Jun 22, 2007

Change is Good

Even though I've typed exclusively on a Maltron keyboard for almost ten years, I'm about to change to a different keyboard. While the curved "bowls" of keys on the Maltron are quite comfortable, and I've gotten very used to the "Malt" key layout, I'm in the process of switching to a Kinesis Advantage USB keyboard using the Dvorak key layout. Here are the pros and cons as I see them:

Maltron Pros

  • Comfortable keyboard layout
  • I type about 85-110wpm on it
  • I have three of them (2 PS/2 and 1 ADB)
  • Like an old friend
  • Weird design freaks people out
  • QWERTY and Malt key layouts

Maltron Cons

  • Keyboard has weird bugs--certain key combinations flip CAPS LOCK on, keys repeat or get stuck on occasion
  • Keyboards don't feel very sturdy
  • New Maltrons (USB) have different physical key layout, which means if I buy one new one, I need to buy three new ones as I can't deal with slightly different layouts. The physical layout has already changed once in the past. :-(
  • $500 price tag
  • I really need to buy at least two new ones

Kinesis Pros

  • Even more comfortable key layout
  • Slightly less weird design still freaks people out
  • Does Dvorak and QWERTY
  • Well made
  • USB Native
  • Lack of keypad makes it easy to mount a touchpad in the middle of the keyboard
  • $300 price tag (still, ouch)
  • If I learn Dvorak on the Kinesis, I can probably pick up Dvorak on a flat keyboard pretty easily
  • If I learn Dvorak on the Kinesis and a flat keyboard, I don't have to drag my huge keyboard with me on road trips
  • Got one at the office
  • Only need to buy one

Kinesis Cons

  • I can only type 32wpm on it so far
  • I don't have three of them
  • Not wired into my brain for emacs keybindings

So I'm switching to the Kinesis soon and my goal is to do it by July 19th (my next road trip that I'll need to do a fair bit of typing on). When I switched to the Maltron so many years ago, I taped a layout of the keyboard to the top of my monitor and spent an hour a day for two weeks typing in correspondence to get the hang of the keyboard. After that I switched to Maltron at home for two weeks, went on vacation for a week, then switched to Maltron at the office. It was a pretty painful transition with several extremely frustrating days when I was only typing on the Maltron.

So in the interest of avoiding a ton of pain and suffering by just switching cold turkey to the Kinesis, I'm spending 15 minutes a day with Ten Thumbs (which I bought many years ago) until I get my speed up to 50wpm on the Kinesis, which seems likely to take me another three weeks or so. I'm hoping that by the time I get to 50wpm, the cost of switching won't be quite so high as I'll at least be somewhat familiar with the keyboard.

So here's hoping... now if only there were a way that I could get Ten Thumbs to test me on my emacs keybindings...


Kaya said...

A USB keyboard with the old Maltron layout can be had in the form of the L89P. While I've found Maltrons to be very expensive, I prefer the positioning of the thumb keys to be superior to the Kinesis. Your mileage may vary.

jeff said...

interesting post, thanks.

so how did it go?

Fitz said...


Still using the Maltron

Jayme said...

I'm on a Maltron and am having the weird bug 'keys repeat or get stuck on occasion' problem - have you ever found a solution??? Please help!

Fitz said...

Never found a solution--I just unplug it and plug it back in.

Jonathan said...

Couple of things I don't like about the Kinesis are:
- the F keys are small and squishy (hard to tell if they've been pressed correctly). My Esc and F1 keys have stopped functioning after a few years.
- I don't like the action of they keys. They don't "buckle" - they just hit the bottom abruptly. A minor point, perhaps.

I was hoping the Maltron keys would be of better physical quality, but from your post (doesn't feel sturdy), that doesn't seem to be the case.

Any updates on your thoughts about Kinesis vs. Maltron?

Unknown said...

You don't need to unplug and replug the keyboard when its keys get 'sticky' (for me, first it stops responding to some chords, then to some whole keys, then to the whole keyboard).

There is a reset button recessed into a circular hole in the bottom of the keyboard. Hit this and the keyboard firmware resets and the bug is gone (for another half hour to an hour).

- N., Maltron keyboard sn#8005

WackelDackel said...

Some years later, I'd be interested to know how you've fared, whether you've made the switch to the Kinesis and whether you have any regrets. I'd like some help to make up my mind as to which one to buy.