One thing I never really thought much about as far as my computer equipment goes is my keyboard… and what would I? Keyboards are pretty much the same all over, and there’s been little innovation with them since computers became a big part of everyday life. What little innovation they’ve seen has been in the ergonomic department (remember those weird curved keyboards with the keys separated into two sections?) and in adding all sorts of remote function or macro buttons like “one touch” email, play controls for your DVD drive, etc. Despite the fact that keyboards are used everyday and for some all day every day, the basic QWERTY keyboard hasn’t changed much since day one.
One thing I got used to back when I had a PC was a wireless keyboard and mouse. They required a USB transmitter about the size of a playing card and then I could move my keyboard and mouse about with nothing getting tangled up or in my way. That seems simple but when you are trying to use a Wacom tablet or Cintiq and do illustration on the computer, and you have references and sketches all over the working surfaces of your desktop, the freedom from wires becomes well appreciated.
One of the first things I got when I switched to the Mac was a bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse. My Mac Pro had an added bluetooth module and using the keyboard and mouse with it was a snap. At that time the Mac keyboard was a clear and white plastic monstrosity and the wireless version much the same. Worked well.
Recently Apple redesigned their keyboards from the traditional spring key format to a slim, low profile design that was more like oversized buttons on a calculator than those of a keyboard. The new technology allowed Apple to make these ultra slim and narrow keyboard not just for their line of notebook computers, but also as the main keyboards for all their computers. They looked pretty odd and flimsy to me, and with my big, plastic wireless one working fine, I was in no hurry to replace it. Then The Lovely Anna got an iMac and she needed a wireless keyboard due to the drawer setup it resided in. She didn’t like the new type keyboard, so I gave her mine and I went out and got one of the new bluetooth ones from the Apple Store.
At first I didn’t like it much. I took it out of the box and was somewhat shocked by the size. It was tiny… I mean really small. Almost too flimsy and insubstantial. It was not just the thinness and low profile, but it seemed half the width of my old keyboard. The tactile response of the keys was much less than a normal keyboard. It had an odd feel… like I was trying to type on the surface of my desk. When I started testing it out, I realized why it seemed so weirdly narrow in width… it was missing a lot of keys. No number pad, no second “delete” key (the one that really deletes and is not the “backspace” key), no “Home”, “Page” or “End” keys.
I figured I must have gotten the wrong thing… this is some kind of portable keyboard to use with a laptop or for people who need something to travel with. After all the same style keyboard that you get with a cord has all those keys that this one is missing. There must be a full sized wireless version and I grabbed the wrong thing. I went back to the Apple Store and asked about it. Nope. This is it. Apparently Apple decided that if a customer wanted a wireless keyboard they for some reason wouldn’t need a full featured one, some they made a truncated version instead. I kept the keyboard but left shaking my head. For $79 (I’m pretty sure I paid $99 for it around the holidays) I would thing they could spring for a few more keys.
I’ve been using the new keyboard all winter, and can’t say I recommend it. I have gotten used to it, but still miss those AWOL keys… especially the “delete” button, which I used a lot doing spreadsheets and which the backspace key is no substitute. On the other hand, it is so small I can easily find room for it even when I’ve got a desktop full of reference pictures. One thing I did find somewhat useful was that it makes for a good remote control when I am at the drawing board and might be listening to iTunes on my Mac 10 feet away. It’s also smart enough to recognize when it’s not in use and goes into sleep mode to conserve battery life.
Apple is a company that puts a lot of time and thought into how their products look. All things Apple are pretty and most of the time they combine form and function well, but sometimes Apple puts aesthetics ahead of functionality, which is counterproductive. This keyboard is one of those misfires.
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134 Throwback Thursday! Art from the “Coneheads” comic book miniseries I pencilled for Marvel circa 1994 #SNL #coneheads
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