Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Keyboards: Back to the Future!

Here I am typing this post on an antique Microsoft Curve ergonomic keyboard, plugged into the stupid dongle on the idiotically designed (and idiotically expensive) MacBook Pro that I shouldn’t have bought a year or so ago.

The Macbook has a number of issues, most of which you eventually get used to. But the biggest issue — in my opinion — is the dreadful design of the keyboard. While you’re shopping down at the Apple store, the design fails to register with you as dreadful. That is because the changes they’ve made in the damn thing are so subtle they’re barely visible to the naked eye. You need a transparent ruler, an old MacBook, and a new MacBook to tell the difference. Or else you need to sit down and start typing on the thing.

If you’re a touch typist and you type fairly fast, you cannot enter copy without also entering a slew of typos. No matter how carefully (read s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y) you try to hit the keys, you invariably end up with a slew of crazy typos.

For a long while, I assumed this was my own incompetence. I do type very fast — I can type as fast as most people speak, a convenient skill in a journalist who does a lot of phone interviews. Something must be wrong with me, I thought. Have I had a stroke? Apparently not. Am I drunk? No…happens whether or not I’ve had a glass of wine with dinner. Am I senile? Possibly, but you’d think that would affect other motor skills, like driving and painting one’s face…

Eventually I realized that the new MacBook’s keys are wider than the old ones were, by a fraction of an inch. And they’re a fraction-of-a-fraction of an inch more widely spaced. The result of this is that when your fingers aim for a key, you tend to miss by a narrow margin. But miss you do: and that causes you to hit two keys. Hence, if you typed “hence” on the Macbook, you’d get something like “h3ence.”

Over and over and over again…

Yesterday I ran out of patience and resurrected this ancient Microsoft thing. And what a difference! Suddenly I’m typing normally again, not having to backspace every three or four characters to fix typos, not having to proofread copy two or three times to sift out all the errors one misses on a fast read. Hot DAMN!

Of course, you have the problem that Apple and Microsoft operate in parallel universes. What works on a Mac keyboard does not work on a Microsoft-compatible keyboard.

At first I thought I would have to remap the keyboard, which is a project and which, I feared, might gum up the computer’s works intolerably. So I called Apple Support and forthwith reached — can you imagine? — a human being. Explained the problem…he seemed familiar with users’ bitching about the keyboard, interestingly enough. But it is the presence of human beings who actually answer the phone and speak with you in human tongues that keeps me with the Mac.

This guy said there’s no need to remap the keyboard, because the main functions for the Apple already reside in any Microsoft-friendly keyboard. They’re just marked with different names. Thus…the “Command” key is not what you would think — “Control.” Rather, it’s the “Windows” key — of which, like “Command,” there are two, one to the left and one to the right of the space bar. It is also called the “Start” key.

Ohhhh yeah? Tell me more, dude…

The Mac’s “Option” key is Windows’ “Alt” key. Mac’s “Delete” is Windows’ “Backspace.” And obviously, Mac’s weirdly named “Return” key is Windows’ “Enter.”

These function in the standard keyboard combinations, along these lines:

Copy = Start-C
Paste = Start-V
Undo = Start-Z
Redo = Start-Y
Highlight all = Start-A
Delete = Backspace

I’ll be damned.

Not only that, but this keyboard operates Mac functions that didn’t exist, even on a Mac, when the keyboard was built. For example, Alt-Escape will cause the Mac’s Dictation function to read a highlighted passage aloud. Holding down a key will bring up a diacritical, so that — voilà — you don’t have to search for every diacritical in the accursedly busy “Symbols” table.

A-n-n-n-d this keyboard has features that do not exist on a MacBook keyboard…like a number pad, for example. On the new MacBook Pro, the only way to turn sound up, down, on, or off is with the amazingly annoying touchbar, a thing that requires you to take your hands off the keyboard and dork around and dork around to get it to come on and then to operate it. Lo, the dinosaur keyboard still has KEYS that control the sound AND start or stop video and audio play.

Of course, a number of its keys don’t work, or if they do, I haven’t figured out how to activate them. Yet. This keyboard has a set of keys designed to help navigate the Web. Except for the audio keys, those don’t seem to do anything on the Mac. It also apparently has a function that will make the number pad work as a calculator, but that one also doesn’t seem to speak Applese. Too bad. However, just the few things I’ve listed that do work increase functionality and productivity about 98%.

Because of Apple’s inane decision to remove RSB ports from its new computers, using a plug-in keyboard is a nuisance. The damned “dongle” attachment thing doesn’t stay connected — hiccup and it you’ll knock it loose enough to disconnect. Plus of course the reason I have a laptop is to do away with the miles of cables and cords.

However, both Microsoft and Logitech make this very style of keyboard in a wireless version. I’m thinking I’ll get one of those. That will allow me to set the computer on a table next to my easy chair, put the keyboard on my lap and my feet up on the wonted ottoman, and proceed far more comfortably and less crankily with life.

But really, dear Apple…why should your customers have to jump through such stupid hoops to get a fully functional professional-level keyboard?

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Author: funny

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  1. The keys on the Macbook Pro are 2mm wider than those on previous versions; however, the spacing from center to center of adjacent keys remains unchanged at the international standard of 19mm. I suspect, the typo issue is more likely to do with the key push depth than spacing. The new Macbook Pro uses uses the butterfly key mechanism which significantly reduces the vertical distance a key travels before the computer registers that it has been pushed. If you’re going to purchase a wireless keyboard, make sure it has a USB-C connector. Otherwise, you will still have to use a USB to USB-C dongle.

    • Yes, the key depth matter could be an issue. Dunno…I consistently find that most of the typos consist of a character next to the character I intended to push, or that + the correct character, or extraneous blank spaces. Most of the time it looks like I’m probably hitting two keys at once or nearly at once.

      Thanks for the clue about the USB-C connector! I have the annoying dongle, which you have to use to connect any of your peripherals (including the ancient keyboard and all your flash drives and…on & on). It would be annoying under the best of circumstances, but the fact that the thing doesn’t seat firmly and so works loose if you look funny at it is another Apple allergen… 😀

      {chortle!} I’d forgotten how much I like this Microsoft keyboard…very smooth, very nice. Hmmmm….