A Developer’s Most Important Interface

by Ville Laurikari on Sunday, November 1, 2009

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A long time ago, I was actively playing a MUD. A MUD is like World of Warcraft, only on a much smaller scale, and there are no graphics. It’s all text based. To make your character do anything, you have to type commands at the prompt.

The thing with this MUD was that fights were not strictly turn based. If you were too slow to cast your next spell, your wizard would be standing there with a vacant look in his eyes while some troll is bashing him to bits with a morning star. The faster you type, the faster you cast the next spell.

After a few hundred hours of playing, typing no longer exists as a separate activity. It’s automatic. You think “fireball” and the words appear on screen. Technically, your fingers are still pressing keys, but for all practical purposes your mind is now directly linked with the game.

The same kind of mind-to-machine link forms after enough practice with your programming language and IDE, or shell. You don’t need a sci-fi socket on the back of the skull for that. All you need is enough practice.

You also need a good keyboard.

A good keyboard is one which you forget is there. A good keyboard doesn’t jam the Enter key when you press it on the upper right corner. A good keyboard has zero packet loss from your brain to the computer.

My new favorite keyboard is the Apple aluminium keyboard. The tactile feedback is just right. It’s small, so there’s more room for other stuff on my desk. It’s thin, so I don’t need a separate wrist rest at all. It looks beautiful, and is obviously the result of a great deal of design work. This keyboard even sounds good.

I would be very interested to hear what you have to say about keyboards. What is your favorite keyboard? Give your opinion in the comments section!

Related posts:

  1. A Little Known Way to Learn Touch Typing

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hackerboss November 1, 2009 at 21:39

What is your favorite keyboard? http://bit.ly/1wrQJI

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

Jani Joki November 1, 2009 at 21:52

Keytronic Ergoforce 2001, http://www.testipenkki.net/atk/artikkelit/keytr/kuvat/kta2001-022.jpg

If it breaks I’ll fix it – if I pour coke on it I’ll wash it. They don’t make them like this anymore :/

Ville Laurikari November 1, 2009 at 22:03

Oh yes, the good old Ergoforce. I have one in the cupboard. Probably I’ll never use it again, but I cannot bring myself to throw it away. Same story with my old Cirque Wave keyboard. That’s actually what I was using before switching to the Apple keyboard.

Peter Kofler November 2, 2009 at 16:01

You are definitely right. The keyboard is very important. I am a bit old fashioned. I have been looking for a proper keyboard with hard keys and that satisfying click (like the old IBM keyboards used to be). I’ve been visiting shops and checking on all the keyboards there. Finally I found what I need: The ultimate keyboard (http://www.daskeyboard.com/), basic, black, with gold wireing and the “click”. I chose the one with blank keys to force myself into learning all the keys (finally).

Ville Laurikari November 2, 2009 at 18:05

Thanks Peter. Sounds like I should give a Das Keyboard a try. They don’t have them on display on the shops I’ve visited, and $120 seems a bit much if it turns out I don’t like it.

Regarding the “click”, I did once have an original IBM Model M. I kind of liked it, but the rest of the family didn’t quite appreciate the aural feedback :)

Alec November 2, 2009 at 20:56

I’ve been using the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 at work. I like it!

Teifion November 4, 2009 at 00:11

I’m using the standard Macbook Pro keyboard and it’s pretty nice. I have wanted to get my hands on one of the external mac ones and may now make a bit more of an effort.

Ville Laurikari November 4, 2009 at 16:54

Teifion, the feel of the Apple Wireless Keyboard is basically identical to the Macbook keyboard. I personally don’t like hunching over a laptop for extended periods of time, so a separate keyboard is a must for me.

Marko Teiste November 9, 2009 at 11:34

For those who only accept the real thing http://www.clickykeyboards.com

yudi April 4, 2010 at 09:24

Speaking of ergonomic typing, I’d suggest Dvorak mapping.

Colin Asquith December 2, 2010 at 17:45

I have a really basic HP keyboard which I love, just like the way it feels. I really liked the keys on my MacBook pro (the silvery keys, not the new square spaced out ones), so am tempted to try the new Mac keyboard.

Maybe I could get a program to give me the satisfying “loud click”?

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