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08 November 2012

Consumerist Dilemas

Consumer society gives us lots of choices, but sometimes provides little opportunity for post-choice customization. We buy something, and we can either return it or keep it, but it is what it is. Want something a little shorter, a little tighter, or a little less stiff? Too bad. Unless you're loaded, and then you can hire someone to do a custom job. But, to my knowledge, even the super-rich no longer order custom automobiles.

For a small subset of expensive, long-lived personal items like cars and mattresses, this can make new purchases particularly stressful. This is one plausible explanation for the copious consumer-choice media devoted to, for example, cars, as well as the effort companies put into brand identity. If they sell you something that you like, then there's a reasonable chance you'll get another one, the "safe choice", when the old one breaks.

I've faced this dilemma recently with shoes and glasses. I typically have one or two pairs of each that I use primarily, daily, typically for at least 2 years. I'm very near-sighted, so I have to get the expensive high-index lenses. My big toes spread out, I assume from years of wearing flip-flops and Chacos, so most every shoe feels narrow and pointy. The decision to get a new pair of glasses or shoes fills me with an existential dread -- what if I'm stuck with costly discomfort for the next year or more?

This month I discovered that keyboards engender a similar dread. I'm at a keyboard for at least 20 hours on an average week, and I imagine it gets up to 60 hours on a long week. Not all of that is typing, but I've had a slowly building case of carpal tunnel / repetitive stress injury, particularly in my right hand, from long coding sessions that involve heavy use of shift, up-arrow, and enter keys. After a month of poking around the internet, checking reviews on Amazon and looking at eBay for used items, I felt totally conflicted. I just wanted to "try something on" before I shelled out cash to saddle myself with something that I ended up hating.

But anything would be better than my stock Dell monstrosity. In this spirit, I dropped by the chaotic indie computer parts/repair store across the street from campus, and found two ergonomic keyboards used and on the cheap:

#1 Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000 v1
#2 Adesso EKB-2100W

The perfect keyboard is neither of them. The Adesso has a nice split design, but it's huge. Enormous. Heavy -- it could be an instrument of murder in the game of Clue. #1 looks nice, and has really easy key-travel. Unfortunately, the left Caps-lock, which is mapped to control and is involved in something like ~5-20% of my (non-prose) keystrokes, is sticky and giving my pinky problems already.

As least they're cheap.

A friend pointed out that one key to preventing RSI is to change up the routine. With this in mind, maybe two keyboards isn't such a bad idea. Did I mention they're cheap? At very least, the existential dread has abated. No more keyboard choices to make in the foreseeable future. Now, if I could just find a low-profile pair of sneakers with a large toebox and a tasteful lack of neon and mesh.

1 comment:

  1. Edit -- After months of using "#1 Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000 v1", I really like it. Hand pain totally gone. I find the very small key-travel and the low key-force very pleasant. The low profile, with keys very close to the table surface, means my wrists are almost flat/straight.