The Heresy

After having them both for a while, I can type faster and with much greater confidence and fewer errors on my Matias Mini Tactile Pro than I can on my vintage IBM Model F PC-XT keyboard.
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Unread post04 Sep 2017, 20:35

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I don't think that's heresy. The XT keyboard is a terrible layout, IMO. The 1u shift keys are especially bad to me. Now my ANSIfied F-122 is a different story.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 04:07

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Sure, the layout obviously is an issue, and it gave me fits at first. But I don't think it's just that. I mean, it didn't take me too long to start adapting, learning to reach over for the left shift, and reach over for the enter key. And I've done some remapping since then. (This really made me a believer in fully programmable keyboards!) Backspace still a little awkward. . .

But here's what else is tripping me up: There are no "tits" on the F and J keys to help my find home row with my fingers, and I really really miss those.

The key caps feel slippery to me. OK, it's 30+ years old with no telling how many miles on it, so maybe they're just worn slick? But it seems like it's all the keys, equally, not just the ones that get beat on.

And the key action. . . It feels great when I just test it or play around with it, but when I get typing fast it starts to feel harsh. The bottoming out feels hard, there's no give at all. I remember loving the feel of these keyboards when I first encountered them, all those misty moons ago. But you know, I hadn't even learned to touch type back then! We only used those PCs to learn BASIC programming. Typing 90 WPM was completely outside the scope of my experience.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 04:43

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The Tactile Pro is the one with the clicky Matiases, right?
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 07:31

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Chyros wrote:The Tactile Pro is the one with the clicky Matiases, right?

Yes. . . Not sure why in the world of Matias their clicky switches are "Tactile" and their tactile switches are "Quiet Click".
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 12:02

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Zobeid Zuma wrote:
Chyros wrote:The Tactile Pro is the one with the clicky Matiases, right?

Yes. . . Not sure why in the world of Matias their clicky switches are "Tactile" and their tactile switches are "Quiet Click".
Yeah, their model and switch naming is absolutely horrible, I can never remember which is which.

Anyway, clicky Matias switches are REALLY tactile, it's possible that the tactile feedback plays a central role for your typing.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 12:30

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Zobeid Zuma wrote:After having them both for a while, I can type faster and with much greater confidence and fewer errors on my Matias Mini Tactile Pro than I can on my vintage IBM Model F PC-XT keyboard.

Not really surprising. The MMTP is a reduction of the "proper" Enhanced Keyboard layout, while the XT layout is... the XT layout. I've mentioned this before, but it's pretty bad — everything to the right of the =['/ line looks like was designed by a drunkard in a hurry to meet a deadline, and some of the stepped keys are inexcusably stepped.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 12:38

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I can did it. I love typing on buckling springs, but much more accurate and efficient typist on lighter switch boards I own (Cherry MX Blues; Black Alps; etc.).
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 13:45

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Not really surprising. The MMTP is a reduction of the "proper" Enhanced Keyboard layout, while the XT layout is... the XT layout. I've mentioned this before, but it's pretty bad — everything to the right of the =['/ line looks like was designed by a drunkard in a hurry to meet a deadline, and some of the stepped keys are inexcusably stepped.[/quote]

It is ugly.

However. . . Right now it's my favorite keyboard -- among the ones I have here -- for using with Windows. Reason being: The converter is fully programmable, and I was able to assign the "Windows" key somewhere off the bottom row, onto the Scroll Lock key, where I won't hit it by accident anymore! I also swapped Ctrl and Caps Lock and put Fn and Ctrl keys onto F9 and F10, and I turned those awkward keys next to left-shift and enter into additional left-shift and enter keys.

And you know, it's actually pretty efficient to make the number pad work as navigation most of the time, but still work as a num pad when holding down Fn. It sort of makes me wonder why we haven't gone this way instead of TKL becoming so popular.
Zobeid Zuma

Unread post05 Sep 2017, 13:49

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Zobeid Zuma wrote:However. . . Right now it's my favorite keyboard -- among the ones I have here -- for using with Windows. Reason being: The converter is fully programmable, and I was able to assign the "Windows" key somewhere off the bottom row, onto the Scroll Lock key, where I won't hit it by accident anymore! I also swapped Ctrl and Caps Lock and put Fn and Ctrl keys onto F9 and F10, and I turned those awkward keys next to left-shift and enter into additional left-shift and enter keys.

That, emphasized above, is what changes the XT's score by a lot. By reprogramming, one can adjust much of the "vanilla" XT layout to minimize its defects. I've been toying with this, and like what I've gotten so far.
Zobeid Zuma wrote:And you know, it's actually pretty efficient to make the number pad work as navigation most of the time, but still work as a num pad when holding down Fn. It sort of makes me wonder why we haven't gone this way instead of TKL becoming so popular.

TKL became popular because the mouse is way too far off to the right, and easy access to it is nowadays more important than the numpad. I've put some thought over this, and I believe that had some further changes to the original Enhanced Keyboard layout (a better numpad, and the nav cluster put on the left side of the keeb, among other things) been done, we could have been spared the emergence of TKL keebs (disclaimer: an IBM SSK is my daily driver around here!). I've toyed with some designs in this sense, and I intend at some point to build a keyboard with this physical layout as a proof of concept. Something like this:

Image

... although I am thinking now of some further adjustments.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 14:02

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depletedvespene wrote:TKL became popular because the mouse is way too far off to the right, and easy access to it is nowadays more important than the numpad. I've put some thought over this, and I believe that had some further changes to the original Enhanced Keyboard layout (a better numpad, and the nav cluster put on the left side of the keeb, among other things) been done, we could have been spared the emergence of TKL keebs (disclaimer: an IBM SSK is my daily driver around here!). I've toyed with some designs in this sense, and I intend at some point to build a keyboard with this physical layout as a proof of concept.

Can totally get behind that. :) Also like the placement of the Ctrl.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 14:20

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pixelheresy wrote:Can totally get behind that. :) Also like the placement of the Ctrl.

You can call me old-fashioned in this regard. :-D
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 14:23

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depletedvespene wrote:You can call me old-fashioned in this regard. :-D

No... totally there too. Much nicer for VIM.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 14:26

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pixelheresy wrote:
depletedvespene wrote:You can call me old-fashioned in this regard. :-D

No... totally there too. Much nicer for VIM.

I'll do the pending adjustments on the layout quoted above this evening and then post it on a separate thread, to gather feedback.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 14:28

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depletedvespene wrote:TKL became popular because the mouse is way too far off to the right, and easy access to it is nowadays more important than the numpad.

I feel like all the F1-F12 (and beyond) keys as well as the num pad are relics from the DOS era when there was no mouse, everything had to be controlled through the keyboard, and spreadsheets and data entry were the dominant applications. The F-keys just need to go away, they're useless. And if you are one of the minority who do a lot of number entry, there's a vast catalog of accessory num pads only a few clicks away on Amazon.

However, getting rid of the nav keys, and the arrow/cursor keys in particular, is a pain point for a lot of people. And if we're going to keep those, combining them with a numpad is not a bad approach, since it doesn't really add much more real estate.

I've put some thought over this, and I believe that had some further changes to the original Enhanced Keyboard layout (a better numpad, and the nav cluster put on the left side of the keeb, among other things) been done...

There are a few companies now selling reversed, or "left handed", TKL keyboards with the nav keys on the left. However, I've been giving this some thought as well, and here's where my noodling around has led me thus far:

Image

Split spacebar with backspace on the left, because all keyboards should have that. I find that Mac layouts also work well with Linux, but maybe that's just because I have more Mac background? On Windows I absolutely insist that the "Windows" and "Menu" keys be somewhere away from the bottom row modifiers. Let's just put them with the other nav keys.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 15:03

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Zobeid Zuma wrote:I feel like all the F1-F12 (and beyond) keys as well as the num pad are relics from the DOS era when there was no mouse, everything had to be controlled through the keyboard, and spreadsheets and data entry were the dominant applications. The F-keys just need to go away, they're useless.

Really? I use them ALL the time. More so, their presence is needed to avoid depending on the mouse for all navigation-related issues... and to issue commands to complex applications other than the ones you mention (like, say, Eclipse).
Zobeid Zuma wrote:And if you are one of the minority who do a lot of number entry, there's a vast catalog of accessory num pads only a few clicks away on Amazon.

Why have a second keyboard, when we already have one?
Zobeid Zuma wrote:However, getting rid of the nav keys, and the arrow/cursor keys in particular, is a pain point for a lot of people. And if we're going to keep those, combining them with a numpad is not a bad approach, since it doesn't really add much more real estate.

Have you just reinvented the XT numpad? :mrgreen:

………

Zobeid Zuma wrote:There are a few companies now selling reversed, or "left handed", TKL keyboards with the nav keys on the left. However, I've been giving this some thought as well, and here's where my noodling around has led me thus far:

Image

Split spacebar with backspace on the left, because all keyboards should have that. I find that Mac layouts also work well with Linux, but maybe that's just because I have more Mac background? On Windows I absolutely insist that the "Windows" and "Menu" keys be somewhere away from the bottom row modifiers. Let's just put them with the other nav keys.

As much as I dislike the Windows keys (and not only because they come from Microsoft), they're supposed to be easily accessed, so putting them on a secondary layer kinda defeats their purpose. Getting them farther away, though...


Anyway, we obviously have different design goals (just wait until you see what I intend to do with the numpad!), so it's understandable that our drafts will look quite different.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 15:59

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depletedvespene wrote:
Zobeid Zuma wrote:As much as I dislike the Windows keys (and not only because they come from Microsoft), they're supposed to be easily accessed, so putting them on a secondary layer kinda defeats their purpose.

No, it's not meant to be on a secondary layer. All the nav keys, plus Windows and Menu, would be layer 0, and all the num pad functions (including enter and decimal point) would be on the Fn1 layer. (And I realized after posting it that I probably should just switch Fn1 and Fn2 in that image, and have Fn1 be the same key on both versions. The only reason why it even has a Fn2 is because there were keys left over! It could be anything.)
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 18:38

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the f keys never bothered anyone, they just hang out on top of your keyboard out of the way, waiting until they're needed, selfless as they are.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 23:01

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snarfbot wrote:the f keys never bothered anyone, they just hang out on top of your keyboard out of the way, waiting until they're needed, selfless as they are.

Steve Jobs notoriously despised them. I've heard a story that somebody once asked him to sign a keyboard, and he refused until the F-keys were removed from it!

I don't hate them that much. I just can't remember the last time I ever found them useful in any way. Moving them to the Fn layer is an easy decision for me.
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Unread post05 Sep 2017, 23:37

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Zobeid Zuma wrote:
snarfbot wrote:the f keys never bothered anyone, they just hang out on top of your keyboard out of the way, waiting until they're needed, selfless as they are.

Steve Jobs notoriously despised them.

I'd say "Good for him." had he not contaminated many, many people with his nincompooply ideas.
Zobeid Zuma wrote:I don't hate them that much. I just can't remember the last time I ever found them useful in any way. Moving them to the Fn layer is an easy decision for me.

To each his own. For me, lacking them is very limiting.
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Unread post06 Sep 2017, 00:29

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Getting back to my original subject. . . I just swapped the Matias Mini keyboard out for my old Unicomp Spacesaver M. Man, it's awful! After the Matias this feels like I'm typing in the mud. I never really loved the feel of the Unicomp, but it never felt as bad before as it does in this comparison. And this time the layout can't be to blame.
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Unread post07 Sep 2017, 05:24

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How are the rivets on your Unicomp holding up? Broken ones kill much of the tactility. One of my Ms could use a partial screw mod and you can feel the difference.
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Unread post07 Sep 2017, 07:05

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I use the function keys a lot. Although they're probably a bit of a mainframe relic (I'm not sure where they originated, though they seemed to make most sense on the likes of a 3270) I actually quite like them. I guess not wanting to use a modifier is a special sort of laziness. :D

I remember the first time I encountered the inverted-T-with-numpad layout which became a thing in the days Before Mice™ (or at least before they were especially commonplace) and even then it seemed an oddly wide contraption. I've always thought there must be a better way; the SSK is a good stand-in but even as someone who doesn't do data entry there's too much stuff that relies on the keypad being a thing. And AFAIK there's no such thing as a nice quality separate keypad that actually works properly.
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Unread post12 Sep 2017, 16:02

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I don't like memorizing key combinations or shortcuts, and the F-keys in particular. Over time I've picked up the most basic and widely used shortcuts: Cmd-C = Cut, Cmd-S = Save, Cmd-Q = Quit, Cmd-P = Print. Those are mnemonic. Cmd-V for paste and Cmd-Z for undo aren't quite as logical and took me a little longer. But F-keys? They just don't compute for me. It seemed to me that they always worked best when they were spatially matched up with some sort of grid on the screen, as they were in some old DOS programs, but that way of doing things is now long past. That was replaced by drop-down menus. And on the Mac they have an even more muddled history, since there was never any guidance to whether they were supposed to be used by the OS, by applications, or configured by the user, and sometimes they end up conflicting.

As for the num pad. . . I understand DOS and Windows programs may use it for shortcuts. The Mac has never used it for anything but number entry. If you do a lot of number entry, then it's convenient. If not, then you don't need it.

I've thought about using a true 60% keyboard (no arrow keys!) together with an accessory keypad, because it can do double duty for both numbers and navigation. However. . . You just can't do that on a Mac unless the keypad is programmable (like say a MAX Falcon-20), because Mac OS has no concept of Num Lock. Any such function has to work internally to the keypad itself.
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Unread post13 Sep 2017, 04:54

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A bit of an unrelated chiming in... Model M and HHKB are the pinnacles of keyboards for me, yet I can type on neither of them. The best layout for me is unfortunately a 40%... I prefer lighter switches too, so no stock MX Clears or MX blacks for me...
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Unread post13 Sep 2017, 08:12

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Zobeid Zuma wrote:I've thought about using a true 60% keyboard (no arrow keys!) together with an accessory keypad, because it can do double duty for both numbers and navigation. However. . . You just can't do that on a Mac unless the keypad is programmable (like say a MAX Falcon-20), because Mac OS has no concept of Num Lock. Any such function has to work internally to the keypad itself.

You could get a Kensington NoteBook Keypad with an ADB converter. It is a num pad with arrow keys and function keys and comes with mx clears.
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Unread post13 Sep 2017, 08:57

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vometia wrote:I use the function keys a lot. Although they're probably a bit of a mainframe relic (I'm not sure where they originated, though they seemed to make most sense on the likes of a 3270) I actually quite like them.

IBM Common User Access

IBM wanted to consolidate user interfaces across their platforms. Duh. One of the more influential missteps in computing history…
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