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Matias One Keyboard

This is easily  2012’s most anticipated new addition to my technology collection. Engadget had a posting about this keyboard back in January.

http://www.engadget.com/2012/01/13/matias-one-hammer-out-an-iphone-masterpiece-on-the-best-keyboar/

More or less immediately after reading that post, I headed over to Matias’s web site and placed a “pre-order” with the understanding that it would arrive in May. And so the wait began.

As May was winding down, and no shiny new keyboard had yet arrived, I sent an e-mail to Matias support to ask what was going on. I got a very prompt response, apologizing for the delay, but assuring me that the production run had been delayed a little longer than they initially thought.

I was fine with that, and thanked Barb at Matias for her response. A few weeks later, I received another e-mail from Barb informing me that they had encountered another delay in shipment from China. To show that Matias appreciated my patience, she offered to throw in a free bonus product with my keyboard when it finally arrived and was shipped to me.

I accepted the offer of an iRizer (http://matias.ca/irizer/ipad/) for iPad, and it too is a very nice addition to my gadget collection. It (and my new One Keyboard) arrived a few days ago.

  • This is one fine computer keyboard – my fingers are in love already!

Typing feel

Back in the dark ages before I owned a computer, I did a lot of typing on various models of manual and electric typewriters. Of all the typewriters I used, my absolute favorite was the IBM Selectric.

The best attribute of the Selectric was that you could type as fast as your fingers could move without having keys jam, because it used a ball-shaped platen instead of the usual “basket” of keys. (For a full discussion of typewriter history, see this Wikipedia page (with the usual disclaimer that anyone can edit Wikipedia pages whether or not they know of what they speak...)).

The second-best attribute of the Selectric was the “feel” of the keys.

Domed keys keep fingers where they belong

The tops of the keys were shaped to fit the tip of a finger comfortably. This had the advantage that your fingers were unlikely to slide off of a key and strike the one next to it.

When IBM began to produce personal computers, those systems came with the now-legendary Model M keyboard that used identical key technology as the Selectric typewriter. Other computer companies used similar keyboard technology at first, but when the “race to the bottom” (make it ever more cheaply) trend started a while ago, new computers all began to have cheap plastic “membrane” keyboards that I have come to truly dislike.

What’s so great about the Alps key feel?

For one thing, the key action is crisp. When you press a key, there’s a little bit of resistance, until after a short distance of key travel, you hear a solid CLICK when the key stops resisting and bottoms out. That’s when you know your key press has sent that character to whatever application your were typing in.

The usual mushy-feeling keyboards of today are downright unreliable by comparison. Unless you pound the living daylights out of the keys, you don’t ever really know (without looking at the screen) whether a character you typed was input or not.

  • Some people wonder why Repetitive Strain Injury and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are so common nowadays…but I digress.

With a mechanical keyboard,

  • If it clicked, you typed it.
  • If it didn’t click, you didn’t.
  • There is never any doubt.
  • It’s easier on your hands, because you don’t have to use any more pressure on the key than it takes to produce the click.
  • Your touch can be much lighter, and your risk of RSI drops considerably.

Multi-function Keys

An interesting bonus feature of the Matias One is the ability to easily produce a very long list of “extended characters”. If you look at any of the standard alpa-numeric keys, you see two additional available characters that you produce by holding down Option or Shift+Option plus the desired character.

So if you need international language or scientific/mathematical characters, this is a handy feature. It could beat the old ALT+4-digit Numeric Keypad way to get special characters (assuming the character you need is supported by the Matias key mappings) because it involves fewer key presses. For more information about the old way to get extended characters, Google "Ascii Extended Characters"...

Bluetooth connection to iPhone / iPad (or other mobile device)

This seemed like a silly option until I actually used it.

  • It’s fast and easy to set up the required Bluetooth pairing.
  • And if you need to type more than a few words of text on your mobile device, the One Keyboard is a quick and easy and very reliable way to do just that.

On second thought...

And then — after I already had the keyboard — I thought about it some more. How often — really — am I going to use this feature?

If I’m sitting in front of my Mac, 99.99% of the time, that is because want to type on my Mac, not on my iPhone or iPad.

I’m not one of the social butterfly types who spends hours at a time on Facebook or Twitter, etc. I have sent exactly three text messages in my life on my phone, and most of the incoming texts I get are advertising promotions from companies I have allowed to know my cell number. Those need no response.

So on sober second thought, I probably would be just as happy with a less expensive Matias “Tactile Pro” keyboard. Having said that, I’m not going to surrender this keyboard voluntarily any time soon. To quote "Gollum" "Its mine and I wants it."

Another loveable input device: Das Keyboard

http://www.daskeyboard.com/

I purchased one of these a few years ago when they had a discount promotion. I was briefly tempted to get the “Ultimate” version with no labels on the keys, but reconsidered.

I used it at home on my Mac for a while, but I quickly started missing the special Mac function keys that I use a lot. Hmm, I see that they now have a Mac-specific Das Keyboard model that costs about the same as the Matias Tactile Pro. Darn, I guess I missed that product announcement.

At any rate, I took my generic PC Das Keyboard to my workplace, and love it to pieces. I curse inside my head every time I have to use one of the standard HP, Dell, or Lenovo cheap plastic mushpads my poor coworkers put up with so uncomplainingly. I also cursed a little bit at my standard Apple keyboard when using my Mac at home.

Modern Apple keyboards suck less than today’s PC keyboards

I understand why Apple standardized the design and action of their desktop keyboards to match those on their laptops. If you can type on a desktop Apple keyboard, you can pick up a Macbook Air or Pro and instantly be just as productive. (Once you learn how to use the trackpad, that is...)

Understanding still does not mean I have to like them. My fat fingers slide off those flat unsculpted keys and hit the one next to it far too often. That slows me down a lot, because I have to correct so many more typos.

Some might suggest that if those keyboards were good enough for Steve Jobs, they should be OK with old fussbudgets like me.

  • Not really…

Having said that, the Apple keyboards are much easier for fingers like mine to type on than the mushy crap keyboards that come with other brands of modern computers. Even the so-called “ergonomic” keyboards feel like cheap junk to fingers that appreciate the old school click and clack.

Conclusion?

I sure don’t need to have paid a premium price to get the ability to use Bluetooth linkage to type on a great keyboard into my iPhone or iPad. It’s a nice feature, but I doubt I will actually use it very much.

Despite that, the Matias One keyboard is another one of those “they’ll have to pry it out of my cold dead fingers” items in my high-tech collection.


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