Writers Bliss – The SpaceSaver M Keyboard
Review

On July 27, 2011, in Keyboard, Review, by Tim Robertson

SpaceSaver M Keyboard
Company: Unicomp
Price: $94
http://pckeyboards.stores.yahoo.net/onthestick.html

A while back, I was talking with an engineer who is also a big Mac fan. He uses a docked Macbook Pro in the office, attached to a big monitor and a… IBM keyboard? Upon closer inspection, I noticed it was an original IBM Model M keyboard, which I have always considered the best pure typing keyboard ever made. When I asked him about it, it sparked a half-hour conversation, in which he agreed it was the best ever made, and he showed me the PS2 to USB adapter he used to make the old keyboard work on his modern Macintosh.


This sparked an interest in me, and I wanted to see what are the best keyboards currently available for sale today. As much as I love using my Macintosh, I detest the chicklets keyboard that Apple ships with every Mac, including the built-in ones on all the portable lines. They are not designed for a writer. They keys all feel the same, they feel cheap, and they are all flat. I dislike it.

So when I started my search, I started by looking up more information on the fabled IBM Model M. This led me to a very interesting Wikipedia page on the keyboard (found here) with some links to external sites. Eventually, my online searching led me to this YaHoo store page for a company called Unicomp. While not a very inspiring website, it did claim to own the rights to build and sell the modern version of the Model M, updated with modern electronics and, of course, USB connection. The SpaceSaver M version, in particular, looked like just what I was searching for.

I forgot just how fast of a typist I actually am. Most modern keyboards, especially the current crop of keyboards from Apple, actually hinder my typing speed. I spend much more time making typing errors than I used to. Was I just getting lazy, or could the keyboard actually be at fault? After just two days with this faux-Model M, I firmly believe the culprit is not my fingers, but these new keyboards. I am almost a third faster, and 90% more accurate, using the SpaceSaver M keyboard.

The old, familiar “clank-clank-clank” of typing on this keyboard is reassuring and comforting in a way that is hard to describe, especially once I get on a roll and really get to typing. Ah, the memories…

The tactile spring-loaded feel of the keys are just, well, right. You actually can feel each and every push of the keys. It is a mechanical familiarity that those in their teens and twenties simply cannot appreciate, but those in my age group (I am in my forties) simply don’t realize how much they miss.

We all overlook, at times, the basics. Why should we settle for a physically more appealing keyboard over a functional superior one? New is not always better.

IBM originally designed the Model F keyboard based on their decades old, and well researched and developed, IBM typewriter technology. When it came to typewriters, IBM was king. This was before the advent of personal computers, of course, and IBM had done a ton of research and development to create a keyboard for their typewriters that stood head and shoulders above the competition. When IBM originally started selling computers, they took the same tact with developing the desktop keyboard, and result was the Model F. However, once the personal computer started to sell in greater numbers, and the need for more keys on the keyboard became apparent, the IBM Model M was born, and while very different than the Model F, the basic ergonomics were still there.

In 1991, IBM divested a number of its hardware manufacturing operations, one of the them Model M keyboard. (full story here) The company who now makes this Model M is Unicomp, a company formed by ex-Lexmark employees. Lexmark was the company who originally took over manufacturing of the Model M from IBM.

The SpaceSaver M is the Macintosh variant of the Model M. It has been specifically designed for the Apple Macintosh. In includes full Mac keyboard compatibility, including Audio mute, volume up and down, monitor brightness controls, expose and dashboard, and eject key. In short, this is a Macintosh keyboard, with the added benefit of being full sized and ergonomically better.

I love design. I like when my keyboard looks like my monitor, or iMac. It just looks better, all shinny and new. But for my money, as a writer, I would rather have a keyboard that is three times to size, and looks nothing like my computer, if that keyboard works as well as the SpaceSaver M. This is a better keyboard in every way.

I am not one for hyperbole, but let me make this as plain as I can: if you type a lot, and you find yourself not as efficient as you used to be using one of the newer keyboards out there, do yourself the favor and pick up the SpaceSaver M. If you are a PC user, then pick up the Customizer 104/105, which is the same keyboard for but PC users.

This is, far and away, the best keyboard you can buy.

MyMac Rating: 10 out of 10

One Response to Writers Bliss – The SpaceSaver M Keyboard
Review

  1. Mike Breed says:

    Ahhh… that keyboard brings back memories of the days I worked at a local bank during my high school summer vacations. I had to input data for huge lists of accounts over and over and over and over… well, you get the idea. No such thing as macros back then. It was human input 100%. At any rate, I used that keyboard A LOT. I can still feel the resistance of the keys and the clicking sounds they made. It was how the boss knew you were actually working! Thanks for the review, Tim.

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