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The 10 Worst PC Keyboards of All Time

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  • Well... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ricebowl (999467) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:26AM (#21982542)

    Kabz found the 10 Worst PC Keyboards of all time which leads off with the Commadore 64 and take a trip through PCjr country. Might trigger some nostalgia, or some sort of flashback wrist strain.

    I don't know about the Commadore, but I loved the Commodore 64 despite its own keyboard; though on that computer the keyboard took quite the back-seat, in terms of irritation, to the tape deck...

    Though he may be on to something, since, as I sit here typing this, I'm consciously flexing my wrists ever few seconds...

    • The TRS-80 MC-10. Basically a Color Computer Lite. It was nearly impossible to type on using the standard way of typing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BoomerSooner (308737)
        The Apple ][ keyboards were great when I was 10, but trying to type on that mini keyboard now is nothing short of painful.
    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Chordonblue (585047) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:36AM (#21982626) Journal
      I dunno, given that the real competitors to the C=64 was the Atari 400 and the T.I. 99/4, I think it wasn't so bad.

      Believe me, having owned the Atari 400 (my first computer), at that time; I would've given my right arm for a keyboard that good!

      Also, at what point does price enter into this? C=64 was around $199 at the time the PC came out at, oh 7 or 8 times the price...

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

        by cbart387 (1192883) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:15AM (#21983062)

        Believe me, having owned the Atari 400 (my first computer), at that time; I would've given my right arm for a keyboard that good!
        I don't know...losing an arm would balance out a better keyboard in my opinion.
      • by WebCowboy (196209) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:41AM (#21983476)
        ...because aside from its sound it was a rather mediocre machine.

        I dunno, given that the real competitors to the C=64 was the Atari 400 and the T.I. 99/4, I think it wasn't so bad.

        The Atari 400 and the TI 99/4 were released almost 3 years before (1979) the C64 (1982). They were the VIC-20's competition, not the C64's competition.

        Atari's competition to the C64 was intended to be the 1200XL (similar capability and also released in 1982). It's too bad you never owned one of those, because it's keyboard was VASTLY superior to the C64's. Also, the 1050 disk and the 1010 tape drives were both better then the commodore equivalents and it had better graphics than the C64.

        Sadly, the 1200XL had compatibility problems with the 400 and 800, and Atari couldn't make money with the price pressure put upon it by the C64, so the 800XL was brought out that ironed out some bugs integrated BASIC into built-in ROM, etc, but in its cost cutting effort the keyboard was of lower quality (yet still better than the C64).

        Also, at what point does price enter into this? C=64 was around $199 at the time the PC came out at, oh 7 or 8 times the price...

        The IBM PC came out a few months BEFORE the C64 you know, and the C64 didn't start out at such a low price, it just got there quite quickly.

        Also, to make the C64 usable you had to add a tape or floppy, and most likely a printer. The floppy cost more than the C64 itself for a time when supply was much smaller than demand. Also, the C64 and the 800XL were quite closely priced, and the 800XL was faster and had better graphics and a better keyboard even though it was a "cheapened 1200XL" design.

        I also owned a Coleco ADAM which was sold as a package with built in tape drive and printer included. in 1984 it was about $100 cheaper than a comparable C64 system. The Coleco TAPE drive literally loaded faster than the C54 FLOPPY drive, and a Coleco tape held 75% more data than a C64 floppy. The Coleco CPU ran at 4 times the clock speed of the C64 and could do raw computations ad a bit more than twice the speed of the C64, and it had dedicated video RAM so nearly all the 64K of main ram could be available for applications. Above all, the ADAM keyboard was of very high quality--it had about 75 keys and 4 properly-arranged actual arrow keys (not 2 arrow keys side-by-side that needed the shift key to move up and down). Made it really good for typing out papers.

        Looking back, the C64 was really a lesson in marketing--there was technically superior competition out there on all fronts except sound--it had a bad keyboard, bad BASIC with barely more than 50% of ram usable, very slow floppy, middle-of-the-road graphics and was a bit flimsy. It was, however, very well marketed, priced very aggressively and had the best software library out there (pretty much all the hit games of the Atari and better application software in addition). All that momentum led to third-party enhancements to overcome many C64 weaknesses. Still had a bad keyboard for years though.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by LWATCDR (28044)
          The 1200XL came out after the C64 by a fair amount. It also did cost more. As to which had better graphics? That was up for debate. The C64 had better sound and the Atari had a much better floppy. The basic on the Atari was a good bit different than every other basic and many people felt the Basic on the 64 was better. Atari basic did support graphics and sound while the Commodore basic made you do peeks and pokes.
          I worked at a store that sold Ataris after I got my C64. We never got a 1200.
          Both good machine
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Bert64 (520050)
          // Looking back, the C64 was really a lesson in marketing--there was technically superior competition out there on all fronts except sound

          Yes, a pity what happened to the Commodore marketing department...
          When they finally had a technically superior machine (the Amiga) they completely dropped the ball on marketing.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ajs (35943)

            Yes, a pity what happened to the Commodore marketing department...

            When they finally had a technically superior machine (the Amiga) they completely dropped the ball on marketing.

            As I understood it, the real problem was that their upper management didn't have any vision whatsoever, so presented with the best personal computer to date (arguably better in nearly every way that Moore's Law couldn't solve than today's systems), they just didn't see the advantage. Toward the end, they ported a Unix to it and actually made some headway on using it as a real computer. That would have gone somewhere had they had a little more time. They needed a new line that wasn't associated with games a

        • by Psykechan (255694) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @01:44PM (#21987734)
          I so missed the old Commodore 64 vs Atari 800 debates of my youth. Those of us who actually used computers back then would bring out every talking point and try to convince one another that our brand of computer (which was probably purchased as a result of a coin flip by our parents) was superior in almost every way. Nostalgia ahoy!

          Fortunately we've moved on and no longer have useless brand loyalty arguments... oh wait.
    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sprag (38460) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:36AM (#21982630)
      Despite its height, the C64 keyboard wasn't that bad. Sure, typing on it gave me much more finger strength than I really needed (and the nickname "the claw" when typing on softer keyboards), but the extra symbols on the keys weren't confusing and the oddly placed keys (inst/del & clr/home) were much less irritating than some of the PC keyboards I've used with a skinny vertical return key or the NeXT which put the pipe/backslash over on the freaking keypad.

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

        by baldass_newbie (136609) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:58AM (#21982824) Homepage Journal

        typing on it gave me much more finger strength than I really needed (and the nickname "the claw" when typing on softer keyboards)

        Now come on...that isn't really how you got the nickname.
        Be honest.
      • by idiotnot (302133)
        or the NeXT which put the pipe/backslash over on the freaking keypad

        Aside from that, I still enjoy typing on my NeXT keyboard. It has good tactile feel, and the control key is in the correct place.

        Apple's old extended keyboard was good too, despite the emacs-unfriendly control key. I saw it suggested once that Steve Jobs stopped caring about keyboards when he had a jack installed in his brain to communicate w/ the computer. The latest Apple stuff certainly doesn't do anything to dispel that idea. I have
      • by CaptnMArk (9003)
        It was brilliant compared to it's rival (at least here), the ZX Spectrum, which had the keys made of rubber.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by squiggleslash (241428)

      Never had a problem with the VIC-20 keyboard, which was the same as the C64 one. It was well spaced, comfortable to type on, and the keys were generally in the right positions. The two inch height may have annoyed some people, but over-all it was a good design. I thought the article was bizarre for that.

      I'm glad they pilloried the habit of many 1980s home computer manufacturers of integrating a dangerous key with all the others. One of the bizarrest examples I can think of is the BBC Micro's. This had a

      • by ByOhTek (1181381)
        I don't know, sometimes you need all caps for a while, and caps lock is nice. I've also seen things (especially with enzyme/protein names in biology) or chemical compositions (various, but especially chemistry). where you have something mostly-capped, with some lowercase in it for fun. The "invert caps" is at least nice for scientific writing.

        However, that still means it's useless/annoying for 99% of the world.
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jcaplan (56979) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:23AM (#21983186) Journal
        Ah, a fellow caps-lock hater. I customarily pop off a bunch of keys on my keyboards. It gets me a few odd looks at work, but it saves me lots of hassle. If I truly need one of those keys I can use a pencil to activate it. Here's the rest of my hate list:

        Insert - I've never had a use for "write over mode." Has anyone?
        Windows - Almost useless, squeezed between useful keys. Fortunately my Linux systems ignore this key.
        Menu - I'll just right-click, thanks.
        Num lock - Why won't this go away? Why do I need a way for my numeric keypad stop to working? Are the arrow keys hard to find?

        -Jon
        • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Hatta (162192) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:17AM (#21985004) Journal
          Windows - Almost useless, squeezed between useful keys. Fortunately my Linux systems ignore this key.

          You can bind it to something useful like META.

          Menu - I'll just right-click, thanks.

          And take your hands off the keyboard?

          Num lock - Why won't this go away? Why do I need a way for my numeric keypad stop to working? Are the arrow keys hard to find?

          How do you move diagonally with the arrow keys?
          • Re:Well... (Score:4, Informative)

            by _xeno_ (155264) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @01:19PM (#21987338) Homepage Journal

            How do you move diagonally with the arrow keys?

            I'm confused by this statement. First, there's the obvious answer: press two arrows at once.

            Secondly, you can't move diagonally with the numeric keypad with numlock off. 7 is Home, 1 is End, 9 is Page Up, and 3 is Page Down. So pressing diagonally will either take you to the start/end, or up/down a page. It won't move diagonally.

            In one of the responses you mentioned video games, but the only game I can think of that actually uses movement like that is Civ 4, and it supports using the number keys on the numeric keypad regardless of Numlock's state. I would hope that most games that support the numpad will work in both states.

            I've never felt the need to pop off numlock (I've never accidentally hit it) but it still is fairly useless - why would I ever want to turn the numpad into a duplicate of the keys to its immediate left? (I'm aware of its historical use, on keyboards without the navigation keys. But on modern keyboards it's pretty useless.)

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

        by darthflo (1095225) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:26AM (#21983226)
        Caps Lock can be quite useful with exotic keyboard layouts. The best example of which I could think is the standard Swiss layout. It accomodates all the accents and umlauts for Switzerland's four official languages and an awesome shitload of special chars most people wouldn't even dream of having on a single keyboard (ranging from $, £ and to , and ).
        To accomodate all those functions, several keys have three, some up to five(!) functions (example: Normal: ü, Shift: é, CL: Ü, CL+Shift: É, Ctrl+Alt: [). There's also discrete umlaut and accent keys (e.g. Ctrl + Alt + , then Shift + E for É).

        Long story short: Some languages require more characters than US-ASCII and some layouts have been built to provide those with CapsLock as a modifier.
      • by anss123 (985305)
        "Hmmm. People generally divide into two groups: those who want to lose their work regularly by accident, and those who never want to reset their computers."

        Windows and BSP users?
    • Commadore
      Maybe also yours is among the worst keyboards ever!
    • by Ngarrang (1023425)
      The fact that the C64 keyboard wasn't fully QWERTY bugged me. I had been required to take a typing class in highschool before being able to take the computer class, only to have to relearn the keyboard. What did this ultimately mean? I did not use a normal typewriter for the next 10 years.
    • by volpone (551472) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:09AM (#21983958)
      The Commodore 64 was not a computer with a crappy keyboard.

      The Commodore 64 was an awesome gaming platform with tons of buttons.

    • I can't believe that the C64's keyboard was given a worse rating than the Atari 400? If I remember well enough, wasn't there a model that had a keyboard grid that overlayed the plastic pressure keys?

      All I can remember of the Atati 400 was having not having a natural feel while typing on it. It seemed I spent more time holding a single key down until the keyboard registered that I was pressing the key.

      It was the Atari 400's keyboard that kept me away from that thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      After reading this article, I'm pretty sure the person who wrote it never used any of the machines he's bitching about. I think he just saw pictures of them and drew conclusions from that.
  • Apparently... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slyn (1111419) <ozzietheowl@gmail.com> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:29AM (#21982558)
    Apparently PC manufacturers have figured out the keyboard, given that the newest keyboard on this list is the #1 ranked IBM PCjr debuting in 1984.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by God'sDuck (837829)
      Having used (blissfully) a Kinesis Contour for half a year now after a bout with nasty RSI.....I think PC manufacturers still have a long, long way to go. And yes, Dvorak is better than Qwerty (switched shortly before buying the Kinesis). http://www.kinesis-ergo.com/contoured_usb.htm [kinesis-ergo.com]
      • by hibiki_r (649814)
        I tried that kinesis keyboard, and I'd rather type on a PC JR. I just couldn't type comfortably in a keyboard that wanted me to have my forearms parallel to each other. A derivatinve of a MS Natural Keyboard is much more comfortable to me, but to each his own.

        The whole 'dvorak is better' is just trying to troll, and I hope it's modded accordingly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Speare (84249)

      Apparently PC manufacturers have figured out the keyboard, given that the newest keyboard on this list is the #1 ranked IBM PCjr debuting in 1984.

      What I find odd is that Apple's newest keyboard is just a modern rehash of the IBM PCjr chicklet design, and yet nobody I've talked to has made big complaints about it. Honestly, the thing is worse than a rollup USB pocket keyboard, worse than those little laser-on-the-table keyboards, worse than typing through one of those plastic grease-shield membranes on a cash register, and yet, because it's done by Apple, it's gotten a free ticket to reinvent the chicklet without an uproar.

      • Re:Apparently... (Score:4, Informative)

        by word munger (550251) <dsmunger@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:49AM (#21982728) Homepage Journal

        What I find odd is that Apple's newest keyboard is just a modern rehash of the IBM PCjr chicklet design, and yet nobody I've talked to has made big complaints about it. Honestly, the thing is worse than a rollup USB pocket keyboard, worse than those little laser-on-the-table keyboards, worse than typing through one of those plastic grease-shield membranes on a cash register, and yet, because it's done by Apple, it's gotten a free ticket to reinvent the chicklet without an uproar.
        I'm typing on the new Apple keyboard as we speak. I actually voluntary upgraded to this keyboard from the previous model because I didn't like the feel of that one. It's nothing like the PC Jr chiclet keyboard -- the keys have excellent feel and it's easy to type fast. It would be better if the keys had a least a little bit of depression in the middle like the older iBooks and PowerBooks, but I much prefer this model to the last Apple keyboard.
      • From what people have told me who have gotten new iMacs in our district, they like the new keyboard better than either their previous iMac keyboards, or even their Dell ones.

        It could be though that part of the difference is people are not coming off of using typewriters these days, which is where much of the complaints in old keyboard design came from.

      • Re:Apparently... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Professor_UNIX (867045) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:47AM (#21983586)

        What I find odd is that Apple's newest keyboard is just a modern rehash of the IBM PCjr chicklet design, and yet nobody I've talked to has made big complaints about it.
        Have you ever actually used one for more than an hour? I switched from the old Mac keyboard to the new keyboard when my computer was refreshed and at first I thought I'd hate it, but I've fell in love with it. The keystroke travel is just as good as the old keyboard and it's thin and light. I have no problems at all typing on it just as fast as the old style keyboards.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      No they havent.

      Given the newest keyboard [apple.com] from Apple shipping with the iMAC line. It looks sexy but it royally sucks to type on.

      I also anyone to dare find someone that even mildly likes their laptop's keyboard.

      That said, the WORST keyboard ever was on my ATARI 400 computer. Holy crap who in their right mind ever though a membrane keyboard was usable? the atari 800 at least was decent to type on....
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ford Prefect (8777)

        I also anyone to dare find someone that even mildly likes their laptop's keyboard.

        I really like my MacBook Pro's keyboard - it's clacky, fairly loud and definitely isn't squidgy.

        It seems they're a bit uneven in nature (I've seen some horrible complaints about MacBook Pro keyboards which just don't match up with mine), but I imagine the less-than-wonderful ones are still better than the new iMac keyboard. Which is truly, truly awful - I got one with my iMac, along with a Mighty Mouse, and soon switched to an

    • by SharpFang (651121)
      Some consensus has been reached (shift, ctrl, space, esc).
      Some holy wars last (1-line vs 2-line enter, wandering backslash).
      But there are always retards who design stuff without thinking.

      Not long ago I worked on a friend's keyboard that filled the room between del-end-pgDn and uparrow with power management keys.
      The power key was fully functional and placed just below del. I switched the computer off 4 times before I learned not to use del.
    • What pisses me off about this article is that this is PCWorld saying "The worst PC keyboards of all time", but then they show a bunch of what the status quo would now call non-PC computers. I hate that hypocrisy.

      I thought they were all personal computers?
  • Is it bad?? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Matt867 (1184557) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:31AM (#21982572)
    Is it bad that I own 6 out of 10 of these keyboards and am looking for the other 4 to complete my collection?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Opportunist (166417)
      No, we're geeks, we're open minded. You can be a masochist here without earning weird looks.

      Unless of course you enjoy using Windows.
  • The layout of the keyboard on the n810 is not that good either.
    Its more geared (as the rest of things are on the device) for a right handed person and theres odd things missing.

    (just a bit frustrated, the rest of the device is amazing)
  • I always though the original Color Computer was pretty bad (4k of memory, so you couldn't type much anyhow) until I tried a Sinclair. But at least it kept out the liquids.
    • by Chrisq (894406)
      I agree. The "rubber keyboard" on the UK Sinclair spectrum was really bad. You could get an expansion RAM that made it even worse because the slightest movement of the machine would break the connection to the unit and freeze the machine.
    • The Jupiter ace - worse than any of the keyboards on that list. [jupiter-ace.co.uk]

      And let's be serious: Did anybody use any of those keyboards for word processing as the author seems to imply. Most of them were only used for typing "load" to get games into memory.

    • by sprag (38460)
      I spilled kool-aid on my original 4k coco (upgraded to 64K with extended color basic!) but a little formula 409 fixed it right up :)
  • by nuxx (10153) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:35AM (#21982612) Homepage
    There is also this keyboard (image) [nuxx.net] which I came across in a CompUSA sale area for $4.99 or so.

    It's big feature was that it had an extra three keys for Power, Sleep, and Wake. The problem is that these were right above the inverted-T, with Power being right next to Enter.
    • A while ago I bought a keyboard with the same layout in a mad dash for one with the old AT-style plug. After shutting down my system for the 4th or 5th time just by reaching for (and missing) the Enter key, I popped off all three of those ridiculous keys and didn't have a problem afterwards.

      Whoever designed that keyboard must have had the same streak of masochism as those who get enjoyment out of putting pinholes in condoms.
    • by zlogic (892404) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:55AM (#21983724)
      Most keyboards priced over $10 have some unique feature - like F-keys in groups of three instead of four (Microsoft). Or really weird layouts of Home, End, Delete and other non-letter keys (practically every Microsoft, Genius and Logitech keyboard). And Logitech have the left Shift key split in two parts, the left is Shift and the right is "\", so you have a good chance to miss the Shift key or even press Shift and \ at once. WTF!
      But I think Microsoft is the winner here: their Wireless keyboard makes F-keys do stuff like forwarding mail and Undo/Redo. There's an F-lock mode that makes them do the right thing, acting like regular F1-F12 keys, which are used in every advanced application or game. But at the same time the Print Screen key starts switches to send the Insert keystroke. So to make a screenshot, you have to
      1) Press F-Lock
      2) Press Print Screen or Shift+PrintScreen
      3) Press F-lock again
      And these keys are placed "ergonomically" (read: you have to find them every time before using).
  • How about the best (Score:3, Insightful)

    by codepunk (167897) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:35AM (#21982616)
    I got about 10 of these old IBM 10 lb keyboards in reserve that sound
    like a jack hammer while typing on them...

    Best keyboard ever made!
    • by theurge14 (820596)
      I still don't understand why the IBM Model M is considered the best ever. I've owned two and I would only say it is the toughest keyboard ever.

      Pros:
      * It's near unbreakable
      * The keys are labeled and colored very well

      Cons:
      * It's way too big and takes up too much room on the desk
      * The distracting clicking noise is even worse with a room full of them clicking away
      * The keys are too high and require too much effort to press (probably done to appease the typewriter diehards in the 1980s)
      * Print Screen / Scroll L
    • by Ubergrendle (531719) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:58AM (#21982832) Journal
      I still use IBM keyboards at work and home due to their durability. True story -- IBM used to market the keyboards to banks (like the one I work at) as a productivity enhancer...the loud audible 'click click click' has been proven in usability studies to improve data entry by 3-5% since its another feedback response (audible) to a potential error. When I mistype on an IBM keyboard, I *know* I've mistyped.

      I also like the fact that I can bludgeon someone to death with it, if worse comes to worst.
    • The article ends with exactly that. At the end of the PCjr writeup:
      "Strangely enough, IBM also introduced the 101-key "Model M" keyboard--considered by many people to be the best keyboard ever--in 1984."
  • Full text of article (Score:4, Informative)

    by duguk (589689) <dugNO@SPAMfrag.co.uk> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:36AM (#21982628) Homepage Journal
    10. Commodore 64 (1982) [pcworld.com]
    The Commodore 64 sits on a mile-high pedestal in the adolescent memories of millions of people, but its keyboard design--shared by Commodore's earlier VIC-20--was incredibly clumsy. One glance at it reveals three major flaws. It was visually confusing, with too many symbols printed on each key. The computer's anti-ergonomic 2-inch height made it extremely hard on the wrists of untrained typists. And the keyboard's layout leaves much to be desired, with numerous examples of poor key placement. For example, the Home/Clear key sat directly to the left of Delete (Backspace), resulting in users' making repeated accidental hits and sending the cursor back up to the top of the screen. In addition, the layout was peppered with an unusually large number of nonstandard keys such as Run/Stop and Restore. Luckily, most C64 owners remained oblivious to these problems: More often than not, they used the C64 for playing games with joysticks, saving the heavy computing work for dad's IBM PC.

    9. Timex Sinclair 2068 (1983) [pcworld.com]
    In the process of "improving" the wildly successful Sinclair ZX Spectrum for the United States market, Timex ruined the line with a bastardized version known as the Timex Sinclair 2068. But the 2068 shared one significant feature with its progenitor that it should have left behind: an atrocious keyboard. It's no exaggeration to say that using the 2068's keyboard without training was like trying to type while drunk and blindfolded. Some of the keys controlled as many as six different functions. Just to rub it all in, the unit had no Backspace key, a fault of many other early home computers. Did the designers assume that typists would never make mistakes? I bet the masterminds behind the 2068's keyboard backspaced over this part of their design history long ago.

    8. Commodore PET 2001-32-N (1978) [pcworld.com]
    Critics hailed the revised, full-stroke keyboard of the updated Commodore PET (model 2001-32-N) as a huge improvement over Commodore's first PET keyboard. But Commodore still got a few layout points terribly wrong. For one thing, the design repeated the old "Run/Stop key placed directly to the left of the Return key" trick. For another, it went with the ever-popular "lack of Backspace" maneuver; to perform something resembling a Backspace, you had to hold Shift and the left/right cursor key above the numeric keypad. And since the creators of this keyboard included a numeric keypad in the design, they cleverly omitted numbers from the primary keyboard area altogether--if you pressed keys that would conjure up numbers on any other remotely semistandard QWERTY keyboard, you'd get symbols instead. And hey, has anyone seen the period key? Oh, it's over there on the numeric keypad.

    7. Texas Instruments TI-99/4 (1979) [pcworld.com]
    With the release of the TI-99/4 in 1979, integrated-circuit pioneer TI took its first shaky steps into the home computer market with a $1150 package that included a special monitor and a calculator-like Chiclet keyboard. Like the original Apple II, the 99/4 did not support lowercase letters. Because of this limitation, the Shift key served as a function modifier, with the functions typically marked on a plastic overlay. The most frustrating of these key combinations was Shift-Q, which would quit a program or reset the computer, much to the chagrin of users who lost a day's work while erroneously trying to capitalize the letter Q. The 99/4's layout problems extended beyond the Q conundrum: The Enter key sat where a Right Shift key would normally reside on a standard layout. Also, the keyboard had a space key instead of a spacebar, and it was located in an odd position. The design had no dedicated Backspace key,
  • Backspace (Score:5, Funny)

    by baeksu (715271) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:39AM (#21982656)

    So there really was keyboards without a backspace...And I always thought it was just a bad dream, like the one with the strange man, pickup van, and false promises of candy...

    It's a good thing no one patented the backspace, though. Wait a minute, I think I just came up with a business plan!

  • TI99/4a (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hal2814 (725639) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:39AM (#21982658)
    The TI99/4a did have real keys on their keyboard but they kept the absolutely dreadful layout. The worst part IMHO was that it was the first computer I ever owned so I got used to it. Oh the horror! It took years to break the bad habits I picked up there.
  • C64 mostly OK. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:40AM (#21982672) Homepage
    Okay, they get some credit for including the Atari 400 keyboard. That thing was useless.

    I take issue with the complaint about the C64 keyboard. The only serious problem with the C64 keyboard was its integration with the computer so that every bang of a key sent a nice little shockwave into the electronics. The extra symbols were on the edge of the key and printed in a different color. It took about 5 minutes before the operator learned to ignore them. They were, however, extremely helpful to the software developers that wanted to use those symbols. I also don't recall having any trouble missing the backspace key and hitting clear/home. I can see how I might if I had previously been used to a long backspace key, but I wasn't previously used to one.

  • The original Pet: Worst. Keyboard. EVER.

    The keys weren't even laptop-style "chicklet" keys... they were basically like the old number-tiles off the 4x4 sliding numbers puzzle. Remember those?

    I didn't have a real problem with the C-64 keyboard... I was quite accustomed to it. The TRS-80, though... I couldn't stand it. But I'm not sure if that's entirely the fault of the keyboard.

    Now get off my lawn.

    • by oliderid (710055)
      I didn't have a real problem with the C-64 keyboard

      Me neither. I don't understand why they mentionned it. I got still my old commode 64 and it still works...I couldn't say the same for my first PS/2 Keyboard or my previous Laptop keyboard.

      I spent hour learning to code with it and ever more hours smashing keys while playing.
      Commodore was rock solid...Exactly what you need for nervous/uncareful kids.

    • by kabz (770151)

      The keys weren't even laptop-style "chicklet" keys... they were basically like the old number-tiles off the 4x4 sliding numbers puzzle. Remember those?
      Extra points for getting an old one and sliding the keys into a Dvorak layout. That really would be the worst. keyboard. ever.
    • The 64 being place on the list I believe is undeserved - at the time really had one of the best keyboards for the price range. The Atari 400 was flat the Atari 800 was not that great, Apple had no keypad, a system reset button in an easy to bump spot and was expensive too, I read a lot of the TRS-80 having keybounce problems.

      The Original PET keyboard was really a bad decision to use the existing calculator keyboards Commodore was able to produce in-house. The later PET keyboard was far better, though co

  • I ponder, what is worse? That these are so memorable that they have made their own top 10, or that I've owned, worked on, or had to repair every single entry on the list at one time or another?

    Incidentally, I first began programming at the age of 5 with the 7th on that list, the TI99/4

    My first program looked like this:

    10 REM
    20 PRINT "HELLO"
    30 GOTO 20

    Took my grandparents close to half of an hour to figure out that they needed to reboot it.
  • A lot of cheap keyboards such as the Labtec standard keyboard (http://www.labtec.com/index.cfm/gear/details/EUR/EN,crid=28,contentid=631 [labtec.com]) use a non-standard layout where the Enter key is two rows high and the backslash key is in the top row, even in the US layout.

    Why would anybody do that?

    And don't get me started on the F-Lock key!
    • Here in Denmark (and most other european countries) the tall return key and backspace on the top row is the prevailing standard.

      Also, we have to press shift-7 to get a /, which makes typing *nix paths slightly less enjoyable.
    • The double-row enter key was a pretty standard PC keyboard style circa 1988 when I got my first XT. I think it might have been in response to the Apple IIe [computercloset.org] keyboard. At that time, Apple II's were still in serious competition with PCs for the home market.
  • Ahhh, the TRS-80 MC-10. I had one of those growing up. Yeah, that keyboard was definitely among the worst out there. It was even too small for my little 10-year-old hands...
  • by dsginter (104154) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:57AM (#21982818)
    Just before I hit slashdot to find this article, I was *literally* just looking at the keyboard of my new Lenovo Thinkpad and thinking that keyboards don't hold up like they used to. The surfaces of the keys, in just a short while, have worn appreciably. The pessimist in me thinks that manufacturers are reducing durability of keyboard so as to keep that "new laptop smell" appeal.

    But then I thought, "what if these things have the same lead problem as the Chinese toys?"

    I'm quite certain that even the most well-designed lead-laden keyboard would be worse than the worst-design on this list.

    Has anyone tested keyboards for lead yet?
  • The only one of those I've had the displeasure of using is the Atari 400 keyboard. Wow. What a monstrosity. It sure looked all FUTURY, though. In fact, I imagine any of those keyboard that were designed to be flat with little-to-no tactile feedback are going to be winners (loser?) among the category.

    There are some modern keyboards that suck, too. Most of them are on UMPCs, cell phones, and the occasional laptop.
  • by kellyb9 (954229) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:06AM (#21982916)
    I'm writing my own article on worst navigation by a Web site. This PCWorld page will clearly be number 1 on my list.
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:08AM (#21982946)
    Shouldn't they have gotten an honorable mention or a life time achievement award? Yes all the ones on the list are worse but the point is even Mac users complain about typing on Mac keyboards. They're okay for software use and basic data entry but have you ever tried typing for hours on one? Tired sore fingers. PC keyboards in general have a nice snap and you can tell when you've hit a key. Mac keyboards are always too small and cramped. I hated the previous one which was stiff, thick feeling and far too small so it was easy to hit two keys at once, I have big hands. Ironically I like the new design better but I still go back to my PCs for real typing and I even hate e-mailing on the Mac. Stunning hardware in general but their keyboards and mice suck. I use an after market mouse on mine but I couldn't find an after market keyboard that worked. They also tend to be frail. The Mighty Mouse I got with my last Mac died in a week that's why I got the after market wireless, works great. Also the previous keyboard design I found died every time I used dust off on one. I killed the first one and thought it had to be a coincidence or a freak piece of dust getting in the wrong place. Nope. Second keyboard I got after a while I tried dust off and it stopped working. I got it working again after a few hours. Needless to say I never used dust off on it again.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Pope (17780)
      Macs have used USB for ages, so go get a "PC" keyboard & mouse and use those instead. I've used (now-discontinued) MacAlly keyboards for years because I don't like the ones that Apple makes, Apple's for some reason have slightly larger keycaps that make me prone to typos (big hands as well).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SoupIsGood Food (1179)
      What makes it worse is that every now and again, Apple pulls out the stops to make a keyboard or mouse that isn't just good, it's legendary. [lowendmac.com]

      Serious. In the "Best Keyboard Ever" sweepstakes, there's the IBM Model M, and there's the Apple Extended II at the top, and then it falls off a cliff. Nothing else is anywhere near as good. There's a company [matias.ca] charging almost $150 for a bog-standard 110 key USB keyboard - and getting it - because its key action and layout are almost exactly like the old Extended II.

      Then
  • ...or, in my case, the VIC-20, virtually identical.

    The nonstandard layout criticism shouldn't apply, because in those days there were no standards for video terminal keyboards or computer keyboards.

    The knock on keyboard height is legitimate but overstated. It was about the same height as other video terminal keyboards in its day. The Europeans instituted ergonomic regulations that resulted in very slim, low-height keyboards we're familiar with, but they didn't really start to take hold until, say, 1980 or s
  • Am I the only one who's just waiting to see the "10 worst 10 worst lists of all times"?

    Those lists are, at best, subjective. Ok, maybe not as subjective as the "10 best games" or the "10 most important inventions", but what the hell are those lists about?

    I know, one may argue "if you don't care, ignore it". Ok. But it's not just /., and it's not just the net, one of our networks has a more or less periodic "the 10 best/worst/whatever..." show. I honestly wonder who watches that. It's not like there is any o
  • ... and the ZX80? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anoraknid the Sartor (9334) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:17AM (#21983084) Homepage
    The ZX81 was there - in the guise of the Timex 1000, but its predecessor, the ZX80 wasn't.

    I remember when I sold my Sinclair ZX80 and bought the Sinclair ZX81 - and marvelled at the relative comfort of its keyboard. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_ZX80 [wikipedia.org] Compared to the ZX80, the Commodore keyboard was a joy.

    In fact every machine Sinclair made had a slightly dodgy keyboard - the QL was a pain to word-process on and the Cambridge Z88 was - effective, and quiet, but took some getting used to.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:20AM (#21983142) Homepage
    ...I'm afraid I don't recall the brands, but several makers of video terminals used layouts that inserted an extra key in the bottom row, thus placing the CTRL key one key-width farther left than usual. Of course that required relearning--whenever I used one of those keyboard, for the first half-hour or so I'd keep hitting the extra key when I meant to hit CTRL, but that wasn't the problem.

    The problem was that every CTRL combination required you to stretch your pinky that much further from the rest of your fingers than usual.

    And one of them was at a company that used emacs as their standard text editor.

    That was the only time in my life that using a computer made my hands, or rather my left hand, hurt so badly that I was on the verge of seeing a doctor. I trained myself to type all CTRL combinations using two hands, and the problem gradually subsided.
  • Need to upgrade or repair your computer keyboard? Missing a service manual? Here is a collection of free take apart instructions, disassembly pictures, upgrade and repair manuals, as well as do-it-yourself (DIY) tips and tricks for computer keyboards [repair4keyboard.org]. There is also a section about custom made (adaptive) keyboards.
  • by Tom (822) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:36AM (#21983398) Homepage Journal
    I have to disagree on a number of points, that I think could've been researched better:
    • The "nonstandard keys" complaint about the C64 ignores that back in 1973 when the C64 was designed, there was no standard. You can't be "nonstandard" if there isn't a standard. Even the IBM 8086 keyboards where "nonstandard" by that definition (check here [colindiponio.com] and here [uncreativelabs.net] for examples)
    • Snide remark: The vast majority of C64 owners didn't do "real work on daddy's IBM PC" because daddy didn't own a computer at all back then. We were the first generation with computers at home, for the most part.
    • The constant whining about the lack of backspace ignores that on many of those machines (I don't know all of them, so some might work differently) the delete key actually worked as backspace when you were at the end of a line.


    Mostly, I don't understand why the article complains so much about old keyboards, from times when everyone, including the computer companies, was still working things out. There are perfectly crappy keyboards on the market right now. Sure, they have a "standard" layout, but after using them for 3 weeks the keys start to rub off so you can start to learn touch-typing, except that the tactile feedback is nonexistent and the keypresses unreliable. I'd consider that much worse than having key X next to key Y.

    Also, can we add the article to the list of "10 worst article navigation methods"?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by feijai (898706)

      The "nonstandard keys" complaint about the C64 ignores that back in 1973 when the C64 was designed, there was no standard.
      Um. 1982.
  • by roskakori (447739) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:37AM (#21984422)

    The white keyboard coming with the first generation G5 Power Mac was the worst I've ever used. It had hardly any space between the keys, and I constantly pressed more than one key. Apart from that, it was super elegant and didn't have any cover. So huge amounts of dust, dirt and food collected over they years. And as with many things coming from Apple, it was almost impossible to open up and clean.

    While the C64 keyboard was somewhat unpleasant to use, it didn't have any of these problems.

  • by SloWave (52801) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @03:40PM (#21989798) Journal
    PC World is a good candidate for one of the '10 worst web pages' about the '10 worst keyboards'. What a piss-poor stupid clunky 'having to scroll everywhere' web page.

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