Illustrated Keyboard Evolution

I have a really bad typing habit. It seemed I’ve always had it, but that’s not really true. It finally dawned on me: my fingers must be remembering something. But, what? It turns out our lack of a uniform keyboard character standard dates back to the 1920’s, if not earlier.

When I type contractions like isn’t, can’t, doesn’t or won’t, likely as not, I won;t type it correctly. It’s embarrassing. It looks like I just don’t care enough to proof-read my text. As my eyes increasingly reveal symptoms of old age, it becomes harder for me to spot my little mis-punctuations.

On a modern Mac or PC keyboard, the semicolon (‘;’) is adjacent just to the right of the apostrophe (”’). But I first became aware of my new typographical problem some time in my early Mac days. I’m not even a touch typist; I’m a hunt-and-peck artist, summa cum laude, at speeds up to 70wpm on a good day. What, then, were my fingers “remembering?”

I Googled search term “typewriter keyboard,” quickly learning that American typewriters, at least, were uniform as to letter key placement. But they were somewhat inconsistent on punctuation character placement. Most of the early mechanical manual typewriters placed the apostrophe above the ‘8’ key, or SHIFT-8.

My first typewriter as a kid was an awful old Smith Corona, literally not much newer than the one pictured below. My parents palmed it off on us kids, and bought themselves an Underwood – on which I stole hundreds of hours.

Smith Corona



My last typewriter was a state-of-the-art IBM Selectric. Note that its keyboard layout is identical to those on the modern Mac and PC:

IBM Selectric


But my first desktop computer was my Apple II, and it seemed clear some of the punctuation keys went “anywhere there’s room.”

Apple II











I’ve composed on modern Mac and PC keyboards since I bought my Mac Classic, around 1986. The keyboard layout had morphed back to the now “standard” Selectric layout, where key placement has largely remained on mainstream keyboards ever since.

Mac Classic










I used Keytronics keyboards for years on the PC. I’ve used Apple Extended and Logitech on Mac ever since. I close this riff with a photo of my Logitech. It’s solar powered, and really works, even in low ambient light. It has a standard layout, and may be the best keyboard I ever owned. But my fingers are still confused.

Logitech Solar






11,661 total views, no views today



Welcome to our Computers page, with articles on computer hardware and software, networking, programming, digital music technology, and more.

1,144 total views, no views today

Mac & Windows Notes

I continue to enjoy my Mac Pro (under Snow Leopard) and my PC (with newly installed Windows 7-64). Following are some collected notes & observations.

  • Music: for years I’ve been careful to select PC motherboards with the best onboard sound processors (DAC’s). I knew I would be interested in finding the results of A/B sound comparisons between Mac and PC playing the same iTunes tracks in synch.
  • iTunes: “PC music” is a hot topic in the high-end audio magazines these days. The thinking is that you have to get an external DAC to wring true “hi-fi” stereo sound out of your PC – and the pros are often as not using iTunes to create their own state of the art music servers – something I’ve been doing for years, using just the onboard digital-to-analog logic.
  • And the audio quality winner is: Continue reading

1,189 total views, no views today


Jalbum - photo slideshow software

Jalbum - photo slideshow software

 This review is a no-brainer. Jalbum, the photo slideshow builder app, gets our 5-star rating for:

  • being very easy to use
  • producing stunning results
  • truly professional presentation and cool display
  • advanced features
  • freeware (donations accepted)
  • low bug rate from version to version

And more:
Continue reading

1,556 total views, no views today

Edmund Scientifics

Edmund Scientifics has been around almost as long as I have. They offer kid-centric scientific toys, experiments and instruments that really work. They have an astronomy department now too, with Celestron and some pretty respectable other models in the smaller, young-adult aperture sizes. I wish my parents would have gotten me a telescope. But, after my little brothers got into my chemistry set, I don’t think they’d have had a lot of interest in spending good money or more gadgets. I would have to wait until I had my own hard-earned money. Somehow, Edmund caught up with me again after 50 years, and I am getting their catalogs. I haven’t ordered anything. And here’s an item that suggests my parents had the right idea (below). What I want to know: maybe it’s cool, but why does it need 100MB hard disk space?
Continue reading

875 total views, no views today

Build a Music Server “on the cheap”

Respected audio guru Wes Phillips reviews the Linn Klimax DS network music player in the current March Stereophile magazine. It streams 124KHz 24 bit music to a hardwired home music network. If you can afford the $20,000 price tag (even money, no $19,999.99 bait-and-switch here) then you can probably also afford to hire an outside shop to rip your entire CD library to proprietary FLAC digital audio files, which you can then route through the whole house on a state of the art proprietary software platform.
Continue reading

2,951 total views, no views today

25 Year Mark for PC’s

This month’s PC World magazine is celebrating their 25th anniversary, which pretty much coincides with the rollout of the IBM PC. Holy cow, has it been that long?

I bought my first personal computer, an Apple II with two 5-1/4 inch floppy drives and 48KB of RAM, in 1979. By 1982 PC Magazine was launched to cover the new IBM PC. (PC World was a spin-off startup after the earlier PC Magazine was sold to new owners, in the same year).
Continue reading

620 total views, no views today

PC in a Drum

L Series enclosuresNo, it’s not a drum, it’s a custom PC enclosure made of maple, and accepts the standard build-it-yourself PC hardware.

I’ve got to admit this is way cool. I’m not a musician, but if I were a drummer, or just the music lover that I am with lots of room to display nice things, I would have to have one of these. In my apartment I can always plead, “but where would I put it?”
Continue reading

752 total views, no views today

Streaming Radio Stations

After years of futzing with things like the dreadfully in-your-face RealPlayer, I didn’t think it would work. A newsletter from KDFC, my favorite classical station, prompted me to visit their KDFC website. I noticed a “Click to Listen” link in the upper left corner of the page, and clicked it. (You will have to do the same, as the link is done in Flash and can’t be copied and pasted here).

The “Listen Online” page provides links to the free online streams that best matches Windows Media Player, WinAmp or iTunes, RealPlayer (broadband), or Windows Media Player or WinAmp or iTunes (dialup). I use iTunes as my default player. I was invited to open or save a file named “broadband.m3u”. I saved it to the desktop. I double-clicked it.
Continue reading

649 total views, no views today

DataDesk Keyboard Fans

Five years ago I posted a review on the DataDesk 101E keyboard. I went out to the DataDesk website today and it is still there; it looks much like what I can remember from the year 2001. Not many people know about this excellent but obscure keyboard. Still, I’ve received a trickle of mail on the topic. The latest round was just a lot of plain fun; with the author’s permission I’ve copied it below.
Continue reading

897 total views, no views today