Nano-review: The IBM Model M “clicky” keyboard

After leaving one job for another, I no longer had a fresh supply of spare keyboards laying around and had to (gasp!) buy my own. Being in a hurry, I purchased eight dollars of plastic at MalWart and quickly discovered that it was driving me crazy. I could feel a slight scraping as each mushy key was depressed. Although a Northgate or a clone was out of my price range, I was able to find one of IBM’s famed “Model M” keyboards on Ebay for $15 shipped.

The Model M weighs about five pounds, and could easily be used to break a car window in an emergency. The best part about it is the mechanical switching in each key, which provides instant, clean feedback, but without undue pressure. The worse part is that it is huge and the barrage of clicks sounds like something stolen from the set of Brazil. Nevertheless, it’s a vast improvement over the disposable keyboard it replaces.

My ideal keyboard would be wireless, have a trackpoint, and have a small footprint. Perhaps one of these?

Technology of the Year?

Somehow I missed this–Volkswagen produced a prototype diesel-hybrid that gets 239 miles per gallon, through the judicious use of carbon fiber, magnesium, a 57-lb. engine, and a whole lotta WunderTechen! According to Car and Driver, it got 319 mpg during a recent test run by the retired company president.

Culled from the NYT’s Year in Ideas

Classic Gaming

If you hanker for video gaming’s classic days, of Asteroids and Centipede, of Gravitar and Missle Command, then this joystick from Jakks Pacific may be just the thing to take you back. Not only is the joystick familiar to all those who owned an Atari system back in the 80’s, but inside the stick itself are 10 classic Atari games, including the above mentioned plus Adventure, Yar’s Revenge, Breakout, Pong, Circus Atari, and Real Sports Volleyball. Just plug the joystick right into your TV, pop on a Culture Club album and go crazy. $25 from GameStop, available in January.

Attack of the Rat-Bots

MIT Tech Review has an fascinating piece today about a robot at Georgia Tech that runs on rat brain. Researchers took cultured rat neurons and placed them on a silicon chip with suspended electrodes in it. As the neurons fire, they excite the electrodes, which in turn send signals to the drive motors of the robot. Right now, the steering is a little…ah…erratic. Researchers hope that feedback might allow some learning, and therefore, make rat-bot into a better driver. The bot is equipped with light sensors for proximity navigation. Triggering of these sensors send electrical impulses back into the neuronal soup. Feedback! They’re now looking for any evidence that the rat “brain” is learning anything after closing the loop.