on Jul 17, 2008
The other night my beloved wireless keyboard died, mid-sentence. Bricked. I have a cache of cheapo sub-$10 keyboards I picked up at some point in preparation for something like this. I pulled one out, plugged it in, and then recoiled in horror.
This device couldn’t be more twisted if it was hewn from human bone and powered by the souls of the damned. It has the shut down and hibernate buttons right there, right in the middle of the action above the inverted T. Since I’ve been using a keyboard with one of the double-tall delete keys, I think the odds of me hitting that shutdown button when trying to delete are probably about 1 in 2.
That shutdown button, once tapped, really does irrevocably close down the whole show. So, let’s look at the various ways I can shut down the machine: If I hit the power button on the front of the computer, nothing happens, because I have to hold that button in for ten seconds if I really want to stop computing in a hurry. If I use the “shut down” feature in Windows I get a confirmation dialog. But if I hit this obvious key right in a heavy-traffic area of the keyboard the whole thing shuts down without hesitation.
The other two round buttons are probably just as deadly to productivity. One is the hibernate button, which is annoying to hit by accident and if pressed while playing a fullscreen game will most likely result in a crash. I don’t know what magic button #3 will do, but my money is on “ignite user”, which would be the only way you could top the other two for user-unfriendliness.
I want to talk to the engineer responsible for this insidious work. I want to ask him if he’s ever actually used a computer before. And if so, why does he hate his fellow human beings so much?
But even if I were to pry those buttons off (which I’m not sure is possible – they don’t pop off the way the normal keys do) this is still an awful keyboard. Note how it has both windows buttons, but it also has… a turbo button? Didn’t those go out of style in 1993 or 1994? What is it doing on a Windows keyboard? In place of a full-sized shift key?
It seems petty to bring this up now, but I’m also not crazy about the half-size backspace. The function keys should have a gap between them and the main area of the keyboard, and they should be a different shape. (I like the shorter, rectangular function keys.)
This keyboard is just unusable to me. So once again I’m obliged to return to the battle-worn HP keyboard. The rest of the old HP computer is in shambles. The mouse died shortly after getting it. The CD drive was DOA. The DVD drive never worked right but finally failed for good this year. The branded install of Windows has always been a little wonky. But the HP keyboard – the keyboard I’m using now, on my new computer – is a juggernaut. It’s been spilled on, dropped, and endured countless fist-slams on the right side. It’s seen so much use that the 8 and 2 on the numpad are worn nearly bare. It rattles when I move it, full of dust and debris. Yet it works as flawlessly now as it does the day I unpacked it.
I’m used to cheap keyboards being cheaply made, but the one I have pictured above goes beyond simple cost-cutting. It’s a device specifically engineered to deliver a miserable and difficult experience. As a work of evil, it’s sort of admirable. As a keyboard, it makes a decent melee weapon.
Now if I could just find the guy who made it.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.