OK this post might be a bit off topic, as it’s not specifically about coffee, but it is about the keyboard I use for writing my coffee blog posts (and everything else), so it’s kind of related… I wanted to blog about this as it’s something I really, REALLY like, it’s one item I own that I would be really stuffed if I lost it or if it broke!
I’m referring to my Kinesis Advantage keyboard, which is a WIERD looking computer keyboard, when you see it for the first time:
By the way, yeah I know my coffee is running low, and I’m about to fix that don’t worry ;-).
As you can see there are palm rests, and the keys are split with quite a wide space in between, so you rest your palms on each palm rest and your fingers of each hand go to work in their own dedicated section. It feels very odd to begin with, but once you’re used to it (took me a few days initially), it feels amazingly comfortable to type using this keyboard, it’s almost effortless.
Since starting to use this keyboard, my typing speed has increased quite a bit, and my RSI has gone! The RSI recovery is also partly down to the upright mouse that I switched to at the same time, which you can see on the right of the keyboard in the photo above – my hand is now in a more natural position when I’m using the mouse, so it doesn’t put the same kind of stress on my hand and wrist that using a standard mouse does.
The laptop I use by the way is a Lenovo G500, I’ve had it about 18 months, and it’s been a really good laptop for such a low priced machine. I paid about £350 for it nearly 18 months ago, you can get them now refurbished here on Amazon for about £250, and for a laptop with an Intel core i3 2.4Ghz processor, 8Gb of RAM and a 1 TB hard disk (1,000 Gig!) this is a bargain. I have to admit though, my boss recently took delivery of an Apple Macbook Pro, and I’m aiming my sights on one of these now, they’re an incredible bit of kit, so much power, the new “retina” display is amazing, and the thing I really love about the Apple laptops is you turn them on and they are alive almost instantly – although to be fair I have got used to having the time to go and make a coffee while I wait for it to boot up. One thing that really is annoying me at the moment about the PC laptop though is Microsoft, the almost continual updates, and the bloody annoying window that keeps popping up trying to convince me to upgrade to Windows 10 – this is pushing me even closer away from Microsoft and towards apple.
Anyway back to the keyboard… The reason I ended up with this keyboard, is RSI, or Carpal Tunnel (I’m not entirely sure which I had but I think it’s RSI). It appeared to come out of nowhere, just in my right hand, and was really debilitating! I even had to give up Thai boxing, which I was really enjoying, because I couldn’t punch a pad or bag, or hold a pad for someone else to punch or kick, the pain was that bad (if you do any kind of martial art you’ll understand why this would make it difficult).
In fact even making and drinking coffee was painful, and slow, as I am right handed, and I was having to do everything including making coffee, with my left hand. I remember once forgetting about the RSI for a second and going to open the back door with my right hand, the handle stuck slightly and then freed causing the handle to move suddenly – the pain was that sharp and strong that I almost burst into tears, which isn’t a good look for a guy approaching 40! It’s a horrible pain, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy even if I had one.
I just assumed it was because I do too much typing, however what I discovered is that it wasn’t how much typing I was doing that was the issue, it was the fact that I was doing it wrong!
I started out by researching for Ergonomic keyboards and mice. I bought my upright mouse, which was WELL worth the tenner it cost me, and then a Microsoft 4000 Ergonomic keyboard. This is when I discovered that I was typing wrong; the split layout of the keyboard caused me to realise that I was doing most of the typing with the three most dominant fingers of my right hand, and I was only using one or two fingers on my left hand. It was no wonder then, that I developed RSI in my right hand, as I was using this to operate the mouse, and to do probably 80% of the typing. I noticed this straight away with the ergonomic keyboard because I was trying to cross my right hand over and type on the left hand side.
So it then became apparent to me that if I was going to use an ergonomic keyboard like this, I’d have to learn to touch-type! I’d never thought about this before really, as I could type quite quickly anyway; as it happens I’m really thankful to the RSI for pushing me to learn to touch-type, as I now type much faster, it’s much more comfortable, and I’m more productive. Writing a coffee blog post probably takes me about half the time it would have taken me if I was still typing the old way!
I started of with the Mavis Beacon touch-typing training program, which taught me which fingers to use for which keys, the home row position and so on. Once it started to sink in after some practice, and I wasn’t constantly hunting for the keys, i then used the free Ratatype.com lessons to continue to develop my touch-typing skills, and I used typeracer.com to practice (be careful, it’s addictive!). I’d say it took me 2-3 weeks to get to become proficient (ish) at touchtyping, but probably 2-3 months to get to the point that I’m still at now, where it feels like second nature to type, and I almost never look at the keys while I’m typing, unless I need some weird symbol that I don’t use often.
I’d seen quite a lot of talk of the Kinesis Advantage on typing and coding forums etc., and what appealed to me about this is that the split between the right hand and left hand side of the keyboard is quite a bit bigger, and the keys dip down into recesses which are supposed to make it more comfortable (it does), and also the important buttons such as space, return, backspace and delete are in easier to reach places, so you don’t have to stretch. Also it’s a mechanical keyboard, proper mechanical key switches not just a rubber pad over a plastic sensor – so you get a satisfying click when you type, rather than a squish that you get with the non mechanical keyboards (it’s usually only the more expensive keyboards that are mechanical). Don’t worry too much about layout by the way, as you can re-program any keys if you like, and you can get different key caps from Kinesis if you want to change something over, for instance if you want a pound sign cap instead of dollar sign, just contact Kinesis and they’ll send you one, you just pull the key off and replace it.
The downside is it’s a very expensive keyboard, you can get them on Amazon for about £240-£250, which is the cheapest I’ve seen them except for second hand ones on eBay, which is also a great option as you will find the odd one on there where someone bought one, didn’t put the time in to get used to it (it does take a couple of days to get used to, even if you can touch-type well already) and stuck it on eBay – they don’t seem to come up often though.
For me though, this is an investment well worth making; I type a LOT, and I need to be able to type as quick as I can, and as comfortably as possible with as little chance as possible of ever ending up with painful debilitating RSI again, so an investment of this kind of money to ensure all the above is possible, is well worth it in my opinion.
If you can touch-type already, then you will still probably find it a bit of a learning curve to use the Kinesis, but if you don’t currently touch-type, meaning that you have to look for the keys, and that you don’t use the home row position ASDF-JKL:, and if like I did, you have a crap typing style which is all over the place, you’ll probably need to spend some time re-learning to type, properly, in order to get the best out of any split keyboard.
One thing to note though, if like me you type in various locations such as at home and in the office – you’ll need to carry your keyboard to work and back home again as I do, or invest in a second one! Once you get used to using this keyboard, you’ll find it very difficult to switch between this and a standard keyboard, so I wouldn’t even bother.
Right, there we go, I’ve reviewed my beloved keyboard, and I’ll now carry on blogging about coffee related stuff. My next post is going to be about cold brew, as it’s something I’ve not yet tried, so I’m going to try it out and blog about it.
By the way if you’re interested in creating your own blog, see how to start a blog.