Let Developers Choose Their Keyboards

IBM XT KeyboardReading the Google workplace article a while back, it struck me that what works at Google likely doesn’t work in most workplaces (for a number of reasons). Cost, physical work environment, supported platforms, workplace culture–all of these are reasonable barriers to allowing employees choose their work environment.

As I type on my home computer, using my Mac wireless keyboard and and “Magic Trackpad,” I can’t help but think of how much I actually enjoy typing on this keyboard and using the trackpad. Fortunately, I have the same setup at work, and if I did not, I would probably bring in my own keyboard and mouse… In fact, I have done just that in the past.

Most companies issue Dell computers–laptops or desktops–or both. Where I work now, I have both a Macbook Pro and a Dell desktop (both are necessary). I’ve found that the cheap Dell keyboards (and mice) that come with the computers are almost unusable. The keyboards offer horrible feedback, some keys stick, and the key layout seems a little odd (I send up fat fingering). As for the the Dell mouse–it is just plain uncomfortable. It seems that these devices were assembled only with cost in mind. This may seem nit picky, but when one has to use this equipment all day long, comfort and enjoyment of the devices really does matter. As I look around I see a fair number of employees (and this is true of anywhere I have worked) who choose instead to use personal keyboards and mice. And there are a few who actually like the Dell keyboard (I don’t know why, but they do.)

A while back, I found an old IBM XT keyboard–a mechanical keyboard with big clicky mechanical keys. It was laying in a box of old junk at work. I asked if I could use it, and nobody objected… I bought a cheap USB adapter and tried it out… I immediately loved typing on it! It looks a little funny on my desk, but the experience of using it just makes me feel like typing. Of course, the huge IBM XT keyboard is probably not something that everyone enjoys. When it comes to comfort, there is no “one size fits all” solution.

My point here may seem a little strange. While we all cannot work at a place where an employer has the ability to fund an extremely expensive work environment on a per-employee basis, I really think giving an employee a small budget of $75 or so to pick out his/her own keyboard and mouse might be an inexpensive way to boost productivity, even if it is only in some minor way. As I poked around searching for other articles on this subject, I didn’t find much–so perhaps this is just crazy talk.

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One thought on “Let Developers Choose Their Keyboards

  1. I was actually surprised to find out that many developers just don’t care. Well, at least in our company. But those who do… can choose whatever they want, from hardware to software. I have my Mac Mini with 12 GB of RAM and all the software of my choice, Matias Quiet Pro keyboard and a Razer mouse. If I was forced to type on some cheap Dell keyboard and use Windows, I’d be long time gone from this place, even if I was paid extra for that, money don’t buy happiness :)

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