IBM Model M / Unicomp Customizer Keyboard update: Mac edition

EDIT: Unicomp now offers a SpaceSaver M keyboard, in which the “M” stands for “Mac.” That’s probably what you want, rather than the Customizer, since the mechanical keys on the SpaceSaver M are the same as they are on the Customizer, while the keyboard itself is considerably smaller and includes Mac-specific keys out-of-the-box.

My Product Review of the Unicomp Customizer keyboard is the most enduringly popular post on this blog, and the last few days have seen an especially large amount of traffic thanks to an NPR story on how an Old-School Keyboard Makes [a] Comeback Of Sorts, which talks about Unicomp. The saddest part: the company is laying off workers because the Customizers and similar keyboards last too long and cost too much. The latter, of course, has a great deal to do with the former, but economic conditions mean that the initial investment apparently isn’t available to many people.

Aside from the durability of its products, Unicomp also has unusually good customer service. I use a Mac and the Customizer ships with Windows keys by default, which one can see in my original post. For $10, however, Unicomp sent me custom keys with “option” and “command” instead of Windows buttons (pardon the fuzzy pictures: I only have a lousy cell phone camera at the moment):


Option and command close up


Perfect: the Windows buttons aren’t staring at me and other people who use my computer aren’t confused (“Hit command-w to close the window.” “Where’s command?” “The one with the Windows logo to the left of the spacebar.” “Huh?”).

Mac users who care about typing, take note: buy a Unicomp SpaceSaver or SpaceSaver M rather than the lousy Matias Tactile Pro 2. You can find Unicomp’s website here.

Writing space

Inspired by BlogLily, I took a picture of where I write. Unlike some, I haven’t cleaned up, so you’re seeing my desk au natural. Just to the left of my PowerBook is a stack of six books waiting to be written about and a few recent copies of The New Yorker, which further add to the chaos.


While at Kate’s, I also noticed her typewriter post and sent her this e-mail (edited slightly):

I’m a bit younger than you and so do not remember a time without computers, and while I love the convenience of computers I also like the thrack-thrack-thrack typewriter noises and the key sensation. Some computer keyboards offered a similar tactile experience: the old-school IBM Model M and Apple Extended Keyboard II.

Both these have been replaced by soft-key keyboards, although independent companies have resurrected the older style. On the Windows side a Kentucky company sells the Customizer, and on the Mac side a Canadian company sells the Matias Tactile Pro. Like you, I also use a PowerBook, and I bought one of the (original) Tactile Pros and love it. The keyboard is ludicrously expensive, to be sure, and the noise annoys others if they have to share the same space, but it comes as close as you can get to the typewriter.

You can see the white Tactile Pro at the bottom of my desk.

EDIT: Things have changed since this was posted—see the new setup here.

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