I can't have nice things

Last night I knocked over a glass and spilled water (just water! nothing sticky!) into my fancy keyboard, and the "d" and "4" keys stopped working. I hoped it would dry out and start working again by the morning, but no.

So then I came home tonight, and my X server was wedged again (as it is wont to do) but this time when I killed it from another machine, my left monitor was doing this wonky thing where it looks like every column of 32 bits is transposed, and it's all seething/shimmering like bad television reception. Yay. When this has happened before, powering the machine all the way off for a while has fixed it, but not this time. Yay. So now I've got all my windows wedged into the right monitor (which can only run in 8-bit mode, for reasons best left unexplored.)

Then, failing to heed the abundantly clear warning signs that I should just go to bed, I popped off some keys to see if I could figure out what was going wrong with the keyboard. Oh look, it's not a membrane keyboard: there are springs.

Ten minutes later I found the spring.

Thirty minutes later, I had rendered the 1, 2, and 3 keys non-operational as well, and gave up and ordered a new keyboard. But of course they won't get the order until friday, so I'll probably be typing on the Backup Keyboard Of Pain for a week now.


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30 Responses:

  1. vincel says:

    Ouch! They don't come cheap, do they?

  2. sw00p says:

    i was laughing at the fancy keyboard comment - how bad could it be for chrissakes? (you can get a keyboard for 4.99 at best buy) ... then i visited the link; exactly 100 times the cost.

    for that price, i want a keyboard that's water resistant to 100 metres, damnit, not something that can be killed by a little glass of water ... maybe you should order one with a cupholder attachment or rig your own.

    • jwz says:

      Well, it lasted 5 years, which is longer than any other keyboard I've ever had. Plus, it doesn't make my wrists scream for mercy, which is all that matters.

      • sw00p says:

        don't have that (yet ... crosses fingers). my elbows tend to flare out when i type, so maybe that's saving me. i tried a split keyboard once, it made me think of Good Touch, Bad Touch - it was just so _wrong_. even if i had cts, it'd still gall me to pay 500.00 for a keyboard (no doubt the physical pain would win).

      • Amen. You'll pry my Microsoft Natural Keyboard out of my cold stinging screaming hands. I really should try something sexier and better designed, like your keyboards of choice, but I'm still a poor college student, and the Natural is better than nothing... hopefully a dash of good ergonomic practice can get me far enough into a career to score a good health insurance plan before my appendages completely break down.

        Now to steal one of the Aeron chairs my university bought. My tuition dollars are so well spent...

  3. dingodonkey says:

    My old Multitech keyboard, with XT/AT switch, is still going strong. I no longer have the case it goes in, so it's just a bunch of keys, switches, and a controller laying on my desk. But man, does it ever rock. Most people who like loud clicky keyboards like the well-known Model M, but this is louder and therefore better. It sounds like something out of a library from 1983.

    A friend of mine has a similar problem with his display, every now and then it will fix itself for a little while and then crap out again. He's too cheap to get a better video card.

  4. al3xpayne says:

    Poor bastard. Get yourself a TouchStream. Better for your hands and spill-resistant: they just dry right out. It'll be the best $350 you ever spent on something that wasn't sex or drugs.

    • gregv says:

      Ah, but is the surface smooth or are there bumps/indentations for where the keys should go? It would be too hard to touch type without any tactile feedback as to where the keys are.

      • al3xpayne says:

        There are bumps on the home keys, but you pretty much just get used to the lack of tactile feedback. Unless, of course, you're unadaptable. In which case your genes are doomed anyway, and you might as well give up typing and just get busy falling prey to evolution. But most people don't have that issue ^_^

    • jwz says:

      I hate touchpads in general, and using a keyboard with zero tactile feedback sounds just awful.

      • al3xpayne says:

        Your loss sucka ;) Nah, to each his/her own. Good luck with the replacement keyboard. Personally I'm just waiting until they get the neural control down. "Outta my way you greedy disabled users, I've got mild carpal tunnel!!!"

      • kfringe says:

        Oh thank god. A sane statement. I had the dubious pleasure of using one of those touchstream etch-a-sketch boards for a few days. My feelings were pretty simple. It was the best damned thing I ever used.

        Seriously. I've never used anything better for mousing around and surfing the web. It is the perfect interface.

        On the other hand, a;; of mu sen tences lopked kind of wiwrd. I would have tried getting used to it, but the whole "official keyboard of Johnny Mnemonic: The Movie" feel was so awful that I had to recoil in fear.

        Worse yet, I found myself simply MASHING the the damned thing. My wrist felt fine, but my fingers were numb after an hour.

  5. jonabbey says:

    I once fried a motherboard by spilling a bit of water into a keyboard. Turns out on the MS Natural keyboards, the traces carrying the relatively high power for the led's isn't all that far away from the traces for the key detection.. short those two out with some water and interesting things can happen to the keyboard controller, at a minimum.

    • vxo says:

      Hmm... I'll have to watch out for that on my MS Natural keyboard! Thanks for the warning.

      I bet the only thing that blew on the motherboard was the fuse next to the ps/2 port. The only voltage present to the keyboard is +5 and that should be tolerated at any input on the keyboard controller. I've seen that happen on quite a few boards.

      I did once manage to cause a 386 board to go up in smoke - it had a small inductor to keep the signals from mingling on the +5v line, which caught fire most amazingly when the cheap keyboard I was using simply shorted out by its own means. The flame was purple...!

      • jonabbey says:

        Perhaps. I know we actually wound up getting a replacement MB from Dell.. I don't believe it booted up at all afterwards, or if it did it was very unhappy.

        I had to replace my keyboard for sure. The traces on the keyboard itself did burn out.

  6. pjammer says:

    Damn. I have the worst luck with nice things too! It's like a jinx! :P

    • littlegirl says:

      I thought that was true of all sunglasses? ... There is some evil that must be put into each pair to block out the accursed rays of the sun or something?..

      The pair of sunglasses I liked, even though they were totally crappy, I lost sliding down off Pike's Peak (I forget at the moment what that's called when you don't use a sled, just your tuckus..) in a mad dash to avoid an oncoming hail storm or monsoon or something. I suppose it doesn't matter, though, because I really need perscription sunglasses now anyway.

      .. Somewhere in the world there is a pair of thirty dollar cK clip-on sunglasses that match my $200 prescription glasses. I hesitate to say I "lost" them because I think they may just be hiding somewhere in my parents' house [even though I've torn it apart looking for them].

      That doesn't even mention the first pair of actual glasses I had when I was thirteen, being maybe $150, which I lost within the first week of owning them, on the first day of a camping trip so I was half blind for the rest of the week, and then bought a second horrible $30 pair at WalMart because my mother hadn't wanted to shell out the $150 to begin with.....

  7. beerfrick says:


    I even got an actual IBM model M from them when my 1988 M finally broke down.

    • jwz says:

      Oh please.

      I know nerd-nostalgia demands that you believe that everything was better back in the caveman days when you got to toggle in the boot loader on the front panel, but even when your keyboard is made of steel with hand-carved hardwood springs under each key or whatever, it's still a square keyboard and thus constructed entirely of Pain.

      • beerfrick says:

        It depends on how you type I guess. In fact I've always thought that the convoluted split-keyboards were designed by sadists.

        One of the things that makes typing painful is having your wrists at an uncomfortable angle for many hours. With my hand size (insert obvious sexual joke) this has never been an issue, so since I can use a standard keyboard, I appreciate having one that's built to last.

        • sw00p says:

          they used to toss those old ibm 101's into dishwashers to clean them - and they worked afterwards, too. i don't think that would work with my 4.99 best buy specials. another nice thing about those old beasts was that when someone poured a soft drink into them and the acid ate away the circuit, you could just take it apart, clean the mat and films and run tinfoil and scotch tape to bridge the gap, and since it was sandwiched in between two plates of steel, you couldn't really flex it off ...

          • As someone who just bought a lot tape drives that came with 100 keyboards at a surplus auction, I can testify that modern keyboards do, indeed, work with the dishwasher thing as well... :)

  8. devpreed says:

    But of course they won't get the order until friday, so I'll probably be typing on the Backup Keyboard Of Pain for a week now.

    This post's icon is the perfect advertisement for the Backup Keyboard of PainTM.

  9. nichiyume says:

    I go through more keyboards that way. Oh, I'm in a hurry, I'll take it apart and see if I can make it dry faster. At least I had a backup wireless. I was IRCing from copy and paste.

  10. ok, those moments of true KLUTZ are hereby reserved for ME, PLZ.

  11. bayushiboy says:


    I'm sorry for your troubles. As an engineer and obsessive tech head, I feel your pain. I must say I have never seen a keyboard like that. That is totally sweet!!!

  12. violentbloom says:

    wow this sounds just like the time you decided to "fix" your vcr.
    you should just stick to the software thing...you're very good at that. :)

  13. ciphergoth says:

    Hmm. If you plug in two USB keyboards, are the keystrokes multiplexed together? If so, could you mount them to the arms of a chair to make an erzatz split keyboard?