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Just their type: 12 keyboards beloved by programmers

Software developers can become quite attached to the keyboards they use to bang out code all day. Here are some models that have significant coder followings.

People who develop software for a living obviously spend a lot of time at their computers typing, writing, and refactoring code. It’s not surprising, then, that programmers often develop affinities for specific models of keyboards. Some of them like ergonomic models to reduce repetitive strain injuries, while others prefer keyboards with blank keys to encourage touch-typing, and yet others choose a keyboard with good tactile (and audible) feedback.

Whatever their reasons, developers will often demonstrate their love for a particular keyboard by sticking with it long after it’s out of production. Based on discussions in numerous forums, ITworld has compiled this list of 12 models of keyboards that seem to be particularly popular with the programmer population.

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IBM Model M keyboard

IBM Model M

Year introduced: 1984

What people like about it: The buckling spring key design provides a satisfying tactile and audible feedback. Its keycaps are switchable, to allow different keyboard layouts, and it’s extremely durable.

Quotes: “If you like keyboards which have a really solid response, and an audible click with each keypress go with the IBM Model M.“ Daniel C. Silverstein

“Built like a tank. I can type for hours on this thing without the impact-pain commonly caused by softer, lesser keyboards.” Shog9

“... the most important benefit...fewer typos. Because it is so much easier to type on, I make fewer mistakes.” AppDevGuy

“The Model M just gives you the best feeling while typing.” Falcon

A Northgate OmniKey/ULTRA PC keyboard
OwenX CC BY-SA 3.0 (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

Northgate OmniKey

Year introduced: 1987

What people like about it: Very heavy and solid-feeling and known for being extremely durable. Easily reconfigurable and programmable with keys that provide a satisfying tactile feedback. Often compared to the IBM Model M.

Quotes: “The keyboards were very solidly constructed, with a dip-switch that allowed you to tailor all sorts of stuff, like a dvorak configuration as well as sticky-keys. Ahh...the good old days…” James Wann

“That thing had a great layout. It was rock solid. The keys had just the right amount of resistance. You could easily remap it, in fact the keys were easy enough to take off and put back on that thorough cleaning was easy.” Anonymous

“They weighed about 6 pounds, and felt like they were milled from a solid block of steel. The key action was beyond crisp - it felt like typing on an IBM Selectric II, where there was a solenoid or something slamming the fontball into the roller with every keystroke. Very fast, very positive action. I miss that thing.” Jeff Paulsen

“I have half a dozen OmniKey Ultras (with the dual cursor-key pads) and I keep my eyes peeled for more of them on eBay. I always bring one of mine along to any new development position. That and my Logitech trackman marble, I don't want to work any other way.” Stephen Posey

DataHand keyboard


Year introduced: 1992

What people like about it: It’s highly ergonomic, allowing custom hand placements. Hands don’t need to move to type, since each finger has access to five key-switches, or to use the integrated mouse.

Quotes: “... it wasn't very hard to learn - the movements were very similar to querty. I started getting RSI and this helped a lot.” spellboots

“Totally worth the money. Main reason I got it though is because it integrates a mouse, so I can sit all day and only move my fingers slightly.” user93422

“The DataHand is for people who want to code all day, without ending up with "bleeding fingers" or RSI in the evening.” Jan Goyvaerts

Happy Hacking keyboard

Happy Hacking

Year introduced: 1996

What people like about it: Its minimal, compact design, easy-to-press keys and optimal key placements for Unix users, such as Control in the usual caps lock position.

Quotes: “... having the control key in that position can avoid a condition called ‘Emacs Pinky’” Simon Howard

“The advantage is the key switches are made by Topre, and they have an incredible typing feel with just the right amount of feedback and just the right amount of force.” Matt Olenik

“I have a couple of these and I find that they help with wrist pain simply because they're so easy to move around.” mprovost

“Richard Stallman ... and Bjarne Stroustrup … use HHKBs.” Mauricio Scheffer

TypeMatrix keyboard


Year introduced: 1997

What people like about it: Having the keys in straight vertical columns, instead of staggered, helps to reduce hand movement and repetitive stress, as does having the Enter and Backspace keys within reach of index fingers, instead of thumbs. The small size also reduces movement required to reach the mouse.

Quotes: “The buttons in a grid instead of offset which makes it easier to type.” Maudite

“Having enter and backspace on your stonger index finger is the big win here, less hand movement.” Kris

“... everybody thinks I'm insane for using it. But it's an absolute pleasure to type on.” Jason Baker

Kinesis Advantage keyboard

Kinesis Advantage

Year introduced: 2002

What people like about it: The ergonomic layout with common non-letter keys placed centrally helps to reduce repetitive stress injuries and pain. Its keys can be reprogrammed and it can easily be switched between QWERTY and Dvorak.

Quotes: “The Kinesis is curved for your fingers, it has built-in rests for your wrists (get the pads), and the fact that the thumb is actually used, rather than a glorified spacebar-pusher, really helps distribute the work.” heptadecagram

“I swap Backspace with Control and Delete with Alt, making all those keyboard shortcuts so easy to type.” kevin cline

“My wrists stopped working for awhile, and this saved my career. I love it.” Dean J

Dell L100 keyboard

Dell SK-8115 (AKA L100)

Year introduced: 2004

What people like about it: It’s an inexpensive, no-frills, lightweight, compact 104-key USB keyboard, with traditional key placements and no macros or media keys. Keys are also spring loaded for tactile feedback, yet also very quiet.

Quotes: “I find it to be a joy to type on, everything is where it belongs and its not this large chunk of plastic.” Tanerax

“What else is great about the L-100, is the cheap cost. A great product.” polemon

“This is the best keyboard I have ever used. It is THE keyboard every coder should have.” vedarthk

“Dell keyboards are awesome.” Robert Harvey

Deck keyboard with each key backlit


Year introduced: 2005

What people like about it: Its Cherry mechanical keys, which are backlit with LED lights (available in different colors) that can be individually brightened or dimmed, or lit using a number of backlighting modes. Both full-sized and compact (82 key) versions are available. Also known for being very durable.

Quotes: “I like the keyboard from Deck. Specifically, the small form factor. It looks cool and it feels nice to type on.” spong

“It is also the only keyboard in its class that is backlit, if that's your bag.” Jeff Atwood

“The Deck is built for ‘gamer’ abuse, so they're extremely durable. The Deck is backlit ...  so you can see what you're hacking on even with the lights off at 2AM in the morning.” Ken Jennings

“Nice action, really solidly built and glows blue - what more could you want?” John McC

Das keyboard


Year introduced: 2005

What people like about it: Blank keys require touch-typing which many feel increases typing speed and accuracy. Mechanical Cherry MX switches provide satisfying tactile and audible feedback.

Quotes: “They really do make you type faster, and you can type whilst looking and talking to people, which tends to freak them out a bit.” Tom Morgan

“Greatly discourages others from using your computer.” ackthpt

“... it takes a bit of getting used but after a while you just don't look at the keyboard any more.” Luke Girvin

“This keyboard is like using vim. Steep learning curve with rewarding long term results.” Jakobud

“Typing on this thing is better than sex.” Jeremy Cantrell

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000

Year introduced: 2005

What people like about it: The ergonomic keyboard feels more natural for many people and, along with the padded palm rests, is comfortable and helps reduce wrist pain.

Quotes: “My wrists and hands feel amazingly comfortable in it. There's this faux-leather thing that's really nice to rest my hands on, much better than straight-up plastic.” Paul Nathan

“It is very good for people with big hands, too.” JBRWilkinson

“The best keyboard I've ever used. Bought one for home too. (and I am a Linux user...)” David Rabinowitz

“Great keyboard, very comfortable, keeps everyone else off my PC as they can't use my "strange" keyboard :-)” HappyCat

Microsoft Comfort Curve keyboard

Microsoft Comfort Curve

Year introduced: 2005

What people like about it: It’s more ergonomic than most, but not as drastic (or expensive) as Microsoft’s Natural Ergonomic keyboards. Some also like the low-profile keys.

Quotes: “Very good compromise between basic and 'ergonomic' keyboards.” Carlos

“The curve does make a difference, it is very flat so I can strike they keys from every angle I feel is comfortable, and the keys are easier to press.” EpsilonVector

“The low-profile keys have just the right amount (read: small but not nonexistent) of throw and are quiet, everything is in the right place, and it's spill-resistant to boot.” nlawalker

“Nice, solid Microsoft keyboard, excellent price, generally very pleasant typing experience.” Rob

Apple Aluminum Wireless keyboard
meettya CC BY 2.0 (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

Apple Aluminum Wireless

Year introduced: 2007

What people like about it: Popular among Apple fans for its slim profile, aluminum case and MacBook-like key layout. Some programmers also prefer its compactness (it has no numerical keypad) and caps-lock prevention mechanism.

Quotes: “They key separation by the aluminum faceplate on the new Apple keyboard is absolutely incredible for preventing fat-finger errors. I highly recommend it, no matter what operating system is being used.” haploid

“It feels like a laptop keyboard. You don't have to exert much force on the keys to press them. So it should be healthier for your hands and wrists.” dehmann

“Compact and beautiful.” Randolf R-F

“This is my favourite keyboard.” Dongsheng Cai