Keyboard Aficionado

Last week as I pushed my way through the crowded maze of computer shops of the Golden Computer Center in Sham Shui Po (Hong Kong), I love all the rows and rows of small, open-front computer shops with all their products (lot of junk) cramped onto tables. Twenty years ago, these markets where were all the pirated software CDs were to be found. Now the pirated movies, software, and CDs are gone, but they’ve been replaced with computer accessories, all the odds and sods, from cables, battery chargers, and PC motherboards, to printers; you name it and it will be there somewhere. The art is knowing where to find it.

In the back corner, in the basement, was a small little store (all the stores here are small). There are hundreds of keyboards – all with some weird name like “Ducky,” “Power Tech,” and “Dragon Heaven.” As I walked by, I jokingly banged an ugly, chunky keyboard, thinking, “You have got to be kidding. Who in their right mind would buy a keyboard that ugly!?” ….Hang on…I was stopped dead in my tracks….I pressed a few more keys on the keyboard… I was taken back in time… It felt just like a keyboard on an old Televideo 920 terminal display, or the monster keyboard from an IBM PC AT.

WOW… how cool was this! What a great feel! This is how I discovered the “Ducky.”

Okay – it’s an amazingly uncool name, but one AMAZINGLY cool keyboard for those people who are a little bit old-school.

Keyboards today can be divided into two categories. The first is the super cheap and super nasty. These are the sort of keyboards that sell for $10 and have a life expectancy less than that of the high energy photons in a Higgs boson experiment. Then there are the modernista – keyboards whose aesthetics overrule substance. (I group most Apple keyboard in this category – sorry, fanboys). You can imagine a group of industrial designers drinking their double-decafe-low-fat-soy lattés trying to work out how well their keyboard will look in a glass case at the Smithsonian.

Most keyboards they make today look the same on the outside as they do under the hood. They consist of a large sheet of plastic. When a key is pressed, the plastic is pushed down and contact is made.

The Ducky is an n-key rollover keyboard. Each key is a separate mechanical switch. When you press a key, it has a very precise, crisp feel. Each key is mechanically designed to create tactile and audible feedback when it is pressed. Each key also “bounces” back once pressed.

It turns out (after some googling) that these sorts of keyboards are still made. They are high-cost keyboards (my keyboard cost US $100). Apparently, they have found a following with the gaming community. Their precise nature, and the fact that these keyboards do not “drop” keys when pressed, make them ideal for gaming zealots.
So why I am so impressed with this keyboard?

You really get the feeling that the Ducky is a “manly” keyboard. If you asked it to make you a double-decafe-low-fat-soy latté, it would probably slap you down and tell you “Man up – it’s Miller time!” This keyboard does, after all, weight in at 1.3Kg!
The precise nature of the key presses means that when you press an A, you get an A. (It’s almost like the keyboard says, “Ok, what’s next??” I LOVE this keyboard! It has rhythm! It has soul! It’s all business!

It makes beautiful music as you type. The faster and harder you type, the louder the click of the keys becomes and the faster they bounce back.
I know this must sound absolutely crazy… but it is truly an old-school thing. I imagine that most people just wouldn’t get it. Where’s my beer?