In the 1990s, Northgate Omnikey keyboards had a special place in the hearts of early computer users. They were solid and heavy and durable and the keys took just the right amount of pressure and gave just the right click. Northgate also challenged the keyboard layout introduced by IBM with small but important changes. Take a look at your keyboard and imagine if the useless Caps Lock key was replaced with the Ctrl key! I used Ctrl key shortcuts for years because they were so convenient with my Northgate keyboards.
No momentum ever developed for changing the keyboard so we spent years tYPING lIKE tHIS before Microsoft Word learned to turn off Caps Lock whenever it could. It’s less of an annoyance now, but my left little finger is still occasionally nostalgic for when it was a more valuable member of the team.
Almost everyone uses the free keyboards included as an afterthought by the computer manufacturers. I cringed when Dell switched to super-cheap keyboards a couple of years ago, like the one at right, but no one seemed to notice. (Replacements are $21.99, which ought to give you an idea of their quality.)
Northgate keyboards live on! The company has been out of business for years but Creative Vision Technologies bought the keyboard line and is manufacturing keyboards with exactly the same specs. The Avant Prime ($149) and Avant Stellar ($189) are exact clones, made out of steel and weighing more than five pounds. They proudly say:
There was a time when every part of a computer was manufactured to the highest possible quality standard. Some called it good quality control. Some called it over-engineering. The Avant Prime is calling it something that was built to last.
Although the keyboards ship with standard layouts, replacement key caps are included for the brave souls who want to switch the Ctrl, Alt, and Caps Lock keys around.
It’s quite an indulgence but I’m sorely tempted. Don’t you wish HP would apply the same philosophy and give us some “over-engineered” printers that are as solid as the old HP LaserJet III printers used to be?