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Unicomp Linux 101
Keyboard Review

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 accident.

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 ( 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 ( Web search and came up with 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 ( 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. :-)

© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

April , 2002

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN