Unicomp Linux 101
By Paul Cipywnyk
Clackety clackety clack!
Do you remember the good old "buckling spring" IBM keyboards? The big, heavy suckers that
made a racket but lasted forever? Well, I just got a brand new one for US $69.00, and
after a few days of use, it feels great. Not only does it snap, crackle and pop, I ordered
it with the Control key where it *should* be -- next to the "A" key where my pinky can
stab it with the minimum amount of finger movement and wrist contortions.
I'd been using a circa 1992 or 1993 Gateway programmable keyboard from an age when the
logo still says "Gateway 2000." I inherited it from a business I started with a buddy in
Japan eons ago, and when some no-name keyboard that I'd been using died, the Gateway
keyboard got plugged into the KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) box that connects me to several
computers. The Gateway keyboard has two sets of function keys across the top and down the
left side, and eight arrow keys. Yep, eight. The regular "North, South, East, West" along
with "Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest" set up in a box layout. I never used
all of those "features," and sometimes cursed those strange extra keys when I hit them by
Then one day this spring I delved into my two-foot stack of "to be read" magazines and ran
across an article in the November 2001 issue of Linux Journal (www.linuxjournal.com) by
Eric S. Raymond of The Cathedral and the Bazaar fame. He was writing about "Building the
Ultimate Linux Box," and in the story he also talked about his favorite keyboard:
"Like many hackers of a certain age, I imprinted on the IBM Model M keyboard about 20
years ago. They have a relatively stiff travel with a sharp break and a positive keyclick
that can only be described as crunchy. They inspire cult-like devotion. It's still
possible to buy the real Model M, armor-plated case and all. They're not being
manufactured anymore, but old stocks are still being sold. You want these IBM model
numbers: 42H1292 (IBM 101-key, buckling-spring keyboard) and 1393278 (IBM SpaceSaver
compact, heavy-duty 84 keyboard). They're both available from Unicomp."
Intrigued, I plugged "Unicomp" into a Google (www.google.com) Web search and came up with
www.pckeyboard.com at the top of the list.
Unfortunately, only four months after the Raymond story hit the racks, the 42H1292 was
sold out, but Unicomp makes replacements in some 40 languages, along with other
interesting variations. The "Linux 101" caught my eye. Basically it's a remake of the
classic IBM 101-key, buckling spring keyboard, with a few key placement enhancements aimed
at Linux/Unix users, but ones I find handy for heavy-duty text editing in many Windows
programs as well.
"The Linux 101 is a programmed keyboard that rearranges the Ctrl, Caps-Lock and Esc keys
for a more convenient layout for Linux users. Available in either buckling spring or
rubber dome." Hit the Unicomp (www.pckeyboard.com) site for their extensive line of
keyboards, and graphics of key layouts.
So who's Unicomp?
Well, according to the website, Unicomp took over IBM's keyboard business from Lexmark in
1996, which in turn had been spun off from IBM.
This keyboard reminds me of the Computer Science 101 class I dropped out of nearly 20
years ago when my writing/artsy side overrode inklings of "hey, computers are the future."
I never took another CompSci class, but I ended up writing a lot, editing a lot, and
spending many long days banging away on keyboards....
Clackety clackety clack.
That sounds, and feels, good. :-)
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April , 2002
The Newsletter of the
Tokyo PC Users Group
Tokyo PC Users Group,
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