For many of us, keyboards are the most important input device we own. Bloggers, journalist and coders can't get by with touchscreens. But one programmer, California-based Jeff Atwood, found himself continually dissatisfied with the physical design of every keyboard he used. So he teamed up with WASD Keyboards, a California-based producer of specialty keyboards, to design his own. And it appears to be pretty damned awesome.
Atwood might be a software developer, but he's got the attention to fine detail of a great industrial designer. His CODE Keyboard addresses every one of his woes with materials, intelligent design and careful thought.
Haptics. Atwood doesn't like the spongy feel of pressing a plastic key attached to a rubber bubble. Heck, I don't think any of us do, but he and Kwong actually did something about it. The CODE features mechanical keyswitches with a "solid actuation force."
Materials. The keyswitches are mounted to a steel backplate "for a rock solid feel." The keyboard weighs nearly 2.5 pounds.
User Experience. The steel backplate is painted white and the markings on each key are precisely placed to provide completely even LED backlighting. You can choose from seven different backlighting levels or turn it off completely, and the keyboard will remember your preference.
Non-User Experience. Mechanical though they may be, the keys are designed to provide good tactile feedback while remaining quiet, so you don't irritate your co-workers.
User Configurability. You can remove the keys and re-order them, QWERTY-Dvorak-Colemak or for your particular programming needs, via a physical tool included with the keyboard.
Graphics. "We chose a standard Helvetica font for the keys, because the classics never go out of style."
Ergonomics. The cable detaches from the keyboard, so you don't have to yank it out of the back of the computer if you need to move it. And there are cable-routing channels built into the underside, so you can pick which way you want the cable to go. In fact, "We paid just as much attention to the bottom of the keyboard as we did the top," writes Atwood. "Large rubber pads provide plenty of grip. We also added custom rubber coated flip out feet with matching angled rubber pads at the front. This is one keyboard that won't slide around on you no matter how furiously you type."
Aesthetics. My favorite thing about this keyboard is its completely unobtrusive design; I like that kind of quiet confidence in a physical product. "We custom molded the case to be as minimalist as we could get away with," reports Atwood. "You won't find any text or stickers on this keyboard, just small bezels and a classic angled design."