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Review of the Model M-Inspired Unicomp Customizer Keyboard 383

Posted by timothy
from the lust-lust-lust dept.
ThousandStars writes "I wrote a review of the Unicomp Customizer Keyboard, which is a modern version of the IBM and then Lexmark Model M much beloved by nerds and hackers. The pros of the Customizer: it's sturdy, remarkably similar to the Model M, has great tech support, and uses a USB interface. Oh, and it's Mac-friendly. The cons: at $69 it's somewhat expensive, and its noise won't be music to your cubemate's ears." Note: this is one of the very, very few buckling-spring keyboards you can get new these days, instead of prowling through thrift stores, eBay, and university dumpsters.
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Review of the Model M-Inspired Unicomp Customizer Keyboard

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  • Hear Much? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Azarael (896715) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @10:13AM (#23585821) Homepage
    After 22 years of loud clicking, I wonder if you'll sustain any hearing damage.. A sturdy keyboard is a great thing, but at least put in some rubber or something to muffle the sound.
  • too big (Score:2, Insightful)

    by russellh (547685) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @10:15AM (#23585837) Homepage
    Cut off the numeric keypad and we'll talk. Till then, I can live with my happy hacker ..
  • not an M-series (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2008 @10:17AM (#23585877)
    Ugh -- a windows key?
  • by conureman (748753) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @10:20AM (#23585913)
    "How many people here have in the last couple of years actually tried to type on a Model M?"
    All the time,what's the problem? I just prefer to know when I hit bottom as I type. I'm a pretty shitty typist, anyhow. YMMV.
  • by splutty (43475) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @10:23AM (#23585963)
    Hmmm..

    Interesting comment, however I completely and utterly disagree. Most modern keyboards (and I've gone through quite a lot), are simply not tactile and 'fast' enough. There are a number of keyboards (Looking at you, DELL), that I have serious problem with considering the speed I'm typing. More often then not, letters will be 'switched around', because I hit them in such fast succession. I've never had this problem with a Model-M, or with certain Cherry keyboards with microswitches (nor by the way, with this HP-KU keyboard, which comes with detachable numpad and card reader)

    If you claim that a Model-M will slow people down, then I think you've either never typed on a tactile keyboard, or you're a slow typer to begin with. Of course I could be terribly wrong, and the positive effects of the Model-M surely vary for people, but in my experience I'm typing a LOT faster on my keyboard at home (which is an original Model-M/PS2) than on pretty much any other keyboard.

    I think the main reason for that is twofold. First you never have to fully depress the key, plus aside from the 'noise' it also gives you a very tactile response, and even pushed the key back at you. This basically limits the amount of force and movement my fingers have to make to type anything, and for me at least, speeds my typing up enormously.
  • Re:too big (Score:3, Insightful)

    by youthoftoday (975074) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @10:27AM (#23586009) Homepage Journal
    I have to disagree. I have a black Das Keyboard (you know, the one without markings). The numeric keyboard is a life-saver (somehow it's just not possible to touch-type the numbers above the keyboard)...
  • by Bud Dickman (1131973) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @10:29AM (#23586059)
    I used a Model M daily. I type faster on it.

    Shock! Gasp!

    Different people work better with different models of keyboards.

    "I will tell you from recent experience that typing on one of these old beasts will slow ME down immensly."
    Fixed that for you. Don't presume to speak for me.
  • by Octos (68453) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @10:29AM (#23586061) Homepage
    Really. $70 for a keyboard is nothing. It's a tool you use every day for extended periods of time. If you're looking for a decent keyboard it's because you don't like the way the $3 crap-board feels. It costs three bucks for a reason. Quality tools that last are worth every penny.

    If you really want to balk at price, I'll point you to my Kinesis Contour keyboard. It cost about $300. The key feel and ergos are great. I've used this board at work for about 9 years now and it's still going strong.

    If you still insist on being cheap, go prowl Goodwill or other thrift stores. I found a Lexmark BS board in near mint condition for $5.
  • Re:too big (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @10:43AM (#23586237) Journal
    Cut off the numeric keypad and we'll talk

    I see you've never had to enter a long series of numbers into a database. Entering numbers from the number row above the letters is slow, cumbersome, and error-prone.
  • by WarwickRyan (780794) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @10:44AM (#23586255)
    It took me a fair while to find a keyboard that I could type quickly and comfortably with. I've tried the Dells, the Model M, Saitek Eclipse, Microsoft Standard, Microsoft Natural and Logitech Wave.

    Only one which is comfortable for writing and coding is, surprisingly, the Logitech Wave.

    Don't get me on the subject of mice, though. There isn't a single ergonomic mouse on the market suitable for southpaws like myself :(
  • by DurendalMac (736637) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @10:59AM (#23586459)
    I knew a tech who got one and loved it, but damn those things are loud. It's like a gigantic tailpipe for geeks.
  • by raddan (519638) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @11:43AM (#23587129)
    I am currently typing this on a Model M. Besides the Apple Extended II keyboard, this is the best keyboard out there. I'd gladly use my Apple keyboard, but the ADB-to-USB adapter does not allow the keyboard to work in pre-boot environments (BIOS), which is somewhat important to me. But I basically only prefer the Apple keyboard over the IBM due to the fact that the IBM is surprisingly loud.

    I am somewhat of a forceful typist, and for me, the Model M is perfect. Each keypress is satisfying, and-- I think this part about the Model M is underrated-- the keyboard has a straightforward layout with full-sized keys, center detents, and the little nubs to help you find the home row. Maybe the difference between me and others (who hate the Model M) is that I learned how to touch-type on a Model M in my high-school keyboarding class in the early 90's. I find most modern keyboards to be pathetically mushy, and their mushiness gets worse over time. I've been typing on this particular Model M for several years, and it still feels great. My Apple Extended II keyboard is about 15 years old, and that one still feels great too (although it doesn't look so hot anymore due to the discoloration of the plastic).

    Anyhow, this is not fanboism. Some people like different keyboards. I spend my whole day at a keyboard, I touch type, and the keyfeel is important to me. Maybe those things don't matter to you, or maybe keyboard preference is just one of those subjective things like your favorite color or favorite meal. Or are you one of those guys who rails against the "hamburger fanbois"?
  • Re:Geezer alert! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dosius (230542) <bridget@buric.co> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @12:27PM (#23587787) Journal
    The actual tech of the keyboard *is* Model M. Unicomp is a spinoff of Lexmark, which got the tech when they spun off IBM.

    -uso.
  • Bah at model Ms (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarkOx (621550) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @01:27PM (#23588829) Journal
    The original Northgate OmniKey line of keyboards are the best ever made. They were $130 or so for the larger ones(104 key) back in the day. If you never worked on one you should try you will never want to type on anything else ever again.
  • Re:too big (Score:3, Insightful)

    by value_added (719364) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:35PM (#23590751)
    The numeric keyboard is a life-saver (somehow it's just not possible to touch-type the numbers above the keyboard)...

    Admittedly, learning to type is hard, and few today seem to think it's of any value, but typing numbers is no more difficult than typing anything else. Even the F keys in the top row are easy to type (as evidenced by the years of WP popularity and dominance).

    On the other hand, if you are doing nothing but typing numbers for hours at end (data entry and accounting people traditionally do this), then, yes, the numeric side of the keyboard can be faster and more efficient. The requirements for speed and accuracy are the mostly the same, however: that you've learned to touch-type, and learned to touch-type using one hand in the same manner as you would do on a calculator.

    The most useful class I ever took in 5 years of high school was typing. Seriously. The odd thing, though, when I see how poorly people type today (the over-reliance on spell-checkers to correct poor typing accuracy, the widespread complaints of RSI, the slow speeds, uncessary tension and stress, complaints about number keys, etc.) suggests to me that either no one learns to type, or that learning to type on a manual typewriter, despite being obsoleted, remains ideal.

    Which brings us back to why so many prefer old-fashioned IBM keyboards. ;-)

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