I started computing way back in the time of dinosaurs like the IBM 360, DEC-10, and my fav the HP3000. Everything was command line (exactly like the bash shell of linux today). Needless to say I learned to touch type and was very fast. To this day I still hate using the mouse and learn all of the keyboard short-cuts to keep my hands on the keyboard where they really belong.
To properly touch type you’ve got to be able to get your fingers on the home keys so you have a frame of reference. Many keyboards have done something to the F and J keys to provide tactile feed back so you can feel you are where you belong. Sometimes they will have small nibs on the keys (my favorite) or they will make the depressions deeper.
Over the years I have had keyboards that either don’t provide some marker for the F and J keys or the marker has simply worn off from use. Back in the 80’s I learned the tip to put a dot of glue on the F and J keys. That works relatively well, but eventually the glue comes off (about every 6 months) and you have to start over.
The other downside to glue dots is practical jokers. I once had someone pull the glue dots off and put them on the G and K keys. The next morning I come in, type my login, look up and it is all gibberish. Type it again, still gibberish. It took a third try before I finally started looking at the keyboard. It’s only funny in hindsight 🙂
My current Dell keyboard is getting quite old, but I like it better than the new ones that have been coming with the systems. The little nibs have worn smooth and I’ve been resorting to glue dots for years now.
This last time the glue dots came off, the glue was missing so I spent a few days cursing my keyboard and trying to think of a permanent solution. Then it came to me:
Melt a little dot into each key with a solder Iron!
I have a old solder iron that I don’t mind getting plastic on, so I warmed it up and touched the center of each key just momentarily (< a second). It provided perfect tactile feedback.
(I swear my keyboard doesn’t really look that dirty – the light from the phone camera seems to reflect strongly)
For the first few days the dots were a bit sharp, but now they feel perfect.
Speaking of keyboards: everyone in my office once used the legendary Northgate OmniKey Keyboard and many of us bought the same keyboard to take home. It was the best we had ever seen even to date. It was heavy, the keys felt good, and I believe they clicked so you knew they were activated.
This keyboard, das keyboard, seems to be the closest competitor available these days
It’s on my wishlist, so someday I will find out if it is of the same quality.
Oct 2014 Update:
Wow, it has only been 6 months and the melted plastic has been worn smooth. I cannot feel it at all on one key and just barely on the other. I guess I could have melted bigger spots on each key, but evidently even that will eventually wear down with my constant use of the keyboard.
So last night I decided to take a different course. I’ll go back to glue, but use super glue (cyanoacrylate). I really like this loctite gel super glue – I’ve been using it for a few years and it generally is much easier to work with than normal super glue:
Normal super glue would just run across a keyboard’s key, but the gel super glue will create a little raised bump just like Elmer’s glue.
I applied the gel super glue last night. The bumps are very noticeable this morning. Let’s see how long they last.