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.