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Terrible Keyboards on Computers of the 70's and 80's


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Forgot about the TI-99/4

 

I didn't forget. There were only 12 slots available and I wanted to include systems in my collection so I didn't have to source external photos. Unfortunately, I had won a TI-99/4 several years back on eBay, but it was "lost" in the mail. That's also why I limited it to North American systems. Between the rest of the North American systems and other systems throughout the world, the gallery would have easily exceeded two dozen slots.

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That's also why I limited it to North American systems.

At the risk of nitpicking, should the ZX80 really be considered a North American system?

 

Everyone talks about how bad the CoCo1 keyboard is, but I like it quite a bit. It feels like what I imagine a laptop keyboard would be like if laptop keyboards had actual keys.

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At the risk of nitpicking, should the ZX80 really be considered a North American system?

 

Everyone talks about how bad the CoCo1 keyboard is, but I like it quite a bit. It feels like what I imagine a laptop keyboard would be like if laptop keyboards had actual keys.

 

NItpick away. The ZX80 and ZX81 were actually sold here in the US.

 

As for the original CoCo keyboard, some really do like it. Others, not so much. It's actually the only keyboard from the 12 that I listed that I've gotten that type of mixed reaction on. I honestly expected a few more to express liking some of the other keyboards.

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I used to think the small keyboard on the PET 2001 would not be that awful to type on, but after trying one earlier this fall, I must admit it belongs on the list even if it pains my heart.

 

Out of the others, I haven't really tried to type on many of those, but the MC-10 keyboard perhaps is better than its reputation, at least if my Alice 4K is anything to go by. Compared to the CoCo 1 I used to own for a while, the Alice feels far less awkward to type on, but it could also be a matter of how worn the membrane (?) underneath the keys is.

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I used to think the small keyboard on the PET 2001 would not be that awful to type on, but after trying one earlier this fall, I must admit it belongs on the list even if it pains my heart.

 

Out of the others, I haven't really tried to type on many of those, but the MC-10 keyboard perhaps is better than its reputation, at least if my Alice 4K is anything to go by. Compared to the CoCo 1 I used to own for a while, the Alice feels far less awkward to type on, but it could also be a matter of how worn the membrane (?) underneath the keys is.

 

Yeah, I think we'd be hard pressed to find fans of the original PET keyboard. Unless you're a child with very small hands, it's just way too close together for any type of comfort or more than single-fingered usability. I like the looks of it myself and can appreciate how unique it is, but that doesn't mean I enjoy using it.

 

To contradict what I said earlier, I do remember getting one response from a person who said the MC-10's keyboard is pretty good, especially considering the size of the unit itself, and have even said it's better than the CoCo 1's. I just can't agree with that myself, but considering the Matra Alice clones the MC-10, your impression of that would almost certainly apply to the MC-10 itself, although I've never personally used an Alice to confirm.

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Hey! That's a pretty neat... get ideas out of Atari Age threads, and then write articles for magazines.

(example) I wish I had thought of that! :)

 

BTW - Thanks for leaving the TI-99/4 off the list!!! :thumbsup:

 

Yes, that's exactly where I got the idea from, because I've never thought to explore my collection in books, movies, and articles before, or ever discussed keyboards before (nice also of PC Gamer to assign it to me even though it's an idea that's been explored umpteen times before).

 

In any case, for the record, I really don't care for slideshow articles as I often consider them lazy ways of getting traffic, but I like to think I added value in my commentary in the limited space provided. I actually wrote it up as a normal feature, but they wanted it as a slideshow, so there you go.

 

As for the TI-99/4, it would have absolutely made the list, but, like mentioned earlier, I don't as of yet have one in my collection, so I would have been unable to photograph it for the piece. I'm not sure what I would have left off in its place, though, but it's definitely one of the more notorious bad keyboards.

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NItpick away. The ZX80 and ZX81 were actually sold here in the US.

Were they actually carried in retail outlets or was it more of mail order situation? I know they were sold as kits; were they also available assembled? I have a USA ZX81 and the board looks too good to have been done by an amateur hobbyist.

 

And to continue my earlier nitpicking, the Atari 800 was sold in the UK, but I wouldn't call it a British system. (Okay, I'm done now. :P :-D )

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(nice also of PC Gamer to assign it to me even though it's an idea that's been explored umpteen times before).

 

In any case, for the record, I really don't care for slideshow articles as I often consider them lazy ways of getting traffic, but I like to think I added value in my commentary in the limited space provided. I actually wrote it up as a normal feature, but they wanted it as a slideshow, so there you go.

 

As for the TI-99/4, it would have absolutely made the list, but, like mentioned earlier, I don't as of yet have one in my collection, so I would have been unable to photograph it for the piece.

 

Good article, I liked it just the way it was.

 

Assigned huh, I thought it was an original idea from a Atari Age guy trying to bring some attention to the older rigs. True, some things have been 'worked over', but new people are always coming and going, so it's gonna be new to someone. Hell, even Hollywood recycles movies and ideas and still makes money at it. (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.) I recognize that being "in the biz" you are into all this deeper than most of us, and probably pay daily attention to it all, so It's understandable if any of this bores you.

 

Yes, the 4's keyboard really, really, sucked, but whatever the reason, I'm still glad it was left off!

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Were they actually carried in retail outlets or was it more of mail order situation? I know they were sold as kits; were they also available assembled? I have a USA ZX81 and the board looks too good to have been done by an amateur hobbyist.

 

And to continue my earlier nitpicking, the Atari 800 was sold in the UK, but I wouldn't call it a British system. (Okay, I'm done now. :P :-D )

 

Mail order only as far as I know, but then a lot of computers had little or limited retail distribution at that time.

 

And yes, my qualifier for "North American system" was actually sold in North America. That purposely excluded systems that I would have otherwise included, like the ZX Spectrum or Sega SC-3000. I was considering including other systems like the TRS-80 Pocket Computer or TI CC-40, but tried to limit it to fuller featured computers, particularly with so few slots (with that said, I wasthisclose to including the Bally Astrocade, but obviously decided against it).

Edited by Bill Loguidice
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Good article, I liked it just the way it was.

 

Assigned huh, I thought it was an original idea from a Atari Age guy trying to bring some attention to the older rigs. True, some things have been 'worked over', but new people are always coming and going, so it's gonna be new to someone. Hell, even Hollywood recycles movies and ideas and still makes money at it. (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.) I recognize that being "in the biz" you are into all this deeper than most of us, and probably pay daily attention to it all, so It's understandable if any of this bores you.

 

Yes, the 4's keyboard really, really, sucked, but whatever the reason, I'm still glad it was left off!

 

No, it was my idea, but it still needs to be approved and contracted for (and the specifics worked out, i.e., the length they want and any special requirements). I can't just write anything I want for them. I'm just a freelancer under contract.

 

I did have some hesitation about pitching the idea beyond what I already indicated, particularly since there have been countless "bad computer" style features before. If I didn't think I could bring some fresh perspective or highlight some systems that haven't been highlighted before, I wouldn't have done it. I don't like treading on familiar ground. There are too many wonderful topics worth exploring with a vintage slant to bother with that.

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Mail order only as far as I know, but then a lot of computers had little or limited retail distribution at that time.

As an Original Owner of a ZX-81 Kit, from Back in the Day, the ZX-81 was Mail Order only, but the replacement, TS-1000, was sold at Timex Dealers... I now have 8 ZX-81/TS-1000...

 

And yes, my qualifier for "North American system" was actually sold in North America. That purposely excluded systems that I would have otherwise included, like the ZX Spectrum or Sega SC-3000. I was considering including other systems like the TRS-80 Pocket Computer or TI CC-40, but tried to limit it to fuller featured computers, particularly with so few slots.

I thought the TI99/4(A) keyboard wasn't as bad as some of them.........

 

MarkO

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As an Original Owner of a ZX-81 Kit, from Back in the Day, the ZX-81 was Mail Order only, but the replacement, TS-1000, was sold at Timex Dealers... I now have 8 ZX-81/TS-1000...

 

 

I thought the TI99/4(A) keyboard wasn't as bad as some of them.........

 

MarkO

 

Actually, the ZX81 and Timex Sinclair 1000 were sold concurrently by agreement, but obviously the Sinclair 1000 is the one that made it into regular stores.

 

The TI-99/4a keyboard is actually quite nice. It's its predecessor, the TI-99/4, that's not really up to snuff.

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Mail order only as far as I know, but then a lot of computers had little or limited retail distribution at that time.

 

And yes, my qualifier for "North American system" was actually sold in North America. That purposely excluded systems that I would have otherwise included, like the ZX Spectrum or Sega SC-3000. I was considering including other systems like the TRS-80 Pocket Computer or TI CC-40, but tried to limit it to fuller featured computers, particularly with so few slots (with that said, I wasthisclose to including the Bally Astrocade, but obviously decided against it).

I'm not sure it's fair to include a pocket computer. You aren't exactly going to get a full keyboard in that space. It would be more like some cell phones. You can't really type normally on them.

 

 

The CoCo and other solid plastic chicklet keyboards were better than the rubber ones which were better than the membrane ones for the most part.

I had to type slower on the CoCo and clean it to keep keys from binding, but it wasn't even close to the rubber key "full size" keyboards I've tried.

It was better than the TS-2068, JR-200, VZ200, TI-99/4, etc...

The MC-10 keyboard is much easier to type on than my TS-1000 with a replacement rubber key keyboard.

It's cramped but the the keys function well.

 

FWIW, I replaced the keyboard on my CoCo and could type twice as fast.

 

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Actually, the ZX81 and Timex Sinclair 1000 were sold concurrently by agreement, but obviously the Sinclair 1000 is the one that made it into regular stores.

I assumed that the TS-1000 Superseded the ZX-81... I never checked to see if the ZX-81s were still offered for sale...

 

The TI-99/4a keyboard is actually quite nice. It's its predecessor, the TI-99/4, that's not really up to snuff.

I must have only used the TI-99/4A...

 

MarkO

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Don't worry folks… going to be threads/articles like this in the future, when people reach deep into their rectums and realize they've been (trying) to type on chinsey black Chinese keyboards the past two decades. Black keyboards, whose keys you can barely make out, with a horrible "tactile" feel, on the absolute cheapest plastic you wouldn't have tolerated just a few year before. sigh

 

'Course maybe by then, it'll all be speech recognized and typing on anything will truly be a thing of the past. Yeah, good luck with that! :rolling:

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Mr SQL, on 19 Nov 2015 - 9:04 PM, said:

Great article Bill! Liked this design observation on the Aquarius keyboard :)

 

Finally, in what can only be described as the pièce de résistance, a Reset button (RST) was placed right next to the 1 key.

 

Yeah, that's got to be one of the biggest 'fuck you' I've seen with a computer. :)

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Worst thing about some old keyboards were the lack of the PC-style arrow keys in the "half-plus" setup we all have today.

 

246nfbq.jpg

 

The C64 had only two arrows and then some stupid shift key to alternate directions. It just didn't work like the PC one did.

 

Keyboards were one thing PCs did right back in the day.

 

Also, I know that flat, membrane keyboards like the Atari 400 sucked, but in retrospect, I think these were really designed for kids in mind, and I think for kids they work just fine. Safer against spills, and a kid is basically just going to be using it to select options and stuff in games and software. Not typing an essay or writing a program. For that anyone with brains would have gotten an 800 or a computer with a real keyboard.

Edited by BillyHW
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