Keyboards and Tools of the Trade

It is a rare thing nowadays to find a specialist company that is, in the mind of the general population, taking a retrograde step but which serves a specialist market.

I was mentioning to my wife recently that I thought I needed a new keyboard. ’Oh, another gimmick,’ she said – somewhat unsympathetically, I have to say.

But the trouble is, when you are working in a specific profession, certain tools of your trade make sense instantly. As a practitioner of your business you can see the benefits of the tool you’re considering. A Makita drill is way out of my DIY league, but a carpenter or builder can see the benefit immediately.

For authors like me there are not that many brilliant or ingenious devices that make sense. A good chair is extremely important. So is a good computer and a functional printer (I don’t care for inkjets: all I want is something fast and cheap per page). But some aspects of my work require thought. One of them is a good keyboard.

I have known some brilliant keyboards in my time. There was the lovely Wordplex 80-series devices with a soft rattle. Then there was the DisplayWriter keyboards from the IBM wordprocessors. Wang Labs keyboards were good too.

What was so good about these? First and foremost, the travel of the keys. They could move up to about a half centimetre. Modern systems are designed to look good and be cheap to manufacture. After all a Wordplex 803G would cost £15,000 for what you could now buy for perhaps less than one tenth of that cost. Items were built to last in those days. Then again, there was a “feel” to them that made typing more pleasant. A subtle “click” as the switch activated, letting the operator know by feel and sound that the letter was acknowledged.

Keyboards have gone backwards, I think, since those happy days.

Take the keyboard I’m using now. It’s a good, lovely looking, Apple keyboard. It’s thin, has lovely brushed aluminium in its construction – and it’s gorgeous. I’ve had several different Apple keyboards over the years, and this is very good.

The problem is that it, like other modern keyboards, is designed to have key caps set over a strip of rubber. As you press the key, the rubber is pushed down onto a switch. You only have to press the key a tiny distance. Which should be quite good for the average typist, but when, like me, you type some 5,000 words or more every day, it starts to create a degree of tension in the tendons. It ain’t good.

There are many companies on Amazon and elsewhere who will happily sell you a keyboard, of course. And they’ll do it from a silly, cheap price, all the way up to an astronomical one, if you want to pay them. And it may say it’s made with individual, mechanical keys made in Germany, but all too often they have cheaper keys from China.

However, there is a company here in the UK which specialises in finding the right keyboard for users. It is called the Keyboard Company, imaginatively enough. They are experts in the field of communicating with computers, basically. What they don’t know about Cherry MX keys you can scribble in capitals on the back of a stamp.

But what I like is their attitude.

First: I used to be a salesman. I know how tempting it is to have a quick push to a prospect, trying to persuade him/her to buy today. This company doesn’t try that. Instead, they write or talk to you as though you are a human. They advise, based on your work. And it’s also good to be contacted by the man who owns the firm in person. That kind of service makes me feel wanted – as though they seriously want to help me, not just flog a piece of kit.

Second: it’s all too common to receive a missive from a firm saying that they’ll happily sell you something, but how often do they get a little sticky when there is a problem. With Keyboard Company, they have a strict 14 day rule. You can try their keyboard for that long, and if it’s not right, send it back. They’ll refund or send you another version that will hopefully suit you better.

I haven’t made up my mind yet. However, I feel really comfortable with this firm, and I reckon when I decide to change keyboards (probably when I’ve finished typing this book) I’ll be buying from them.

And the fact that Terry Pratchett, my hero, used to buy his from this company only serves to justify my decision!

So, many thanks to Bruce Whiting and his team.

You can find them here: – and find a new joy in typing!

3 Responses to “Keyboards and Tools of the Trade”
  1. cybaea says:

    Never underestimate the value of a good keyboard. I am writing this on a Das Keyboard which I have had for a couple of years and it is great. And loud! Cherry MX switches which are just right for me.
    I am especially pleased that I got the version without any engravings on the keys: not needed if you touch-type (at your word count you do) and it looks great.

    Get a proper keyboard. Your hands deserve it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will. Much though I love my Apple, the keyboard does let it down! Thanks, Allan.


      • Old Trooper says:

        My newest Apple MacBook Pro built in keyboard is great! I still have a 5 year old one but the keys are much different. They require less depression of the keys so the ‘mechanical stress’ is less but you don’t loose the ‘typing sound’ which I find is better than ‘silent keyboards’ (for me).


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