The Idiocy of Hacker Keyboards

Perm url with updates:

The Idiocy of Hacker Keyboards

Xah Lee, 2010-06-12

This page is a review on several often talked about computer keyboards among programers.

Spend few hours keyboard geeking again.

Das Keyboard

das keyboard2

The Das Keyboard. image source

The Das Keyboard. Famous for being a keyboard with no key labels.

Good as a novelty, nothing else.

How much to pay to impress friends? $129!

How did this keyboard came about? According to the official site, the programer and company founder Daniel Guermeur, wanted to learn touch typing. The first thing is to get rid of the key labels, and the rest is history. Quote:

In 2005, in a personal quest to improve his own typing speed and accuracy, Metadot Corporation founder and self-proclaimed “Uber Geek” Daniel Guermeur asked to have a totally blank keyboard created. To his surprise, his typing speed doubled after just a few weeks of use.

As many friends and colleagues who tested the keyboard were mesmerized and wanted one, the business potential became obvious, and Das Keyboard was born.

For the first few years, the maker of this keyboard really doesn't make any model with key labels. But since about 2008, they started to make one with labels. The reason seems obvious. Without labels, you might sell 1 for every ten thousand programers. But with labels, your sales potential immediately increases by 100 or 1000.

Also, they introduced the spring based mechanism so that you get a good tactile feedback, similar to those Model M keyboard geeks often talk about.

However, i've seen one youtube video that shows the guy's Das keyboard's click-clack mechanism had a problem. That is, once you press a key, it clicks, but for some keys, while it is down and you put some more pressure, it goes another different click, WRONG! Not sure if that's just a single case of defective device, or defective design. Watch this, this is funny:

Das Keyboard double-click problem

Happy Hacking Keyboard

The Happy Hacking Keyboard. The worst keyboard possible. No function keys, less modifier keys, no number keypad, no home/end/PageUp/PageDown keys. A earlier model does not even have arrow keys.

happy hacking keyboard lite2

The Happy Hacking keyboard, model lite 2. image source

So, when you need to press F1, now you need to press 2 keys, by holding Fn then press 1. Hacker Progress?

So, perhaps it has small physical dimension merit? Well, there are many keyboards with full-sized-keys but similar in overall physical dimension yet with full function keys and dedicated PageUp PageDown keys.

Like other weird keyboards, this one has some kinda hacker association, and is often reviewed on geek sites. Occasionally, you see programers on the web claiming how they love this keyboard.

Why would such a bad keyboard gets talked about? Probably due to the name “happy hacking”, and the ostensible removal of the Windows logo label. A effect of marketing. Like some art things, that are useless, nobody buys, but everybody knows. If you own one, you can brag about it.

I got curious on this keyboard's history. Apparently, it's made by PFU Systems, and the website states: “a Fujitsu company”, of Japan. Quote:

PFU Systems, Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of PFU Ltd. of Japan.

That somewhat makes it understandable. If you have visited Japan, you'll notice that everything comes in a miniatured size. Cars, roads, furnitures, office equipments, rice bowels, ...

Cost? About $70.

Happy Hacking Keyboard

Optimus Maximus Keyboard

Optimus Maximus keyboard. A keyboard with the feature of having a display on each key.

optimus maximus 01w

Optimus Maximus keyboard. image source

The display are not just simplistic LEDs. They can even display video. Each key features a 48x48 pixels display, updated 10 times per second.

Effectively, the key labels are dynamic and can change, great if you are a heavy key macros user (programer and gamer). Unfortunately, there are many practical problems. Not ergonomic.

The official site has a Flash app keyboard toy you can play with. At

How much? $1800. It is art.

Model M keyboard

Model M keyboard, made famous in early 1990s with IBM's PS/2 personal computer.

model M keyboard

Model M Keyboard.

I happen to have used it for a few months in 1990. What people love about this keyboard is its superior tactile feedback. It is spring mechanics based, so that, when you put pressure on a key, after a certain point, =click!=, it sucks you down. That means, you get a clean, precise, feel whether the key is pressed. A draw back is that it is rather loud. The sound came from its spring based mechanics. It's crispy and precise. Many modern, rubber dome based keyboards are also loud, due to bad design.

Unicomp owns the rights to the design of this key action, and currently makes modern version of keyboard with this mechanism. You can buy it at:

Here's a interview with unicomp guy Mr Muyskens

I think it is really nice, would want it, but due to the fact that it is not ergonomic keyboard, i can't use.

Price: ~$70.

My Favorite Keyboard

My favorite keyboard in my now 20 years of daily computer using, are Microsoft's Natural Ergonomic 4000 and Comfort Curve 2000. Both i currently use. Another one i think i would love but actually never used, is the Kinesis Contoured Keyboard.

Popular posts from this blog

11 Years of Writing About Emacs

does md5 creates more randomness?

Google Code shutting down, future of ErgoEmacs