|An original 1981 IBM keyboard|
Most keyboards these days are flimsy things. And worst of all, the letters on the keys keep fading away. They do for me anyway. Maybe that’s because I am a heavy keyboard user – I write or program for many hours every day. Or maybe it’s because (as I’ve heard some people claim) I am one of those people whose skin acidity happens to be detrimental to keyboard keys.
Anyway, recently I decided the time had come to replace an old keyboard (a VicTop which cost £29 in 2017 – this model is no longer available but various other Chinese-made ‘mechanical’ keyboards appear to be very similar). Although it was a cheap keyboard, it is remarkably solid, has a lovely ‘clicky’ feel and in the couple of years I’ve had it, has been absolutely reliable. But some of its keys were wearing so badly that I could no longer see which was which.
Ideally I wanted a keyboard with ‘doubleshot’ keys. A doubleshot key is one that is constructed from two layers of plastic. One layer contains the raised shape of a character such as ‘A’. The other layer is, in effect, poured on top of this to form the rest of the key surface. So if ‘A’ was moulded in black plastic and this was covered with white plastic, you end up with a black key with the letter ‘A’ in running through it in white (like the words through a stick of British seaside rock).
Once upon a time, every half-way decent keyboard had doubleshot keys. These days most keyboards just have the letters ‘painted’ or ‘stuck’ onto the key, which is why they wear off so easily. Some slightly more resilient keys use ‘laser etching’ which means that the characters are etched into a small groove. These won’t actually wear off completely but they can fade.
|Filco Majestouch Ninja|
|VicTop keyboard with its original keys|
|VicTop keyboard with replacement Olivetti-style doubleshot keys|
Though I still dream of an old IBM keyboard…