Finding classic IBM-style buckling spring (or clicky) keyboards

Many of the more experienced computer users I know have a complaint about their hardware—not the computers themselves, but the keyboards.

It seems that just about every keyboard sold today seems to be incredibly lacking in tactile feedback. Even high-end ergonomic keyboards all seem to have the same mushy, flimsy response. For users who were reared on the classic buckling spring (or "clicky") IBM keyboard, it's like typing on air. The older keyboards may have made a lot of noise and required more force to use, but they strongly appeal to certain users. In fact, some people can't type well on anything else because of the lack of tactile feedback.

I'm one of those people. For the longest time, my keyboard of preference was NMB Technologies' RT6856TW, a keyboard that was manufactured for and packaged with many of the desktop computers from Micron PC. It doesn't have the full click response of the classic IBM models, but it feels far more solid to type on than almost anything I've tried lately (including the mass-market Microsoft and Logitech keyboards). Unfortunately, the model has been discontinued, and the only places to find one would be through a spare parts supplier or eBay.

However, I've discovered a site where genuine IBM-manufactured clicky keyboards are resold:

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ClickyKeyboard.com. Unfortunately, some of these original keyboards go for as much as $150. Perhaps the best place to go for newly manufactured keyboards that use the same buckling spring technology is PCKeyboard.com, which sells a model they call the Customizer—a 101/104-key model, complete with the Windows function key, that uses the classic IBM tactile-feedback keyswitch mechanism. At $49 to $59, the models are not inexpensive, but quantity discounts are available, they're made in the U.S., they come in both USB and PS/2 versions, and they carry 18-month parts-and-labor warranties. Other models in different styles are also available.


Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!

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This was first published in March 2006

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