Programmers: Make Sure You Have A Backup Keyboard (Or Three)

Programmers: Make Sure You Have A Backup Keyboard (Or Three)

For the average user, a keyboard is just an inanimate tool you use to fire off letters to your PC, but for the career programmer, finding the perfect device that matches your preferences and typing style is a mission in itself. Imagine your favourite board crapping itself and being forced to switch to one with a slightly different layout or configuration… sounds like hell, right?

Image: Eric Norris / Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

This is exactly what happened to me last night. The “S” of my current keyboard decided to die on me and no amount of cleaning, reboots or gentle smacking resolved the issue. Fortunately, I made the decision to buy a second, identical keyboard a year or two ago, just for this eventuality.

The problem is I never physically inspected the second keyboard. The model numbers matched, so why bother?

Boy, did I learn my lesson. Figures A and B, my friends:


Old board on the left, new on the right (click for larger versions).

Can you spot the differences? Despite having identical model numbers, the keyboards are not the same — enough so that my typing speed and accuracy has suffered as my muscle memory adjusts to the new glyph positions. (Who puts the pipe key in the bottom left corner, seriously?)

My advice is, if you find a keyboard you love — buy four of them, preferably at the same time, from the same place.


  • Oh that is really sucky… I do have a ‘spare’ but it’s not the same model as this one I am using right now… you know the one where you can’t actually see the keys “A” “S” “E” “L” “O” and for some reason “N”… it’s old but it’s mine and I knows it well.
    Unfortunately my 5 year old who is just starting to use the computer is finding it hard without the letters… Oh well start learning them young… it’s not too early to learn touch typing? Right?
    For those keep score and even though I might get stung with negative comments I use a Logitech Y-ST39…

    • I got three workers on my floor onto MX Browns (two got K95 RGB), got three more lined up.
      Good thing is, I can go from work to home and have identical typing experience, even though my keyboards are different branded (all browns). Steelseries M800 is the obvious exception and not worth the money IMO.

  • I think you’re stretching for stories now.
    I am a programmer and have at least 3 different keyboards that I use every week, not a problem.

  • You’re problem is you didn’t read what you were buying. Same model number, sure, but that’s the UK layout, when you’re used to the US layout.
    So the moral of this article is NOT “have backup keyboards” (because the author did, and it kinda screwed him over), but make sure you read what you’re buying and get the correct layout.

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