I spent some time recently trying to find a new keyboard, since my old one has had enough spilled on or in it over the years that it was uncleanable (still worked fine, but it was getting pretty gross). Now, I don’t know what keyboard designers are on these days, but they’ve made it an incredibly difficult and frustrating task.
I don’t have any special keyboard needs, I usually just buy the basic el-cheapo keyboard that gets the job done. So I went down to my local computer shop, as I usually do when I need computer parts. It seems that somebody decided that the ‘insert’ key is no longer useful, so they removed it and replaced it with a gigantic delete key. Now, insert is probably one of those keys you use more than you think you do. If you spend any amount of time in vim, it’s something that will have you screaming bloody murder.
I then went to the big box stores thinking that I’d be able to find something with their larger selection. Although most of their selection was wireless, every single keyboard had some weird layout. The only ones that actually had an insert key were the ‘natural’ keyboards, unfortunately I can’t type on those, because I hold my arms at that ‘natural’ angle with a regular keyboard. When I use a ‘natural’ keyboard, I have to stick my elbows way out and it gets very uncomfortable.
As I spent time looking at these keyboards, I also noticed some other trends, like weird function key groupings (see first pic above, where F1-F6 are on one side, and F7-F12 on the other, or the second pic, where they’re grouped by 3’s instead of 4’s). The absolute worst design has got to be the poor placement of power buttons. 15 minutes on of these keyboards and you’ll understand. I don’t know who decided to put a ‘power off’ button where ‘page up’ is supposed to be, but something horrible needs to happen to them.
It seems that keyboard designers have gotten bored or something, as they all love to mess with the layout of the cursor keys, insert/delete block, and function keys. Multimedia keys – even power buttons – are fine, but please just put them outside of the regular keyboard area!
I ended up buying a Logitech G15 (I’m sure I could have found and ordered a normal cheap one online, but hey, I was impatient that day), which is totally overkill for me since I don’t play games at all. I can’t even see the LCD, as it’s hidden under my desk because of the keyboard tray. I set up the programmable keys to open some commonly-used programs, but I rarely use them. What I do like about this keyboard though, is the backlighting (actually, that’s quite nice), the feel (light, but you know when you pressed a button), and most of all: it has an insert key.