There’s a design flaw in Apple’s current lineup of Mac keyboards; easily fixed though. Obviously, someone like me has a long history and an intense relationship with keyboards.
The Flaw · Right now, Apple sells two keyboards: larger/wired and smaller/Bluetooth. The larger one includes the useful cluster with arrow keys, page up/down, home/end, “fn”, and the real “delete” key. The “control” key is large, at the lower left, and by some physical-mechanical equivalent of Fitt’s Law, is real easy to get to.
It also includes the entirely-useless numeric keypad. All this occupies quite a bit of real-estate.
The smaller one (really a lot smaller) squeezes tiny arrow keys into a corner, has an ultra-miniature “control” key, gives “fn” the prized bottom-left-corner position, and entirely omits those other useful keys.
There are several design flaws here. First, people who need an extra numeric keypad really need it, but there’s a huge number of us for whom they’re a waste of precious desktop space. Second, the idea that whether or not you need certain keys is related to whether you want to connect with a wire or not seems spurious. Third, the notion that any outboard keyboard should omit page up/down, home/end, delete, and so on, is just wrong.
So, I want keyboards that can be ordered in either USB and Bluetooth, and either with or without the numeric cluster, but always have the first outboard cluster.
In exchange for this valuable advice to Apple, I’ll expect a nice juicy reward in the mail ASAP. Just like they showered me with gold for detecting and diagnosing the previously-broken list-selection code in Mail.app; well, I had to split the reward with John Gruber.
Is It a Good Keyboard? · The current line-up of Apple keyboards isn’t good, it is (the sizing flaw aside) great. The feel is both sensitive and rock-solid and I think I’m typing faster than any time in the last twenty years or so.
Which means I get to do an old-fart keyboard digression.
History · Geeks love misty-eyed reminiscing about the great keyboards of yore, with a rough consensus that the original IBM PC’s clackety high-travel product has never since been surpassed. I sure liked that, but if my tactile memory is right, the latest Apples may be better.
But that consensus is wrong anyhow, the IBM PC keyboards might not have been surpassed since, but they never had quite the feel of the old IBM Selectric typewriters.
I remember in particular when I was working on my college newspaper; our single most valuable asset was an IBM “Justifying Selectric”; you’d bang text into it and it’d buffer it up, a line at a time; when you got to the end of a line it would justify it, let you approve it, and typeset it, justified in a proportional font, onto the galleys.
It was fantastically expensive, thousands and thousands of dollars; this in the early Seventies. Of course, as well as all that magic it was a general-purpose ultra-high-end typewriter and when I needed to crank some work out and got into the flow I could make that thing produce a steady dull roar, running north of 110 words per minute. Like high-precision silk under the fingertips.
I remember one time when it broke and the IBM tech came by, I hung around because I wanted to see how it worked. When he took the cover off I was flabbergasted; the complexity inside was just mind-bending. There were hundreds (at least) of moving parts, some the apparent thickness of a human hair. How the thing ever worked, and how on earth he could repair it when broken, escapes me. It remains the most visually-complex artifact I have ever seen.