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Clickety Clack, the Keyboard is Back

The hushed clacking of the keys on a rescued Apple Extended Keyboard II evoke nostalgia in waves as these letters form on the screen in front of me.

Apple Extended IIIt started on July 4 when Julie and I took the kids to her brother’s house to set off explosives in celebration of America’s independence. He had a canoe in the front yard he found bartering on Craigslist. Later, we were all thumbing through Craigslist on our iPhones. An ad for “vintage computer hardware” caught my eye, particularly the keyboard sticking out of a box in the background in one of the photos. I knew I had to have it, and now I do.

Jordan and I went over to the guy’s house where he had a whole outbuilding packed with old computer parts. About half of them were old Macs. Stacks of G4 iBook chassis, ancient green-and-black monitors, and a mail tote with several aged Mac keyboards.

The seller said he used to repair Macs and probably bought most of the older stuff from a nearby college I attended. Sure enough, right there on the bottom of one of the keyboards, was a sticker. “Holt Room 339.” I remember the room. It was a Mac lab in the English department where I took composition classes. The odds are pretty good that I actually used this keyboard sometime around 1994.

We had agreed on $10, but since he didn’t have an ADB cable he threw in an AppleDesign keyboard for free. I found the right cable in short order at Cable Wholesale for a couple of bucks. Of course, my MacBook Air doesn’t have an ADB port so I picked up a Griffin iMate as well.

Total investment? About $40 and worth every cent.

Apple Extended IIA little elbow grease took the gunk off the keys. The plastic case is yellowed from UV rays except for the part where the plastic strip wrapped around the function keys to help users learn the keyboard shortcuts. Scrubbing won’t remove the yellow tint. That would require SCIENCE!

A quick trial run with Tobias Bjerrome Ahlin’s Key Codes dashboard widget verified everything is in working order. The Matias Tactile Pro 3 I was using at home is bound for the office where I can drive everyone there crazy with the clickety clackiness.

The finishing touch found itself today, only one day after I get this new (old) keyboard working, with a tiny app called Noisy Typer that mimics the sound of a typewriter. It took me back to the days of classic Mac OS–probably as far back as Mac OS 7.6–when I used the Tappy Type control panel. (Nice work Tobias!)

So here I sit, happily typing away down memory lane. Good times.