My Dell desktop’s wired optical mouse and keyboard are getting a little long in the tooth, and I’d like to replace them. What do you recommend? Are wireless devices worth it, or do you continually need to recharge them and replace endless batteries? I can touch-type, but my skills are a little rusty. Mamie
Keyboards are partly a matter of taste, and habitual use overcomes many objections. In other words, if you use a flawed keyboard for long enough, you’ll get used to it. You may even come to like it.
To generalise, there are three major tastes, with some overlaps between them. These are: traditional keyboards, isolated keyboards, and ergonomic keyboards.
As a touch typist, I’m a big fan of traditional keyboards with mechanical keys that click and have lots of travel. This comes from having learned to type on an ancient upright Remington that was built like a tank, then spent a couple of decades with an IBM Model M, which some claim is the finest keyboard ever made.
Other people are equally big fans of isolated keyboards with flat keys that have very little travel. These first appeared on Sony laptops (unless you want to count the Sinclair Spectrum’s “dead flesh” version), but Apple produced a fine aluminium example for its all-in-one Macs.
There is no doubt about which way the keyboard world is going. Mechanical keyboards are bulky and expensive to manufacture. Isolated keyboards are much smaller, and very cheap to make. They’re ideal for laptops that are even thinner than mechanical keyboards. Most people now learn to type on these isolated keyboards – or even on-screen keyboards – so I expect them to become almost everyone’s favourite.
Nonetheless, mechanical keyboards are still popular and easy to find, especially if you don’t object to fancy multi-colour lighting effects. They are being kept alive byPC gamers, for whom rapid responses and N-key rollover are a matter of (virtual) life and death.