Saturday, December 24, 2016

favorite tool, cleaning and restoration

Laura OLPH's husband, Professor Jack, is (I think it fair to say; I had to look up the word to be sure) a fountain pen aficionado. I like rolling writers, but I wouldn't say that I care enough about them to know one from another. But it has come to me that I am fussy about computer keyboards. On the super-geeky-Linux-computer that I use for real writing and processor-intensive work, I have a Unicomp keyboard (the Ultra Classic White USB Buckling Spring), and, to the computer I use at work, I've attached an Epson-branded IBM Model M with the buckling-spring action, that I got at a garage sale back before the world went completely mad. (You can decide exactly when that was; I've had the keyboard for well over a decade.)

That old keyboard has the big 5-pin DIN connector, that doesn't connect to anything anymore. I have a DIN-to-PS2 adapter there, and then a PS2-to-USB connector after that (I had to get a standards-compliant one; the cheap one that comes with some keyboards doesn't provide the right kind of power, or something). The keyboard is loud; I had to put it on a towel to mute the noise in order to reduce the complaints of my neighbors. But I'm much faster and more accurate on it than I am on most keyboards (especially these combinations of jokes and excrescences that are laptop keyboards, on which I'm typing this now, and which is resisting me at every turn. How do you write BOOKS on these, Professor Jack?). Typing on the membrane keyboards provided at work hurts my hands, and feels klutzy. I've decided that the use of this keyboard is a "reasonable accommodation", within the meaning of the ADA.

The age of the work keyboard is probably a non-trivial percentage of my own age, and it was beginning to show it. I decided to bring it home and clean the key caps. The caps pop off. I soaked 'em in some hot water and detergent, and they're substantially less grimy. But beneath the key action, the plate below looked a bit scary. I pried off the plastic undercaps, and got to this:

Much of that scriminess was caked in and wouldn't just blow out with the compressed-air can, but the judicial application of alcohol on a rag and elbow grease got much of it. Some had to be chopped out with a screwdriver.

Into each of those white cylinders in the key centers goes a tiny spring, under the white undercap. I lost one and one broke, but the rest are back in place (I've sacrificed two of the F1-12 keys in the top row, for the time being).

The springs are available for about 10¢ each... but you have to buy 'em in lots of 100. Even with that and shipping, it's much cheaper than buying a new-old clicky-spring keyboard (and now I'll have supplies for the next time I do this... which, if I keep to my current schedule, will be a couple of years after I retire). I expect the cavalry to arrive with new supplies before the New Year.

(You take pictures of the keyboard as you're taking the key caps off to make sure you get 'em back on in the proper places. The one thing I flunked in high school was Personal Typing, in which class we had typewriters - yes, manual typewriters - with no labels on the keys. Typing speed was a function of words-per-minute minus a factor for errors, and I regularly got typing speeds in the negative range. [Time and experience have greatly improved my accuracy.] I would not like to have to depend on my memory to restore the key caps to their proper places.)

(Oh, and I've been checking my progress typing on this benighted plague of a laptop keyboard; I'd say I got an average of four errors per paragraph that I had to go back and fix; there were five in this sentence alone. I assure you; I'm much more accurate and speedy on a real damn keyboard.)

No comments:

Post a Comment