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Are modern mechanical keyboards better than the ones from the 1990s?

post #1 of 7
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I'm old. Old enough to have used those beige-and-gray IBM keyboards with the coiled cables, and to remember neither particularly liking nor disliking them - after all, they were just the standard keyboard back then. However, I do remember being quite pleased when rubber-domed keyboards started becoming commonplace in the mid-late 90's, as typing became a much more private experience. As a result, I'm rather baffled by the mechanical keyboard renaissance, and even more baffled by the idea that anyone would want to pay a huge premium for one when I couldn't wait to throw mine out back in the late 90's*.

Are modern mechanical keyboards significantly better than the ones from back then, or are mechanical keyboards as a whole simply not for me?

* I've never looked back on that old keyboard with nostalgia or anything like that - my feelings toward it are still the same as they were on the day I threw it out. If anything, I like my current chiclet keyboard 100x more than I ever liked that old thing.
Edited by Peon - 4/6/14 at 12:25am
The Ancient
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The Ancient
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post #2 of 7
Well many people hold the IBM Model M and versions of it (the keyboard that you are most likely referring to) to be the holy grail of mechanical keyboards and their favorite keyboard to type on. That being said, modern mechanical keyboards offer all sorts of variety with different switches to fit different people's tastes. The biggest manufacturer, Cherry has about 6 or 7 switches that all feel very different and no one here can recommend one of them as being the best or necessarily better than any of the other ones. Not to mention the other switches out there, Alps and Topre and also the aftermarket mods that people do such as adding rubber o-rings and changing out the springs.

If you want a different typing experience than what you currently have, you should try some of the switches, but no one can definitively say that one is better than the other. There are descriptions of the most common switches on the stickied thread about mechanical keyboards and you may find a switch that interests you. It is generally accepted that mechanical switches feel better to type on than rubber dome, so you should look into it.

But to answer your question, sure modern mechanical keyboards are likely more durable than previous models, have more lighting functions, offer N key roll over, have dedicated volume buttons, and have PS 2 and USB compatibility, but I have a feeling that is not what you are looking for.
post #3 of 7
Good question, I wonder about that too. After switching over a month ago, I can safely say I prefer the mechanical switches. YMMV. I wonder the same thing sometimes when people make a big fuss over a monitor or TV being 1080p when I have been using a 1440p monitor for almost 2 years. Now I see a big fuss over 4k monitors and yet I still see folks not even 1080p yet.

Its also a case of how cheap can you go. Until I got a mechanical, I never spent more than $12 on a keyboard. Heck, I still have that rubber dome Microsoft one after 15 years of MMO abuse and it still works. The board it replaced was an AT keyboard that I paid $4 for. If you look around you can still find keyboards for less than $10 and they will get the job done for years.

The biggest thing I found about mechanical would be the wide variety of tactile feedback. After trying a few different boards I've come to like Buckling Springs, Cherry Black and Blues.
post #4 of 7
Depends in what way you are comparing them, in terms of features, I'd argue modern mechanical keyboards win in that respect due to stuff like customizable backlighting, macro keys, media keys etc. Now if you're asking were old boards "better" in terms of build quality? I'd say you could make a stronger case, boards like the Model M and Model F are renowned for being very solid.
post #5 of 7
To each their own, like with anything else that's computing-related. Some people love the old-school keyboards, and others can't stand them because they are loud. I'm typing this on a Model M (manufacture date 11/8/95) right now, and you'd have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands. I guess it depends on what's important to you--the superior tactile feedback of the buckling-spring keyboard, or the quietness of the rubber-dome models.

There are modern mechanical keyboards that are much quieter than the Model M, and with additional features and modern styling, if those things are important to you. For me, nothing beats the original, though.
     
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post #6 of 7
For me, I think the biggest reason is consistency. Even after a few months, my old G15 v2 had a different feel along the various keys. Easy to customize is a wonderful feature as well, not to mention that when you compare some of the "higher end" rubber dome keyboards (like say, the G19, which was one of the first keyboards I looked at for replacing my old G15 v2) it's a lot easier to justify the pricing. If the $150 price tags aren't what one wants, you can still regularly find good keyboards from CoolerMaster in the $65-80 price bracket.

Also, if one wants a tenkeyless design keyboard it's a LOT easier to find them as mechanicals.
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post #7 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peon View Post

I'm old. Old enough to have used those beige-and-gray IBM keyboards with the coiled cables, and to remember neither particularly liking nor disliking them - after all, they were just the standard keyboard back then. However, I do remember being quite pleased when rubber-domed keyboards started becoming commonplace in the mid-late 90's,
That's like saying Plan 9 From Outer Space has better special effects than 2001 or Gravity.

Today's mechanical keyboards are about like those from the 1990s that aren't IBMs and have soft click and usually lighter touch.

Anybody who doesn't like the old IBM keyboards either has super sensitive hearing or lacks any human soul, and I say that as a person who has no bigotry against rubber dome switches, especially those in my NMB Compaq keyboards.
Edited by larymoencurly - 4/20/14 at 7:14pm
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