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Wednesday, 07 February 2024


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My rule to self re keyboards.

Only buy and use keyboards which work via the connected cable. Same for mice.

I have found Keyboards/ Mice which depend on a degrading battery or connected dongles or wireless connections to be the ultimate form of torture and frustration... with multiple horror stories to relate.

If getting a fancy mechanical keyboard... I always look for silent keys.... and no fancy gaming lighting patterns.

Many of my worst experiences were with the Logitech mice/keyboards, incl the MX Range.

Makers get bonus points if they provide a pass thru USB port, so the mouse can be connected to the keyboard and the combo then connected to the computer via a single USB cable.

I did take typing in high school, a full year of it, maybe more. Probably my favorite class. After typing was more or less mastered it became all about formatting what you were typing. Reports, footnotes, business letters, etc. I loved it.

I never was a professional typist or made even a bit of money at it but it certainly paid off. College papers, business letters, resumés. Then with the arrival of my first Macintosh I became interested in type and typesetting. And then of course page layout and desktop publishing.

I was a mediocre English major in college but that experience did give me an appreciation of good writing. But that's really only half the battle. It was that high school typing class that gave me an appreciation of the importance of how what is written looks on the page.

To me it is a bit like photography. There is the technical side, typing, the rules of page layout and formatting. Then there is the creative side, doing that in an aesthetically pleasing way, where few rules apply.

As to your dilemma, have you thought about moving to dictating your first draft and then using the keyboard solely for editing? Today's dictation software is quite remarkable, often even thinking for you. The key to that is to make some notes first, probably handwritten, outlining what you're going to say. Then dictate it. Then go back and use the keyboard to correct it for both content and format. Probably much easier to learn than touch typing. And possibly increased productivity in the bargain.

How about something radical--forget typing altogether and find a speech-to-text solution. I've never really tried this but I'll bet some of the speech-to-text tools are fairly sophisticated now so that you could even edit, rewrite, rearrange and so forth with them. Or, maybe you could at least get a draft and then turn to a keyboard after.

I'm sure you'll get a lot of differing opinions here, but if I used a specific tool for 30 years, and if it worked better (for me) than anything else I tried, I would cling to it until the bitter end.

I just searched for your NE4K keyboard on Ebay and quite a few popped up in the $40-$100 range. They're used, but I'm betting that with your extensive experience you're a world expert at looking at a few pictures and assessing the condition and future lifespan. Alternatively, I suspect that new ones also pop up every once in a while. Either way, you should be able to secure a supply for a couple hundred dollars and be set for years and years. You probably know that you can set up Ebay searches and get results sent to your e-mail each day, so you should know quickly if a new copy pops up for sale.

I take this approach with several models of discontinued road and trail running shoes that work well for me. I go through three to five pairs/year, so buying new models ($150-ish/pair), which might not even work for me, is not appealing. Automated Ebay searches alert me when they're available, and when the price, size, and condition is right I pounce. I now have several pairs of several different shoe models in cryogenic storage (I'm kidding, they're in the basement, but it is chilly down there at the moment). I know this plan won't work forever, but why not keep using the tool that works for you until you can't anymore?

What about dictation? Just a WAG but I would think there's some kind of program outthere where you speak what you want written.

I sympathize entirely. I grew up on manual typewriters with great feel, e.g., Royals. But I eventually went to an Olympia standard with springs in the keys. I kept for years after get my first computer in 1982 because I thought it might eventually have value as an antique. Many of the boards sold with PCs years ago had mechanical actions that worked well for me. The membrane keyboards of today do not. In the past two years, I bought four wireless Keytronic mechanical keyboards. All failed within a few months, thorughly souring me on Keytronic. It used to make keyboards that lasted years. Apparently no more. I have turned to mechanical gaming keyboards which are built to take heavy use. Mine is a wired one for a PC, and after a year of constant use, have had no issues at all. I am sure there must be good ones for Mac users.

I took a typing class when I was in 10th grade, because there were only girls in the class. And no, I didn't find a girlfriend, which was my sole purpose for taking the class.
Still one of my best decisions ever. I had a career in academia for 20 years, wrote novels & textbooks (all published... embarrassingly minimal sales!), and use a computer daily now, still writing, still glad I never have to look at the keyboard.
My approach is the opposite of yours; I prefer a minimalist mechanical keyboard. I've 2 computers, one with a Happy Hacking keyboard & the other with a Leopold. They last forever.


Incase has licenced the Microsoft mouse/keyboard portfolio, and will be releasing new versions of many of the products this year. FWIW.



If you are still searching for the right keyboard for you, I would think a visit to the big city of NYC would present the opportunity to try out various keyboards to identify the one for you. I assume that there must be a retailer catering to the writer that has a showroom. I know there's one in Studio City, CA (probably not a practical option for you).


I have to ask... what's more important, your typing "style" or the end item?

Every teen can go a hundred miles per hour with their thumbs on their phone, while watching T.V., compared to my holding my phone in my left palm and hitting every key with my right index finger at one tenth the speed of any 15 year old.

When the text is sent or the thread narrative is posted, nobody knows or cares how long it took to type. I wouldn't expend too much of your mental RAM on this.

Sent from my phone and an aching right index finger.

There are several of your beloved '4000' keyboards for sale used on the UK eBay site. I will gladly act as your courier and post your beloved keys en masse if that helps!

Otherwise, might I suggest reposting your woes on the mechanical keyboard Reddit (or similar). I'm sure that lot will advice on how to recondition or repair your old boards.

My dad was in the Navy and was lightning quick with Morse code. He similarly could touch type over 80 words per minute. So, when typing class became available to me in 10th grade (age 15/16), I was eager to learn. I quickly discovered that, while speed could be increased, there was a specific rate at which errors also greatly increased. My goal was always to type fast, but only to the point of sufficient accuracy; eventually about 65 WPM. It’s now like riding a bike, or maybe more like learning to drive a stick shift; becomes second nature. I learned that, too, at 15/16, using my dad’s car (Opel Kadett). I miss him.

Or, you might have been the fastest in the class, and impressed all the girls. :)

The problem I have with so-called ergonomic keyboards (every one I've ever seen) is that they put the 6 key on the wrong side. The 6 is typed with the right hand (see the "proper placement" graphic on keybr.com), not the left. It ain't ergonomic if I have to reach all the way across to get to the 6.

I took what was probably the last ever typing class offered in my high school that used electric typewriters rather than computers. I hated every last minute of it, but learned to touchtype at a blazing 30 wpm. I certainly knew about computers (I learned basic BASIC programming when I was in 1st grade), but I didn't fully appreciate just how valuable that touchtyping practice was. I know my typing isn't perfectly technically correct (e.g. I still hit "p" with my right ring finger most of the time), but 35 years of practice since that unpleasant class has brought me up to a solid 60-90 wpm (depending on my caffeine intake and degree of emotional agitation). Of course, since I learned on the brutally heavy, long-throw keys of an electric typewriter, I've got a serious aversion to short-throw keyboards (laptop keyboards, most things packaged with Macs and other "stylish" computers), and my acquisition of a (nontrivially expensive) mechanical-switch gaming keyboard felt like coming home, but to a much nicer version of home.

I buy extra "Natural Keyboards" and also the Microsoft symmetrical mice whenever I see them. I am a left-mouser since forever so the Microsoft mouse is great for that being symmetrical.

A couple years ago, the best I could do with the keyboard was a wireless Microsoft Natural Keyboard for about $60-$70. It was as ergonomic as the original, but it is still fine.

One to consider is the Unicomp "Model M" keyboard, a keyboard in the vein of the famed original IBM PC "buckling spring" keyboard. The way the key switches are constructed leads to a a force displacement curve with a very pronounced "breakaway" feel. Because the legends are dye-sublimated into the caps, they last longer. The keyboards are made in Kentucky. Here's the link: https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/category/UKBD

These keyboards are a bit of "love 'em or hate 'em". I tried one and like the feel but the noise was too much (though they have a lower noise version with a more usual rubber dome mechanism).

They make a version with Macintosh legends on the keys: https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/category/SpacesaverM

I learned to type in High School on a Selectric and then a Royal. By the time I was in college I could do 60ish WPM without any errors or looking at the keyboard. I now use Apple computers but I can't type on those tiny Apple keyboards at all. When I upgraded last time I didn't even take the Apple Keyboard out of the box. I found a cheap keyboard that basically replicates a typewriter keyboard I use on Amazon. It's not Bluetooth but so be it. That Kinesis keyboards looks absolutely frightening. I would take a basic typing course at Community College. Then there is this:


However it looks like something more suited to someone who learned to type on a manual typewriter.

I have one of the Alice pattern Keychrons. I do not like it. I found the flat deck with the curved rows was particularly awkward for me.

Decent home defence weapon though. It feels like a solid block of aluminium.

Voice recognition is so good now I’d give that a try. Edit the few inevitable errors when you re-read it (which you would do anyway). And you can do it even better on your phone from the pool room…
(Don’t believe Ctein’s strapline of still training his Dragon…)

Hi Mike. I should also have learnt touch-typing when young, but I ignored my mother's encouragement. (Her first job after high-school was as a touch-typing teacher...)

I have been using for a couple of years a Keychron K8 keyboard (a tenkeyless "normal" keybord) and I like it a lot. It can be switched between Mac and Windows layouts and comes with the extra keycaps and a simple tool to pull the keycaps off the keyboard and replace them. The keyboard is heavy and stays solidly in its place. At least the K8 is a bit tall, so I also bought the Keychron solid-wood palm rest. I am becoming addicted to this keybord, and finding laptop keyboards very uncomfortable in comparison. (I mostly type text but also write scripts for data analysis and do some computer programing but no gaming.)

In relation to obsolescence: Keychron sells keycap sets as well as replacement switches.

So, based on my experience, I think it may be worthwhile for you to try the V10 so see if the shape is suitable for you.

A mechanical keyboard shop has opened in San Jose, CA. On instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tinykeyboardshop/ and there was an article in the San Jose Mercury that included the phrase: "highly customizable keyboards known for an old-school typing experience reminiscent of the 1970s", https://www.mercurynews.com/2024/02/02/click-clack-craze-san-joses-mechanical-keyboard-shop-will-have-you-throwing-out-your-bland-computer-parts/

The summer after seventh grade, I was given a choice. Either go back to overnight camp. Or take a couple of classes in summer school. I didn't particularly care for overnight camp. So I took a creative writing class and a typing class at the high school.

I was the youngest person and the only boy in the typing class. The other students were high-school girls. Mr. Sasso put us through our paces every day, with music played on 45rpm records to help us keep a good steady pace.

At home I practiced on my mom's manual typewriter from her college years. I kept at it, typing assignments and writing for the local papers all through high school. When computers came along a few years later, I was set. And I've never forgotten how to type.

I very much wish I'd also taken a class in shorthand. Would have served me well in college, law school, and the working world. But alas, I had neither the foresight nor the good advice to do so.

I have a Kinesis Advantage2 (QWERTY) that I used for several minutes before realizing that it would drive me insane. If you adapt to your Kinesis, and want another one, you can have it for, um, nothing.

You might also try the Kinesis Freestyle Pro. It's not as radical a design as the Advantage, but it's still pretty ergonomic. I've used it for years and been very happy with it. Definitely a step up from the MS keyboards (with which I also have a lot of experience).

I would be wary of any out-of-stock item selling on Amazon for five times the price.

Maybe get with Ctein and try typing with your vocal chords. :) I can't imagine how well that works but his newsletter used to indicate he was using Dragon Dictate and MacSpeech. I don't think his latest one says anymore, so maybe he's got it trained or abandoned it altogether.

Dictation software has come a very long way, and it's now built into MacOS, though it works differently on Intel vs Apple Silicon Macs.

But if you must type, have you tried one of these? https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/comfortable-ergo-keyboard/

That $60 one reminds me of the MS Natural, and might be close enough in the important ways.

And do you know about Karabiner? It's open source software for Macs that lets you remap your keyboard. I use it to make my Dell keyboard layout more like a Mac keyboard (for the keys I care about, anyway), but one can do much more with it including automate tasks. https://karabiner-elements.pqrs.org

Actually this more expensive Logitech keyboard is even more reminiscent of the MS Nat than the other one: https://www.logitech.com/en-us/products/keyboards/k860-split-ergonomic.920-009166.html

Mike, did you know Incase are resurrecting the Microsoft Hardware line? There are numerous news articles floating around about it, eg. https://www.zdnet.com/home-and-office/microsoft-branded-accessories-like-the-sculpt-keyboard-are-coming-back/

[They tell me they haven't made decisions about which Microsoft products they will offer. It's doubtful they'll bring back the NE4k because the MEK is supposed to be a replacement for it, and the MEK has got to be a lot cheaper to produce. But nobody knows yet. --Mike]

Oh, I don't like where this could go. There is a giant, very nichey, but endlessly deep rabbit-hole in the world of keyboards that makes serious audiophiles look like dilletantes. (Aside; a popular site for mid-range audio was Massdrop.com, but now it is mostly high-end keyboards, so maybe the venn diagram of those geeky pursuits is two concentric circles?)

I started touch-typing by accident about one year into my first job, programming on a Unix system with a VT100 terminal. "Oh my god, I'm not looking at the keys!"
In a much later job, after the month I wrote 10,000 lines of semi-useless C++ code in one month, my wrists were in pain, and I got the original Microsoft Natural keyboard. So ancient it had PS/2 connector, needed a USB adapter. Bought a second one used on eBay when first one wore out.
At my last job, the ergonomics consultant suggested the Genesis Freestyle2. They got me a Windows version that I used on my Linux software development workstation at work. Loved it.
When I started working only from home due to COVID on their MacBook, I discovered Kinesis made a Mac version, and the company bought me one of those as part of the "work from home supplies" money. (As you note, using a Windows keyboard on a Mac is a good way to damage your sanity! Especially for an emacs user.)
Now that I'm retired, I type much less, and can get away with the Apple chiclet keyboards. But both the Kinesis keyboards are safely stored in the attic.

I worked in IT for 30 years and when my wrists started to bother me I also made the switch to the NE4k. I never bothered to buy one for my home computer because after a long day in the office I was done with computers. Once I retired, I went looking for a personal NE4k but found they were hard to find and rather expensive so I decided to give the Logitech ERGO K860 a try. I had noticed that many reviewers of the K860 mentioned they were coming from the NE4k and were happy with the K860. I currently have both Windows and Apple laptops on my desk and the K860 provides an easy way to toggle back and forth between the two computers and the keys have text for both systems. I like it. It’s worth a look if you are in the market.

Have you thought about a speech-to-text program - such programs are getting very powerful and when combined with AI, almost know what you are going to say before you say it or at least be able to say it in the way that you have always said it. You are providing all the raw data that it is learning on as you build up the hours on it.

Mike, Logitech has this kind of keyboard.
One model in the link, but they have other ergonomic keyboards.

My senior year in high school I had space for a couple of elective courses. I thought “Business Typing” might be fun. I’d been hunting and pecking on my father’s old (even then) Royal portable that he got from some other Marine during the war. For the class we used IBM Selectrics, which I thought were amazing, and the teacher was first rate.

It was one of the most useful courses from high school and it saved my ass in college. That Royal portable is still stashed around here somewhere, silently challenging me to hit the key hard enough to make an impression, but not too useful for emails these days.

As you yourself acknowledged in your post, the tools you choose to use and how you use them tends to be highly idiosyncratic. A result is that the solutions to any resulting problems with them will be equally so. You didn't ask for any advice and I have none to offer, but it will be interesting to see what solution you eventually arrive at.

I've been eyeing this mechanical keyboard. But don't know much about it. https://www.logitech.com/en-us/products/keyboards/explore-mx-mechanical-keyboards.html

My Osteo therapist recommended the Kinesis Freestyle Pro keyboard. Very flexible in how you can arrange the split board both in tilt and placement. It's a treat, worth it.

Maybe you should try the "speech to text" feature instead of typing anything. Speech recognition is pretty darn good these days so you would presumably need to do far less typing to make any corrections required once you got used to it.

Well, this is a nice coincidence. I too have been looking at keyboards recently, and my history has some interesting similarities to yours.

First of all, I share your disappointment in the discontinuance of the Microsoft Ergo 4000. I got mine about 10-15 years ago when dealing with serious RSI pain. Since my job (software development) is pretty much impossible without keyboard work, and my symptoms were very clear (acute pain when bending my wrist inwards, the way you do with a normal, 'straight' keyboard), I figured the NE4k was worth a shot. My pain disappeared overnight, so it has been my 'work' keyboard ever since.

A while back I started looking for an alternative, and like you I tried something radically different. In my case a ZSA Moonlander with a Maltron layout.

Maltron, in case you don't know, are the makers of the keyboard your Kinesis is a simplified copy of. They specialize in boards for people with really serious RSI, as well as for people with only one or even no hands. Their 'normal' two-handed keyboards are available with the standard QWERTY and DVORAK layouts, but also with a layout of their own design, which aims to keep your fingers on the 'home' row as much as possible. Among other things, this means the 'E' key is under your left thumb, while the right takes care of the spacebar.

Also like you, I've been having mixed succes with the fancy board and different layout. When I do get in a good flow it is clear that the layout is objectively superior to QWERTY. But as much as we like to think we are, we are not objective creatures, and many, many years of muscle memory are working hard against my adaptation of the new device. In my case the demands of my profession are also not helping, as programmers tend to make intensive use of the 'other' keys on the keyboard, something the Moonlander does ...differently. It is designed to be a 'layered' keyboard, where you program specific keys to access different layers, effectively turning one keyboard into several. Very powerful once you master it, but until then you keep feeling as if there are keys missing.

It could be that for me, the right answer is something like the Moonlander, but with more physical keys, giving me the best of both worlds. That would either mean buying a 'real' Maltron (but then I'd lose the programmability and layers) or assemble my own from parts (which is a whole culture by itself, in case you hadn't stumbled onto that yet in your research).

To get back to the NE4k, they are available quite readily second hand on Ebay (mostly in the USA, which is bad for me, but good for you), but then it's always a bit of a gamble what you're getting. For instance, most seem to be missing the plastic riser that tilts the board away from you. This is one of those 'love it or hate it' features that most people probably threw out, but for me is an absolute must-have.

I'm curious to hear where your search will lead you. There's certainly enough options and opinions out there.

Lately, I've been pretty harsh on my younger self, so I appreciate the reminder that I did some things right, like signing up for my high school's free summer typing class one year (and the next year the free programming course, in which we teletyped into a university mainframe and saved our programs on paper punch tape). But that description of keybr almost makes me wish I was starting over. Good luck!

An article by Ken Jennings (yes, the Jeopardy champ) debunking claims that the QWERTY layout was designed to slow down typists or prevent jamming, or that the Dvorak layout is superior. https://www.woot.com/blog/post/the-debunker-was-the-qwerty-keyboard-designed-to-slow-down-typists-1

I've spent too much time thinking about keyboards.

After considerable dithering I ended up purchasing an excellent but expensive compact mechanical keyboard as a gift for my daughter before she started at law school. Unfortunately, she never used it much because she was disabled just weeks before the first semester began, and she's since relied on dictation software.

Now, though, she's recovered much of the use of her hands, so I'm starting to look again--but this time at ergonomic keyboards. Her firm offered to pay, but she has to select the model. Investigation continues.

The NY Times offers some guidance:

[This is the best explanation of the Kinesis Advantage 2 that I've found:



"... Usually the first point of failure is that the legends wear off the keys ..."

I'm no keyboard expert, but looking at my backlit mechanical keyboard, the legends appear to be clear plastic embedded in the black key material, so they should not wear out.

Popular backlit mechanicals are only about $40.00 at Amazon.

Maybe some kind of voice program would work, then no typing at all.

I'm no expert though, so I don't know what to recommend, although I have friends who can't type anymore that use voice software for their typing and other communications.

Yeah, learning to type in 5th grade was a completely random event. Needed to put the script of a puppet play on ditto masters, my handwriting was and is horrible, so typing was clearly the way to go. When I got out my father's old typewriter out of its case, the finger placement chart for touch typing was on top. I figured that doing it "right" from the beginning wouldn't be any slower than starting from zero, but ought to work better over time.

3 years later I was typing my FORTRAN programs onto 80-column punch cards, and I've been typing ever since. I didn't anticipate the computer making everybody type either, never crossed my mind.

In highschool, the computer center was next door to the typing room, and there were windows between them. So I can say that I typed a LOT faster than the professionals-in-training next door. The only typing test I ever took placed me at 85 WPM, but no idea if that was really a proper standard test (it might have been harder than usual, it was kind of weird). I do know people who type twice as fast as me, but not many.

I never did have the patience to learn to write well - even at elementary school I was in too much of a hurry. So when I was about 9 years old I bought a teach-yourself touch typing book and learned to touch type on my Dad's manual typewriter. Cue modern computers and I can type almost as fast as I can think - especially if I can watch the letters on the screen as I a type. Best decision ever - except for bouts of repetitive strain injuries brought on by too much typing. To address those, I have gone down the path of mechanically switched keyboards - they open a whole world of technical possibilities that would satisfy any photographer - types of switches, necessary pressure, speed, etc. etc. I've managed to avoid going down the worm hole by just buying the most popular switches and choosing a keyboard with replaceable switches and keys. When they wear out - you click them out and click in new ones... No RSI. Satisfyingly clicky high speed typing. Highly recommended and worth the effort to choose and learn a keyboard you like.

Did you look at DAS Mechanical keyboards? https://www.daskeyboard.com/products/mechanical-keyboards/
I've had one for years now, after burning through several flimsy it-came-with-the-computer-things. DAS boards apparently are popular among gamers because they're extremely reliable and virtually indestructible. The letters aren't printed on the keys but embedded, so they never wear out. There are several Mac versions for you.

Hi Mike, I have dictated this using Apple dictation. It works very well. You should try it. It is also very easy to use.

In the System Settings, go to keyboard, click dictation and one or two more clicks and you're all set.

[Ah, except I don't have a microphone. My Mac is a Mini and my display is aftermarket. I'll see if I can try it on my upstairs computer though, the one I use for Zoom meetings. The microphone is up there. --Mike]

Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I took touch typing in high school and got an “A.” But the problem was, on weekends I was already working as a newscaster at our local radio station. And I had to crank out newscasts every hour and thus needed to type fast. I couldn’t wait for my typing speed to build naturally over time.

So I developed a half QWERTY-half hunt-and-peck style, usually using about eight fingers but occasionally ten. At my best, I could eventually type in the 60-65 word per minute range with minimal errors.

But I had problems when computers came along. Generally, the ones I had to use (the systems purchased by the radio and TV stations, and networks I worded for) did not have true full-sized keyboards. Close - one could almost think they were full-sized - but they were not. My accuracy rate plunged for a while.

Today, I do okay on keyboards connected to desktop computers but I could never make ergonomic keyboards work for me in a newsroom. A pity because I clearly have repetitive-stress injuries - like many of my colleagues.

Strange that you didn't include my comment?

I almost never skim read anything. But I did skim this post. Which meant that I missed the fact that you 14. That the class you could have taken was full of girls. And that it would have been smarter if you'd taken that class.

Not knowing those facts, I posted that I took typing class when I was 14, 'because' the class was full of girls, despite my shyness. And that I was smart for making that choice.

It always interests me why some seemingly innocuous comments don't make the cut here.

Just some feedback. Hope the world is treating you kindly today Mike.

And here I thought I was the only nerd who took typing in summer school during high school. I don't think electrics had been invented yet and I learned to type by really pounding the keys on a manual and I still do that today on computer keyboards. I also credit learning to type with potentially saving my life. In 1967 I was trained as a tank driver/gunner at Ft. Knox and was destined for Viet Nam with a stopover in Germany. Because I could type I was pulled out of tanks and was given a desk and typewriter in Division HQ in Germany, where I typed for the rest of my enlistment.

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