My second workstation: Unicomp keyboards


Photo of my Mac Pro with two external monitors.

For as long as I can remember, chages of environment have been key to maintaining my concentration and productivity. Now that my Mac Pro runs Mavericks, I can get meaninfgul work done on it again, along with my MacBook Air in the other room. Finally, I have my dual workstation setup!

Okay, what’s the catch

There’s just one problem. In the time the Mac Pro was relegated to being a server, my MacBook Air workstation got my best monitor, Unicomp keyboard and Logitech trackball. Like a younger child who gets hand-me-down clothes, the Mac Pro has since got a late 1990s IBM membrane keyboard and an HP mouse from the time when optical was new and exciting.

I’d like to think the benefit of having two working locations outweighs any productivity losses incurred from using a keyboard that feels like a pancake, or a mouse that induses RSI if used for extended time periods. Still, just as the master chef has her or his favourite knife, I do long for these specialised tools.

Over the coming week, I’ll be spending a little time each day reviewing where keyboards and mouses have come since I last looked into this seriously in 2009. Today, we’ll check in with Unicomp!

The Unicomp IBM Model M

The Unicomp Spacesaver M White Buckling Sping USB keyboard

As I mentioned, I got my Unicomp keyboard in 2009. Machined from the same hardware that created the legendary IBM Model M from the 1980s, these keyboards are made to order and are built like battleships. My Spacesaver has already outlasted the machine it was bought for, and I anticipate it’ll be in use for many more years to come.

Along with its durability, this keyboard has let me type faster, more accurately and with greatly reduced finger and wrist strain. The springs under each key provide a degree of responsiveness that makes it hard to go back to regular keyboard with their gross, mushy membranes.

The biggest thing that has changed is the introduction of a dedicated Mac model, the Spacesaver M White Buckling Spring USB. It comes in their regular black/grey combination, but also in a classic “pearl white” which resembles the beigetastic we all grew up with in the 1990s. The nostalgia factor for that alone would be worth it!


For the loungeroom environment though, there are some factors that give me pause. I’ve since learned I don’t really use the numeric keypad, though I still heavily rely on the PigUp/PigDown and arrow cursor islands. The Spacesaver is already much smaller than their full sized Classic boards, but on a desk others also may have to use, I’d rather save the space.

Additionally, while I think buckling springs are superior even to mechanical switches, they do emit a great deal of noise. In my closeted SOHO/bedroom this isn’t an issue, but if I wanted to use this loungeroom Mac Pro with others at home, I’m thinking it may be a little inconsiderate.

For now, I’ll be adding it to that oft–mentioned Maybe Pile™. One keyboard down, four more to go!

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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