Return of the Anykey

January 8, 2004

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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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9 comments on this post

    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??

    It looks like there's a solution out there. Google "PS/2 to USB adapter."

    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?

    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 ( 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.

    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.

    Here it is 2018 and I finally got my hands on an ANYKEY keyboard , like the one I loved many years ago.

    But my story ends sadly. First, it had an AT terminal. I got it to a USB configuration with simple adapters, but that isn't good enough to get any result on my WIN 10 OS. However, a web search suggested an "active" ps2/USB adapter ($18) and that allowed the keyboard to function. I was elated.....too soon.

    I was able to apply macros to the provided (extra) F keys, so I happily rolled along. However, soon gremlins appeared. Regular keys wouldn't provide their regular output but rather extraneous outputs, making typing impossible. Clearing all programming corrected the problem, but later programming again caused the problem.

    Is it incompatibility with WIN 10 or is this keyboard faulty? It's hard to tell, but the end result is my utter disappointment. It seems nothing is "forever".

    I'll sell the keyboard (with an explanation), hoping someone with an older OS can make it work. There remains interest in the concept, and though there are other, modern programmable keyboards, they are quite pricey and usually designed for special purpose apps that don't make them favorable for normal PC use.

    Why didn't someone continue to develop this favorable concept?


    I have been using Anykey keyboards for years. My 7 year old computer's PS-2 Keyboard input port died. I bought a "smart" PS-2 to USB adapter but the programming didn't work on my Anykey keyboard. So I bought a $15.00 PCI 32bit Dual PS2 PS/2 Card and pluged my keyboard into it. It took several weeks for a slow boat from China to deliver it but everything works fine.

    Happy to say I have been collecting the GW2k keyboards for many years. I have worn through a few, but still have a minimum of six working units.

    I have to use the PS2-USB adapters, but so far they have all worked even when changing between keyboards. Some of my laptop docks still have PS2 ports making connections very sweet.
    Best of luck to other users, maybe someday a cool replacement will be put on the market. When they do, I will start with a six count order.

    Ditto on all above. Another Lefty - I swear by mine, in use everyday continuously since windows for workgroups came out. Never touched, special ordered with "Safeskin" cover installed. Now the 4th one is wearing through & I can no longer find a replacement. I will never understand how others can live without the diagonal arrow keys, an editors blessing. I use mine through a Belkin KVM.
    I can think of no other device that has had that kind of longevity since the copper phase-out obsoleted my Practical Peripherals PMT144 modem half a decade ago.

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