup over what it'd cost from somebody else is pretty reasonable.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586567)

Umm yah. How about we round up all of our cheap keyboards and send you a lifetime supply (you just pay shipping and processing!)... You don't even have to send us your undesirable old model M's!

On a Model M, you do not HAVE to press the keys all the way down. You can let go as soon as you hear/feel them click and you have a character. Certain (Dell) other keyboards MUST be pressed all the way down. You can actually feel the click on those keyboards without generating characters! Additionally, the tactile feedback of those keyboards is akin to that of a bowl of oatmeal.

I'm NOT a touch-typist, but my speed goes WAY down on a cheap keyboard, and my error rate goes way up!

The DEC LK201's werent bad, and the LK401's were OK (as were the PC variants...)

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

nitram_divad (970989) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586573)

How many people here have in the last couple of years actually tried to type on a Model M?
I've been using the same one for more than 14 years now (it's dated 6 Jan 94) and wouldn't trade it for the world. The feedback is the key to fast typing and I haven't met a keyboard since the Model M that even comes close to providing decent feedback. Newer keyboards simply slow me down.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586613)

Really? I just compared my Dell AT101W (a clicky model-M clone) to my laptop at

The clicky keyboard wins at 80WPM versus 73WPM. Although the secretary was probably wondering what I was doing typing like that, since she can hear all the clicks.

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

CrankyFool (680025) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586681)

I switched to the Unicomps when my last Model M died, about eight years ago. Since then, I've been using Unicomps consistently. I love them -- they feel certain, and comfortable. Coworkers also like the way they feel (though usually not enough to pay for one, or have work pay for one).

That said, for me, the only minor downside is something the original author mentions -- noise. They're quite noisy, and while it doesn't bother me, it does sometimes cause my cubicle's neighbors to comment (e.g. "I always know whether or not you're in your cubicle because I can hear your keyboard from 20 meters away"). Good news is, the only people in the vicinity work for me, so they can't really complain too loudly :). Also, people know if I'm typing while on the phone. That's OK for, say, work meetings where it's expected I'm taking notes, but if I'm having a heart-to-heart conversation with my wife and want to catch up on email at the same time, I usually have to switch to my laptop's keyboard so she won't hear me :)

Re:Fanbois, have you actually tried one? (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586737)

Wrong. I use an original 1988 Model M at home and a Unicomp Customizer at work, and I do type approx 10 WPM faster on a buckling-spring board versus a membrane board.

still heavy enough? (5, Funny)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585833)

But are they still heavy and sturdy enough to "console" someone... repeatedly? Sometimes I channel the BOFH, and these cheap plastic Dell deals just don't hold up to the abuse...

Re:still heavy enough? (1)

washort (6555) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586025)

Yeah, they've still got the same heft and bullet-stopping abilities as the original.

Re:still heavy enough? (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586787)

Yes. My Unicomp is /slightly/ lighter than a real IBM or Lexmark M, but it's still usable for melee combat and blocking lighter/slower bullets. There's a steel plate in the base.

too big (1, Insightful)

russellh (547685) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585837)

Cut off the numeric keypad and we'll talk. Till then, I can live with my happy hacker ..

Re:too big (3, Insightful)

youthoftoday (975074) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586009)

I have to disagree. I have a black Das Keyboard (you know, the one without markings). The numeric keyboard is a life-saver (somehow it's just not possible to touch-type the numbers above the keyboard)...

Re:too big (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586499)

I have to disagree. I have a black Das Keyboard (you know, the one without markings). The numeric keyboard is a life-saver (somehow it's just not possible to touch-type the numbers above the keyboard)...
Flamebait? How is that Flamebait? Fricking mod on crack...

Re:too big (1)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586197)


give me a HHK with buckling springs and powered hubs.

I'd buy one in a flash.

I have two of the Unicomps at the moment and I'm just waiting to take a band saw to one of them.

Re:too big (5, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586237)

Cut off the numeric keypad and we'll talk

I see you've never had to enter a long series of numbers into a database. Entering numbers from the number row above the letters is slow, cumbersome, and error-prone.

Re:too big (1)

Ancil (622971) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586803)

I see you've never had to enter a long series of numbers into a database. Entering numbers from the number row above the letters is slow, cumbersome, and error-prone.

I don't do enough data-entry to warrant a numeric keypad. Even if I did, I wouldn't want it glued to the right side of my keyboard, forcing me to reach 3 inches further every time I use the mouse.

The numeric keypad on standard keyboards is literally placed in the worst possible place for anyone except an accountant who doesn't use a mouse -- not surprising since most early computer users were accountants who didn't use a mouse.

For very little money, you can buy a detached numeric keypad which can be shoved out of the way whenever you're not using it. Speaking for myself, I prefer original IBM "Space Saver" keyboards. These are geniune Model M's with no numeric keypad -- they look like this [] . A few years back, I bought 5 of them for $200, so I'm pretty much set for life.

IBM called those "space saver" keyboards (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586699)

According to [] they were more-specifically identified as model numbers 1391472, 1397681, 1370475, 1392464, 1392934,1395100.

I have one connected to my Mac Mini at home and two spares in case anything happens to that one.

Re:too big (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586733)

You should look at the Apple bluetooth wireless keyboard. It trims out the numeric keypad, is high quality, looks great, and the feel of the keys is a dream (though not the loud clicky feel this article is talking about). I've been using it on a Windows PC with no problems. It really saves desktop space and removes the need to stretch your arm far to the right to use the mouse. The only stumbling point might be that some editing keys have also been removed (home/end), but I've become used to key combination replacements.

USB, pointing stick (3, Interesting)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585847)

Unicomp also make keyboards with a 'nipple' pointing device in the middle like on Thinkpads. The Endurapro [] is buckling spring with pointing device and is available as USB. The only downside is that they can't ship the USB version outside the USA.

I'd like to get one but currently I have a good stock of Model Ms for my typing needs.

What I really want to use is the old PC or PC-XT keyboard - buckling spring but even heavier and better built than the Model M. However the electronics are different. I think I saw an adapter on sale for $100 somewhere but that's a bit steep.

Re:USB, pointing stick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586033)

lol he said nipple

Re:USB, pointing stick (1)

funkatron (912521) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586379)

"Shipments of the USB model outside the USA are currently suspended awaiting government approval."

Wtf have they put in this thing?

Re:USB, pointing stick (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586539)

Oh my god. Now I *Have* to get the unicomp. I'll never take my hands off the keyboard again!

Re:USB, pointing stick (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586839)

Now if they'd add an ergonomic version of their boards, I can't go back to a straight key alignment.

I prefer Unicomp's Endurapro (3, Interesting)

LinuxOnEveryDesktop (14145) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585875)

I actually prefer Unicomp's Endurapro [] . Same buckling springs, but with an integrated mouse. Saves me from carpal tunnel.... well that and a reasonably ergonomic desk setup. Endurapro at work, endurapro at home :)

Re:I prefer Unicomp's Endurapro (1) (645325) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586169)

I'm thinking about getting one, but since I've purchased not one, but two Happy Hacking KBs over the past couple of years, I can't really justify it. What I really want is a three button, standalone trackpoint that'll sit right below the space bar on my HHKB. Trackballs just aren't cutting it.

Apparently, nobody makes a standalone pointing stick.

I'm desperate enough that I'm considering scooping up a few keyboards from trashed Thinkpads and figuring out how to solder them up to a USB controller.

Re:I prefer Unicomp's Endurapro (1)

LinuxOnEveryDesktop (14145) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586347)

Apparently, nobody makes a standalone pointing stick.

I'm desperate enough that I'm considering scooping up a few keyboards from trashed Thinkpads and figuring out how to solder them up to a USB controller.

That might not be *so* hard. Used old Thinkpad parts are a dime a dozen these days, and easy to find on ebay.

I share your frustration - the Endurapro was actually pretty much the only keyboard I could find with integrated mouse when I bought it a few years back. Why isn't there more innovation in this space?

not an M-series (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23585877)

Ugh -- a windows key?

Re:not an M-series (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586327)

Oddly, the Windows key works just fine in KDE. Yes, the Windows key does in fact run Linux.

So maybe we should stop calling it a "windows" key?

Now the SysReq key, otoh, is a huge mistake, especially in Linux. Why copy Windows' lame Alt-tab to switch between apps? SysReq is far more logical and has no other use outside the mainframe world that I've ever seen in 25 years of computing. Have you ever used the SysReq key?

Apparently, it is more than just an approximation (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585973)

There's a comment saying the Kentucky company is the latest owner of the IBM IP and manufacturing equipment for the keyboard. All of which still resides in Kentucky.

$69 is CHEAP for a decent keyboard. I'm one of those IT guys that's happy to give out the lame excuse for keyboards being shipped with PC's and horde the best of the older keyboards.

Our dev has a DASkeyboard. Very nice too. I'm not l33t enough to go decal-free at 3AM support calls though.

This company is a *perfect* example of the economic potential for manufacturing in the U.S. It's a niche product, high quality, that won't have a market big enough for whatever low-wage empire to ever export the work.

Re:Apparently, it is more than just an approximati (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586269)


Manufacturing is alive and well in the United States. The job growth from manufacturing isn't particularly strong though, as there is tons of automation. One guy running a couple of CNC lathes is more productive than 4 guys running manual lathes, and so on. Or something like Hyundai, where the spend less per vehicle on welding, but have higher consistency, because they are fully automated.

Re:Apparently, it is more than just an approximati (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586295)

I was happily surprised when I discovered my EnduraPro was US made.

My experience. (3, Interesting)

srollyson (1184197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585977)

I'm a relatively young guy, so my first experience with a buckling spring keyboard was when I bought one of these Unicomp Customizers a year ago. The responsiveness is terrific! It's hard to convey this in a way that doesn't seem like snake oil, but I feel like it's increased my typing speed and accuracy.

I think I've become spoiled, actually. When I use my laptops' membrane keyboard, it feels mushy in comparison.

Unrelated to the story, but (-1, Offtopic)

davidoff404 (764733) | more than 6 years ago | (#23585979)

an important comment nonetheless: Who would care to guess what my first reaction is when confronted with a page that uses those "hover over a link for a preview of the linked item" things?


I close the page in disgust. This is because (a) I don't want your mindlessly inept website stealing my bandwidth for a feature I detest, and (b) I'm insulted at the suggestion that I'm incapable of middle-clicking to open a link in a new tab.

Please, people. Stop using link previewers like SnapShots. They just make you look like an idiot.

I'm sorry I thought this was slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586011)

People complaining about classic keyboards and no one has mentioned the Unix layout available? What the hell happened to this place....


Re:I'm sorry I thought this was slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586065)

It got some sense finally?

Copy of article (1)

davidoff404 (764733) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586043)

To save you the hassle of having to deal with the SnapShot-enabled crap on the website:

Product Review: Unicomp Customizer keyboard

A rash of e-mails regarding and hits to my negative review of the Matias Tactile Pro 2 leads me to write this positive review the Unicomp Customizer, a modern version of the Model M that IBM used to produce. Dan's Data explains why these "buckling spring" keyboards are so nice:

The big deal about these old keyboards is their lovely, positive key-click. When you use a keyboard that doesn't have a good positive click, it's hard to tell when you've depressed a key properly. You have to watch the screen to make sure you don't leave letters out, or you have to really hammer the keyboard, which is not good for your hands.

Most of the mid-priced keyboards [...] use some variant of the "rubber dome" switch technology, which gives a definite little popping sensation when the dome buckles, but doesn't necessarily give you an actual letter at the exact same moment, thanks to uncertain contacts. The old buckling spring tech absolutely positively does give you the letter when you feel the click. These keyboards feel very much like an old IBM Selectric typewriter - there are plenty of these ironclad behemoths still in service, and they may herniate anyone that has to move them but they're darn nice to type on.

Today, buckling spring keyboards are never or almost never shipped with computers. Fortunately, Unicomp has accomplished what Matias couldn't and produced an excellent keyboard in the Customizer, which is based on the actual IBM Model M design. Keystrokes are crisp and precise. The "shadow key" problem that bedeviled the Tactile Pro is absent, and the Customizer itself is solid, recalling a slab of stone (see the picture below), unlike the fragile, mushy keyboards most PCs ship with. It's also been durable, and in the months I've pounded on it the only problem has been a backspace key that became slightly squeaky. I sent an e-mail to Unicomp and someone called me to recommend that I pop off the offending key with a butter knife to reseat it. If you know anything about modern tech support, reread that sentence and let the shock set in. An actual phone call? From a guy involved with the actual manufacturing of the product? Indeed, and I've now experienced my miracle. The squeak seemed to go away and I'm back to my normal pattern. Furthermore, the company is based in Kentucky and makes the Customizers there.

The main drawback for me is that I use an iMac and the keyboard is set up for Windows. The ability to change key bindings was important to me, and OS X allows it to be accomplished easily by going to System Preferences -> keyboard and mouse -> keyboard -> modifier keys:

(Unnecessarily insulting picture of a configuration dialogue. Like we don't know what one of those looks like...)

As the picture above shows, I've disabled the caps lock key--which is not specific to this keyboard, but just a preference--and changed the "option" key to command and the command key to option, which makes the alignment of the Customizer match any other Mac keyboard. Windows and Linux users will probably want to leave the alt and control keys where they are. The Customizer is thus a viable Mac keyboard, which delights me after the Matias Tactile Pro 2 problems. Although I haven't conducted any tests to demonstrate whether I actually type faster with the Customizer, I feel like I do, and even if I don't, I like typing on it far more than I do other keyboards.

The Customizer's minor downsides are fivefold: 1) as described above, the command, alt, and option physical keys don't match what the computer will actually do; 2) although the Customizer feels far better than other modern keyboards, it's not quite the same as real Model Ms, which were metal, and it's also subtly different than Apple's Extended II keyboard, and as a result people who want the exact experience as the older models might be disappointed; 3) the keyboard has no built-in USB ports, which is a problem with Macs because even the 24 iMac comes with only three on the back, which is too few; 4) the price, at $69, is somewhat high, but I think the productivity improvement worth the extra cost, and 5) the Customizer probably can't be used in a work or living situation in which you have to share space with someone else, as the clacking will anger the other person. But that last drawback is to me part of the advantage--I like the clack, and to me the noise is part of its fun.

My only wish is that Unicomp would make keys with "command" on them, so Mac users could pop the Windows keys off and replace them with a Mac-centric layout. These are minor issues, and the necessary trade-offs weigh heavily in the Customizer's favor for those who care about their typing experience.

Stop complaining about price (5, Insightful)

Octos (68453) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586061)

Really. $70 for a keyboard is nothing. It's a tool you use every day for extended periods of time. If you're looking for a decent keyboard it's because you don't like the way the $3 crap-board feels. It costs three bucks for a reason. Quality tools that last are worth every penny.

If you really want to balk at price, I'll point you to my Kinesis Contour keyboard. It cost about $300. The key feel and ergos are great. I've used this board at work for about 9 years now and it's still going strong.

If you still insist on being cheap, go prowl Goodwill or other thrift stores. I found a Lexmark BS board in near mint condition for $5.

markrich (1)

markrich (1294904) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586097)

I have a keytronic lifetime series keyboard cost about $50 and a kensington expert mouse track track ball ($99). As much time as I spend behind the screen on the keyboard it's well worth the investment. Why an expensive keyboard, because it's all about touch. This keyboard has a consistent touch for all the keys unlike some dell keyboards that have that lazy key and that stiff key here or there. BTW why do they call ita keyboard, my son asked.. should it be called a button board? :-)

Coincidence (1)

DarkDust (239124) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586119)

I just ordered me a Unicomp keyboard yesterday (a SpaceSaver). And I expect to pay a bit more than just $69: I live in Germany, shipping and taxes will drive it up to about $100, I think.

I'm a programmer like so many of you, and I don't understand why most programmers don't care for their keyboards: it's the tool we work with all day. Ask any craftsman and he will tell you that tools are important. For example, I know that a lot of coiffeurs buy a scissor for a few hundred bucks after their apprenticeship. That's a crazy amount of money for a scissor, but this scissor lasts until they retire (if they care for it) and feels better than normal scissors. Same thing with cooks and knifes.

I hope the keyboard holds up to my expectations. I ordered a Model-M clone because I have an old Model-M like keyboard back from my 286 at home (still with the old AT connecter, had to get an AT-to-PS/2 converter) and I won't ever use any other keyboard at home except if it breaks: the feel of it so good, no rubber-dome keyboard can compete.

But I guess I have to get an office on my own soon, my colleague will kill me after a few days with the clicking keyboard :-)

IBM/Lexmark keyboards rock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586123)

Just last week I pulled 2 keyboards from the basement of a friend who used to work for lexmark. One dated 1993 the other 1998. I gave them to the guy I work with. I use those wierd silitek ergo keyboards they stopped making about 2000 or so (looks similar to the newer microsoft ergo keyboards where the front lifts, not the back).

You can tell a true nerd by their taste in keyboards.

1984 - Still clicking (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586609)

I happen to have 5 (five) of the Model M keyboards, NEW in the BOX !.
NO, they are not for sale. This one I am presently using was manufactured
in 1984. That is 24 years of service. If they ever remove the DIN connectors
from PC's, I'm building an adapter. LOL.

Eat your hearts out.

A keyboard without 'windows logo' ? (2, Interesting)

bvanheu (1028050) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586185)

I don't understand why keyboard manufacturer still put the Windows logo on the meta key (unless Microsoft give them money).

Can you point me out websites where i can buy a keyboard without 'Windows logo' ?

Anyway, only recently I found a use to this key (using it as meta with Awesome window manager. This don't interfere with 'alt' key in irssi !)

P.s. English isn't my first language !

Re:A keyboard without 'windows logo' ? (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586547)

Are you that petty that the windows logo pisses you off? Jesus H tapdancing Christ.

Re:A keyboard without 'windows logo' ? (1)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586583)

Compiz treats the "Windows" key as the Super key. I know Emacs tends to just let you use alt as meta; making it pointless to have an actual "meta" key set in the window manager.

Love my unicomp (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586191)

I got one of those swanky wireless aluminum keyboards with my iMac and hated it -- tiny arrow keys, no numeric pad, and I kept hitting the function key instead of the control key at the bottom left. Plus, I absolutely hate laptop keyboards, and that's basically what it is. I bought a unicomp "EnduraPro" keyboard (with a built-in mouse/nipple), for times when the bluetooth on my mighty mouse screws up or the batteries go dead. I wish they had a command key and extended functions (adjust volume, brightness, etc), but I think it's a great choice. The only downside -- keyboards I use at work, etc, feel like shit :)

Blank clicky keyboard? Count me in (1)

k-zed (92087) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586251)

I have had one of these for years. It's awesome beyond words.

Actually the original reason was that I wanted a keyboard with no letter decals on it (since I am a touch typist ever since I know myself). I looked around where I could get such a thing (we tried painting one ourselves, but the paint tended to attract dust, so it got.. hairy after a while; and what's worse, eventually it caused some kind of skin allergy); after a while, a friend recommended Unicomp, and to get a buckling spring keyboard at the same time.

It worked out tremendously. (Also, I live in Hungary, and they had to ship from the United States. Even this caused no problems.) The clicky feel and sound are perfect, and it is certainly a sturdy beast (the sheer weight generates respect). People around you will have to deal with the loudness, but I personally love even that.

Re:Blank clicky keyboard? Count me in (1)

zerOnIne (128186) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586433)

Actually, you're thinking of DASKeyboard, which is separate from this.

USB vs. PS/2 (4, Informative)

chiph (523845) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586271)

If you're waffling between getting the USB version of the Customizer and the PS/2 (and intending to use it with a PS/2 to USB converter), get the USB model of the keyboard.

I have the PS/2 Unicomp, and it draws too much current for most USB converters, so you get irregular text entry and occasional lockups. This prevents me from using it with USB-only computers, like my Mac. :(

I would love it if Unicom put a two-port USB hub inside the keyboard, so I have a place to plug in the mouse and maybe a USB memory key.

Chip H.

yruo Fail It (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586291)

As WimdeOpen, Th3 reaper BSD's

Gee... thanks! (1)

Migala77 (1179151) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586351)

Here I was happily typing along, suddenly my keyboard stops working: slashdotted!! Thanks a lot ThousandStars!

Matias Tactile Pro (2, Informative)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586411)

Note: this is one of the very, very few buckling-spring keyboards you can get new these days, instead of prowling through thrift stores, eBay, and university dumpsters.

It's ThousandStars, the original submitter [] here. Note that you can also get a reborn Apple Extended II keyboard called the Matias Tactile Pro 2.0; I also reviewed it [] , but unfavorably, and it suffers from a number of deficiencies the Customizer doesn't. Even Mac users (I am one) are better off with the Customizer.

Can you get an ergonomic version of this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586447)

I've been looking for a new ergonomic tactile keyboard, and haven't been able to find one. I have a 10 year old PC Concepts one that I've been limping along with (it's been resurrected a few times). Eventually it will truly die, and I haven't found any decent feeling keyboards in the last 5 years.

Just picked one up (1)

zerOnIne (128186) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586509)

After a long time of waffling, I finally picked one of these up for my home use. I absolutely LOVE it. I've got a few old model-m's floating around, but I wanted something with the windows key, and USB was a definite plus. $70 was a bit expensive, but it's been worth it so far. Now I'm just trying to convince work to buy me one. If they don't soon, I'll probably just buy one on my own dime and bring it in.

I just got one of these last week! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586533)

I discovered these about a week ago by searching Google for "clicky keyboard". I'm sure after this story they'll probably have a backlog of orders.

Unicomp is a small outfit, and as far as I understand it, they actually bought the old production machines and patents from IBM/Lexmark and are still making these in the same factory. They can even print up custom keys for you. I use a Mac, and for a little extra they made me two specially printed "Command" keys and gave me a blank one, to replace the Windows keys. Nice!

This is easily the nicest keyboard I've ever personally owned anyway. If you like the old clicky keyboards like the old IBM Model M, I don't think you can go wrong with this.

Unicomps rock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586627)

No-one has yet mentioned the Unicomp version of the Model M can come in black. BLACK! And no 'windows' key!

The only downside and non-original thing is the cable doesn't disconnect from the back of the keyboard. One of the best features of the Model M.

Also, I've successfully defended myself with my old Model M. His head took far more damage than my keyboard.

Sure they're fairly pricey, but look what people pay for those ridiculous broken in half bumpy MS keyboards. Rule 1 of "Ergonomics" is make it look weird and tell people it's good for them. They'll believe it.

I tried 3 of them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23586691)

Unicomp's model M isn't as sturdy as the original IBM model M. Also the Unicomps don't have a replacable cable. The IBM doesn't sound as hollow either. The Unicomp is based on the later model Ms so keep that in mind. Although the keypresses are nicer given that some of these IBMs are 20 years old although Unicomp will repair and clean your old IBM if you can find one.

I emailed Unicomp a few times every time they are friendly and helpful with a decent response time of about 1 business day or less. They can program their space saver (it's basically a model m2) or the custimizer (model m) to any layout you want. I have the Dvorak one. It cost a extra $10. I could not find a cherry mechanical switch keyboard that can be programmed. They also come in black and gray keys unlike original IBMs. The space saver also comes with a nipple/clit mouse.

If I had to kill someone with a keyboard I would definately grab the original model M from IBM. Actually maybe one of the old XT keyboards. Then would come the Unicomp model m which I feel could still kill someone and keep on typing. The Unicomp model m2 I could not trust to kill another man and still continue typing that day as it would probably not survive the ensuing battle.

Oh The Humanity (2, Funny)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586753)

I was introduced to the Model M keyboard one fine afternoon when leaving from work a dumpster outside a large insurance company building was FILLED with hundreds of Model M keyboards; evidently they were doing a hardware upgrade. Seeing the keyboards I grabbed one from the dumpster (I have no pride) to try out.

Overjoyed that I finally found a clicky keyboard like those I remembered from the early IBM days I returned the next day and picked up half a dozen more.

If I had only known I would have taken more.

I can't use them at work though - my cube farm neighbors complained when I brought one in.

But I do love the bucking spring design.

Ergonomic with Buckling Springs? (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586769)

I currently use a MSFT Ergonomic keyboard, I love the ergonomic shape of it, however, I miss the tactile feel of the old IBM keyboards. Does anybody make an ergonomic keyboard with tactile feedback or buckle springs?

How about the $189 Avant Stellar? (1)

Werrismys (764601) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586779)

Link: [] It has only one modern feature: built-in macro capability and keycode swapping (no need to install software to program it).

Where to find your own Model M (2, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 6 years ago | (#23586789)

Model M keyboards turn up quite frequently on EBay.

Just use the search term 'clicky'.

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