Once upon a time, I received the gift of my first very ownÂ PC from doting parents. Whilst this was long after getting my first computer (the first was an amazing Acorn A3000, fondly called “The Beast”) I still remember the PC’s specs well: a Pentium III 450 (on a riser card!), Voodoo Banshee, 128 MB of blazing SDRAM and a 10 GB hard drive. (“I’ll never fill all this disk space…”)
However, the best thing about that computer: the humble keyboard. After using one ages before getting my own, I knew immediately it was an awesome peripheral. The Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite (model A11-00337, M/N E06402COMB) is just about everything a hardcore computer-er-y person would ever want: incredibly ergonomic; devoid of a zillion pointless ‘hotkey’ and Function buttons; a lovely muted yet definitive keypress response, a wrist rest angled ‘just right’… and even made in Mexico. Â¡OlÃ©!
This little keyboardÂ is a resilientÂ little bugger and it’s still trucking. Just some of its previous adventures:
- Half a dozen LAN parties
- Half a dozen housemoves
- Years of frustrated / angry / drunk / careless / overzealous users… (Well, user)
- An entire pint of orange juice (poured into it by yours truly, by accident)
- Countless knocks, drops and bumps, some from considerable height
- Several kilos of toast
- Evidently, several pounds of hair, or two tribblesÂ (we’ll get to that)
Add to that the fact that it’s both PS/2 (USB with included adapter) AND off-white plastic (mine’s beige from age!), all being told it should have died a long time ago. HOWEVER, it just refuses to go! It’s amazing and I think I may actually have real feelings of love and concern for this keyboard. Or I might be drunk again. Who can tell.
The only thing it’s missing are its little rubber feet from the underside of the front, easily solved with a little bit of (vintage)Â bluetack. I think you can even reorder those parts from Microsoft.
ANYWAY! I began to wonder, ‘what’s inside my favourite keyboard of all time? Perhaps it would work like a boxfresh unit if I took it apart and hosed out the rubbish?’ (because when you can hear crumbs rattling round inside, it’s time to get the desk-vac). Soon, nothing else was to be done except take it apart.
I figured that this keyboard would easily accommodate being opened and reduced to its component parts; it’s been through roughly a decade of abuse and not complained one iota (except for the number pad ‘zero’ key becoming a bit resistant to use and an occasionally lazy spacebar spring action). I’ve had dozens of other inferior keyboards disintegrate, silently stop working or just plain fall apart in that time. And today’s crop of ‘pro’ keyboards look no better; I’ve not come across a keyboard with a nicer key action, a more cleverly laid out key arrangement or such well thought out engineering under the cover. So let’s get down to business!
After locating my tub of Cyber Clean (basically fluorescent silly putty in a tub for cleaning your workspace) I decided I couldn’t stop there and so had to disassemble the keyboard for its ten year anniversary refurb.
Boy, did I underestimate how much crap there would be under those 103 keys.
And so, for your enjoyment / horror / curiosity: My Keyboard Had a Hairball, or,Â Why you should prepare yourself (both mentally and with pointy tools) if you crack open a long-used peripheral, a story in pictures.