Get a great keyboard

Written on November 25, 2014

The pride and joy of every chef is a set of kick ass knives, just like a true craftsman wouldn’t consider anything other than the best drill out there to get the job done. These are the types of tools you dream about, endlessly talk about, compare your own piece of crap hardware to, and then one day - eventually - you’re a proud owner of a Hole Hawg. That’s because you’re passionate about what you do and like to use the best tools for the job.

Anyhow, when it comes to programmers and their keyboards, you wouldn’t believe the junk I’ve seen on their desks - and you know if I’m talking to you. The keyboard is our main input device - like a chef’s knife - and therefore our most important piece of hardware, but it still barely gets any attention.

Why is that? It’s certainly not that our craft lacks passion.

I believe it’s that keyboards are simply not recognized for what they are: a programmer’s best friend.

When people walk over to my desk, one thing is always good for small talk: my all-black mechanical keyboard aka the Leopold Tenkeyless Tactile Touch “Otaku.”

You consider yourself a touch typist? Don’t skip this paragraph yet. You know all the extra keys blindly? That’s what I thought.

When I moved to the United States I was searching for a quick way of becoming a touch typist again on a different keyboard layout. Having no keys to spy at is a game changer. No matter if you’re starting out, want to improve your overall typing speed, or want to learn a new layout like Dvorak altogether. Having no point of reference forces you to type intuitively and will improve your overall performance on every keyboard. Promise.

The other thing I can’t praise enough is the springy comfort of a mechanical keyboard, which is hard to resist. Most are of a very high quality and will feel great under your fingertips. But what makes it an amazing typing experience for you is that they are highly customizable to your individual needs and preferences.

My mechanical keyboard of choice - the Leopold - comes with brown Cherry MX switches which provide a tactile feel that’s - to my taste - perfect for typing and coding while not being too “clicky.” To reduce the noise even further I’ve added red rubber O-rings, which also slightly reduce the travel distance of the switch (0.2mm). I’ve been using that particular setup whenever I can on desktops for over three years, and I’ve never been happier with my typing experience.

If you’d like to learn about the different types of Cherry MX switches, Jeff Atwood wrote an excellent overview here.

Whatever choice you make, mechanical or not, you owe it to yourself to find a truly great keyboard. It’s a programmer’s essential tool. Give it the consideration it deserves, and it will be your next best friend.

Martin Buberl

Purveyor of Internet duct tape.
If you'd like to get in touch, feel free to shout @martinbuberl.