At death's door

October 14, 2002

Article Text

It's on its last breath, perhaps life support. It's sputtering and winding down and I'm not sure that I can save it. Even if I could, I'd be a sentimental fool to try too hard. It's simply not worth it. Nobody bothers saving something like this.

My keyboard, I fear, is dying.

My keyboard — a Gateway 2000 AnyKey programmable keyboard — was just a few days ago alive and well. I was typing away on it, and it was on the job, a reliable old friend putting on the screen whatever I told it to. But now, regrettably, I must pull the plug.

Me and my AnyKey, we've been through many years together. I've had the keyboard since fall 1994, during my very first semester as a naive freshman at the University of Illinois. I remember the day I got it. My dad had a keyboard just like it — it had come with the last computer he'd bought from Gateway 2000 ("Gateway 2000." Too funny; it's been years since they've been called that). I wanted one like it. You could program keystrokes and set up one-touch macros. It had F1 through F12 keys along the top and along the left. It was solid but not too heavy or clunky. My dad managed to get a second keyboard from a coworker who didn't want it. So one day in September or October during the early weeks of my college experience, I had my new keyboard. I traded in that older, boxier Gateway 2000 keyboard that I had been using. (I'm pretty sure, now that I think of it, that one still works — it's taunting me for being disloyal and discarding it in favor of something better.)

I used that keyboard nearly every day for the last eight years. Just about every English paper I wrote was typed on that keyboard — although, I must add, that's not as many English papers as I typed the night before and continuing into the morning and minutes before they were due in my 10 a.m. class. I doubt anything could compete with that percentage.

Star Trek: Hypertext, in its first form and every form ever since, was created on that keyboard. (Also with a mouse, of which I've gone through several, but who cares about mice? They're ugly, disposable rodents.) Even if they weren't written on my trusty AnyKey, every review of mine that found its way to the Web would be passed through my keyboard at some point in the production, even if it was just for the mechanical aspects of creating pages or formatting text.

Yeah, I know — it's just a silly keyboard. But it's my keyboard, and my favorite. I can't buy a new one (Gateway doesn't make 'em the way they used to) — not unless I want to spend time and effort and money looking for one on eBay. I don't, because that would only prove exactly how lame I am. Besides, I don't need this keyboard. It's easily replaced. I might even find one I like better. Then again, I might not find one with a 9-button arrow-key formation, including diagonals and mini-spacebar for the center. That's a weird configuration most keyboards just don't have. And too bad, too, because I've gotten awfully used to playing Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man with the arrow keys configured like that. They don't make video games like they used to, either. Now the graphics are all, like, realistic and stuff. Whatever happened to games where you eat dots and move only in four directions on a flat maze, and games as simplistically quirky as Q*bert?

My poor keyboard is just confused. Real confused. You see, it thinks there's a key constantly pressed down. Or maybe several keys. Heck, I don't know. There have been some minor symptoms before this, but mostly little flukes. The debilitating disease of now came from nowhere. All I know is that one minute I'm browsing the Web, and then the next thing I know, my keyboard's typing "skjeockjweksiune" into Internet Explorer's URL bar. I didn't tell it to do that. I don't know of any Web site located at "skjeockjweksiune," so about all I can do is declare my trusty AnyKey officially and totally insane. Maybe it knows something I don't. Or maybe it's been taking drugs while I'm not looking. Or maybe it fell head over heels in love with a young, attractive keyboard and is not mentally in the game. Maybe that keyboard is cheating on my keyboard.

Now when I reboot, I just get the generic message, "KEYBOARD ERROR OR NO KEYBOARD PRESENT." Then my computer starts making clicking noises if I press any keys, apparently because Mr. Keyboard is off doing his own thing by typing gibberish on its own and overloading the keystroke buffer. PCs don't like being poked in the ribs like that. Would you?

I've tried to rescue my keyboard by cleaning it, and then I tried to take it apart. Maybe there was something inside that was holding down a key, I thought. Nope — doesn't look like the solution will be that simple. Probably something electronic that's fubar on the circuit board. I can't fix that. Maybe if I had survived as a computer engineering major I could've been of more use to my dying keyboard. It'd be the least I could've done since my keyboard helped me through those awful semesters the best it could (which, by the way, was not nearly good enough).

I'm afraid it might just be time to let my keyboard go, so it can ascend into keyboard heaven, or wherever deceased keyboards go. Sort of like the one my friend Wade had to let go his freshman year, after his roommate spilled Snapple on it and then, amazingly, denied it. Now there's a keyboard that went before its time. Snapple can do to a keyboard in two seconds what takes normal usage eight years. Wade's roommate (we used to call him Jerky) should've been charged with keyboardslaughter and for trying to hide the evidence of his crime (which can be pretty hard when all of the keys inexplicably stick in the down position when your roommate gets home and types on them).

My dad offered me his old Gateway 2000 AnyKey, but I don't know if I'm going to take it. It doesn't quite have the same touch mine does (mine's a model-year or two newer, even if it bought the dust sooner), and it's just not my keyboard. Besides, it might just be time for a change. Maybe I'll go out and buy something new and nifty and fancy ... but then, of course, I'd be a fool, since you should never pay more than 12 bucks for a blasted silly keyboard. Sheesh, it's a keyboard; would you spend 50 bucks?

Just think — the next keyboard I get will almost certainly have one of those silly newfangled Windows 95 keys on it. That's okay, because I know better. For me it will always be Ctrl+Esc. Just like on my trusted AnyKey. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Besides, that silly little Windows key is for novices.

See also: Return of the AnyKey

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