Jammer's Reviews

Return of the Anykey

By Jamahl Epsicokhan

January 8, 2004

Prerequisite reading: At Death's Door

This keyboard is built like a tank. As I type on it, I can hear the sound resonating through it. It isn't a metallic or springy or clickety-clack sound, but the sound of heavy-duty, solid — but friendly — plastic, as if it were aesthetically tuned.

This thing, for a plastic keyboard, weighs a ton. There has to be metal inside it somewhere. It's solid. But it has a light touch under the surface, with a soft, absorbent quality that dampens every keystroke. It feels very familiar. As keyboards go, this feels like home.

For my birthday on Wednesday, my dad gave me his Gateway 2000 AnyKey 124 keyboard. Over a year ago, when my own AnyKey malfunctioned to the point that I declared it deceased, he offered his up. Even though it was virtually identical in every way except the precise feel of the keys (which is very close), I didn't take it then. But now he has given it to me, for what I suspect are two reasons: (1) He knew I really liked my old keyboard, and (2) he bought himself a newfangled Microsoft keyboard with that split "natural" design and all sorts of Windows-specific bells and whistles. (There are buttons on the thing that open your e-mail program or Web browser, for crying out loud. And on the X, C, and V keys are printed the words "Cut," "Copy," and "Paste." If you've been using computers for any length of time, you don't need that explained to you by printed words on keys.)

Since it was a birthday gift, he also gave me the choice: Take the Gateway keyboard, or take his brand-new Microsoft contraption. I opted for the Gateway. I think he knew I would, which is why he shopped that Microsoft thing for himself rather than for me. Not that his gift was a perfunctory pass-me-down. Not at all, under any circumstances: He buffed this thing up to a spectacular shine. He took every key off the board and cleaned underneath it. It looks like it's new out of the box. At first I thought it was, that perhaps he'd ordered one off the Internet.

On the back of my "new" keyboard is a sticker that says the following: "09-08-92." This thing is more than 11 years old. It not only predates my previous AnyKey keyboard, but also my high school graduation and Bill Clinton's presidency. Amazing. Or, perhaps more to the point, frightening.

For the past year-plus, I've been using a cheapo Logitech keyboard that had a respectable touch and got the job done. But now I'm typing the way I did for nearly a decade before that.

Now that I'm ditching my Logitech for a keyboard that hearkens back to Windows 3.1, I'm gonna have to get used to the fact that I no longer have a built-in Windows 95 key. Wait — I know what I'll do: I'll program a macro that automatically substitutes for Ctrl+Esc.

Actually pressing Ctrl+Esc just isn't worth the trouble.

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5 comments on this article

Brian Leach - Tue, Jan 15, 2008 - 10:47pm (USA Central)
I have a anykey keyboard that I aquired when I cleaned up an office building (well that was a while ago)..fell in love with it!! But when I recieved my new computer from dell (im very disapointed) did not come with a ps2 keyboard port..It only had a USB ports..I do not want to give up my old keyboard and im debating sending the computer back..Is there any adapter that works with my beautiful old Gateway 2000 keyboard??
Jammer - Wed, Jan 16, 2008 - 8:52am (USA Central)
It looks like there's a solution out there. Google "PS/2 to USB adapter."
Zeeman - Thu, Jul 17, 2008 - 5:27pm (USA Central)
I am also a lover of the old Anykey keyboard. Mine goes back to 1992 and still works fine. I'm a lefty and preferleft function keys. Almostimpossible to find now. I am also using it with a new Dell with a ps2 to USB adaptor. Keyboard works fine. Problem is that the programming function doesn't work. If you program a macro with a series of keystrokes you only get some strokes back. Does anyone know how to get the anykey to play nicely with a USB adapter?
Dan - Thu, Dec 25, 2008 - 8:20am (USA Central)
I had the same problem and got an Sii PS2 card and an adapter cable, which didn't work with my Dell Dimension.

The solution that does work is a free program called Autohotkeys (www.autohotkeys.com). You can program any key to do anything and, if you ever switch keyboards, the programming will carry over to the new keyboard (as long as it has the keys you programmed). It's fabulous.

You install the autohotkeys program and then create a file that has commands like these in it:

#SingleInstance force ; if file is executed again, replaces currently loaded file automatically

; ^xx = Ctrl + xx

^f1::Send put the text you want the key to create here
^f2::Send other text
^7::Send xxxxx{Enter}{Tab} ; programs Ctrl-7 combination to substitute xxxxx and the enter and tab keys


You put a shortcut to this file in your startup file and then it will be activated every time you reboot.
Alvin Brinson - Tue, Mar 17, 2009 - 1:46am (USA Central)
Just found one of these sitting in a friend's closet in near perfect shape. Haven't had a keyboard like this since 1996 when I sold my Focus FK 9000 (that one had a built in calculator as well as the 124 keys and macros)... I just wish this had the clicky feel like the old IBM PS/2 battlekeyboards.

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