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Trackpoint Keyboards Never Die

To those who have never used an IBM Trackpoint keyboard, this post will seem silly and perhaps even obsessive. To those who have used one and love them, this post will feed your addiction. Not having to move your hands off of the keyboard is a huge productivity boost–Upgrading and Repairing PCs on Google Books indicates that users are 20% more productive with a Trackpoint keyboard. I have three model M13 keyboards (how many people know the model of their keyboard) with Trackpoints, and unfortunately the cable insulation on all three has degraded to the point that the cable has to be in just the right position or the mouse goes haywire. I decided to start looking for a place to repair or replace them.

The first site (www.clickykeboards.com) that I found listed a used black M13 for $275. That is not a typo. $275 for used keyboard that is 17 years old. I know that getting these repaired or replaced will be a lot more than your average keyboard from a consumer electronics store, but $275 seems a little high, even if the keyboard is a rare stealth black one.

My next stop was Unicomp, Inc. which was spun off from IBM/Lenovo and manufactured the original keyboards under subcontract to IBM. Unicomp still makes new keyboards with the same buckling spring design that gives the keyboards the distinctive clicky feel and which lasts longer than 19 years (my keyboards are 1996 models). Unicomp makes a lot of stock designs and will even custom make one if what you need is not available in stock. Most of the models are about $100, which is a reasonable price for keyboard that will outlast a half-dozen PCs.

They even make the Spacesaver M model with keys customized for OS X. Although I love Apple’s Magic Trackpad touchpad, I’m not a fan of their keyboards–they look great, but the Apple keyboards are not the best for typing, and Apple’s wireless keyboard will not work for some system maintenance tasks–you have to have USB keyboard for some recovery and configuration functions.

Unicomp also makes replacement cables, but unfortunately not for the integrated cables on my M13s. I will have to send them back for a $60 repair–a lot for a repair, but a good investment for a keyboard that I will use for another 20 years.

Trackpoint Keyboard Repair Experience

I sent three M13 keyboards to Unicomp, Inc. for repair, and was impressed with the quick turn-around. The Fed-Ex ground notice showed that my keyboards arrived at Unicomp on Wednesday the 23rd at about 1:00 in the afternoon, and they were shipped out on Monday the 27th at 7:00 AM. I can’t think of any repair where I've gotten two business-day turn-around. The like-new keyboards arrived mid-day on the 29th, looking, working and feeling like they were brand new.

After using an old keyboard without a Trackpoint, I’m really glad to have them back.

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