Human Interface Devices

In the past this blog hasn’t spilled a lot of ink over hardware. But today we’ll take a few paragraphs to review some new “Human Interface Devices” that have shown up on the doorstep of Casa Lembo.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a fact of life for many of us old timers in the computer business. On a recent visit to the doctor I mentioned what a real difference getting an external keyboard and mouse for my laptop at work had made. When asked why I didn’t have a similar set-up at home, I really didn’t have a good answer.

Of course the main reason up until now was cost. Using an external keyboard always implied getting a port replicator and extra monitor in my mind. But as it turns out there are a lot of less expensive possibilities. The one I settled on is shown in this first photo.

The components are: a 3M LX550 Vertical Notebook Riser and Logitech K120. I already had the Logitech M-UAE96 optical mouse ($7 from my local computer shop) pictured. The laptop itself is my company-provided Thinkpad T61.

The second photo gives a better view of the angle that the laptop is held at.

The place where the front of the laptop rests on the 3M riser is rubberized, keeping it from slipping. Although the riser is made of plastic, it is surprisingly stable. At $9 (it cost me $15 when ordered a week ago, thanks Amazon!), you wouldn’t expect the K120 keyboard to be much to write home about. But it does have a good solid feel, and should hold up well enough under the kind of use that will be made of it.

I had originally thought a mini-size keyboard would be a better fit in the space available, but after trying out the Gearhead 89-key Mini, I found that the smaller keypad and button positions made touch typing more of a challenge than I’m prepared to put up with right now (I really like the Gearhead and will probably wind up using it as an auxiliary device for the many set top boxes and game consoles spread out around Case Lembo).

Another good keyboard that I continue to use daily is the old Dell SK-8115 that came with my primary desktop, an original and no longer available 2006 model Dimension E5150n (“n” for “no operating system”). The nearest equivalent still available is Dell’s Smartcard USB Keyboard. Another would be the Dell L100, or Dell 0DJ331, available from some 3rd party resellers. As one customer review notes on the product page for that Smartcard model, the heavier weight of this keyboard series gives it a good solid feel that those of us who mastered touch-typing on the IBM Selectric yearn for.