A Keyboard Timeline

  • July 9, 2003: I purchase the FingerWorks TouchStream LP, for a total of $343.89 including tax and shipping. I purchase the one with QWERTY printing on it, figuring I’d learn to use it first and learn the Dvorak layout later.
  • Vague Time after that: I do learn to use it, and I fulfill my life goal of learning Dvorak.
  • September 23rd, 2004: I lose connectivity between the halves (the right half plugs into the computer, and the left half connects to the right half through a ribbon cable that’s not designed to be user serviceable), so only the right half of the keyboard works. Presumably, they didn’t test people folding the keyboard and bringing it back and forth to work often. However, I sent it back and they fix it, although it’s annoying to deal with not having it in the meantime.
  • Q2 2005: FingerWorks goes out of business, as Apple gave the owners a deal too good to pass up. Apple hired the brains behind the operation and bought up the IP, which they’ve since slowly been putting to good use (from the iPod wheel, through to the iPhone/iPad and Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad).
  • February 15th, 2007: Once more, the left half of my keyboard doesn’t work. I think that it’s more than the ribbon cable this time, as I think I shocked it with static electricity before it died. So, I sadly put it away hoping to fix it one day, and get used to working with terrible mechanical keyboards and mice again.
  • October 20th, 2008: I try fixing a broken Dvorak-printed TouchStream keyboard (that the owner had managed to remove the ribbon cable from) by buying the ribbon cable and putting it in. Amazingly enough, I’m successful, and manage to purchase the keyboard from the owner for $200. (Fully working ones have been going on eBay for over $1,000, and a couple have gone over $2,000.) Happiness ensues.
  • November 13: 2010: I finally decide to try seeing if I can repair my old keyboard, and see if it’s just the ribbon cable. I extract the cable out and test it, and not all the wires have connectivity. I order a new cable.
  • November 17, 2010: Cable arrives. I insert it. Amazingly enough, the keyboard works and passes diagnostics completely. I now have a working TouchStream at home and one at work. I feel thrilled that it all works, and somewhat silly that I hadn’t tried it much much earlier.

I know that I could get well over $1,000 if I sold one of them on eBay, but I just can’t imagine selling one. They’re just so wonderful to use, and I spend a lot of time in front of a computer.

9 thoughts on “A Keyboard Timeline

  1. June 28, 2003:
    I marry my wife.

    May 15, 2008:
    Hannah, our first child is born.

    December 11, 2009:
    Peter S. Cooper III, my second child and first son, is born.

  2. Yes, those are more important dates, but I think I’ve talked about them on here already. :)

  3. I’ve been using my Touchstream since 2005, and yesterday it started behaving oddly… mostly the left side, but a bit on the right. It seems to think I’m doing the open palm gesture, or pressing keys I’m not (such as Tab or Back Space). Still passes all the diagnostics, but isn’t really functional since I can’t type on it well anymore.

    Given your experience, do you have any theories about what’s wrong? I can’t afford to pay $1000 for a new one, but the thought of working without it leaves me in tears.

  4. Random flakiness with passing diagnostics sounds like a static electricity or EM issue to me. Did you recently get a new cell phone or something, as I’ve heard that some can cause issues when near one. Before touching my keyboard, I always ground myself (by touching a wire I have connected to the metal of the computer case) so that I don’t shock the keyboard, and I think that it works quite a bit better. It may be that the changing weather has caused more static to build up in you as you walk to the computer. But in cases like that, replugging in the keyboard (or the 5-slap reset) have fixed it for a while. Does it work for a while and then break, or is it just always broken?

    The real community of experts is at the Fingerfans Forums, which have recently started to slowly come alive again. I’d definitely suggest checking there if you haven’t already.

  5. I thought it was static at first, but it’s continual and the 5-slap doesn’t fix it. It happened for the first time yesterday and I came to work hopeful that it would be better, but no luck. The only new piece of tech anywhere near the keyboard is one of those multi-line office phones.

    I’ve been checking the forums but I didn’t see any subjects that sound like my issue. I’ve also never even held a soldering iron, so the idea of trying to fix it myself is scary… I really hope it doesn’t come to that.

  6. Did the problem start happening when the phone showed up? Even if it didn’t, it might be a worthwhile test to try moving the phone and keyboard further apart and see if problems occur less often.

    I’ve held a soldering iron before, but not much, and working on something like these that isn’t designed for user-replaceable parts certainly scares me, and that’s why I took so long before digging into what was wrong with mine. Replacing the ribbon cable was much easier.

    I’d try posting on the forums, as there are a lot of smart people on there, even ones who have taken a soldering iron to it.

  7. Dear Peter

    The left half my touchstream is not working, because the ribbon cable detached from the left panel. Is there a place I can buy a new cable and how would I replace the cable? I don’t know how to detach the cable safely from the right panel.

  8. The cable is completely flat and slides directly into the connector on each side. You just need to push it straight in to put it in and pull it straight out to take it out. The trickiest part is feeding the cable around the circuit board to go through the side of the casing, which I managed by kind of pushing down on the circuit board and hoping that I wasn’t pushing too hard. Not sure if there’s a better way than what I did.

    You can connect the cable without having it run through the side of the casing, if you just want to test the cable.

    The cable is DigiKey part HF26U-03-ND. You can get the same cable in longer lengths too, if you want to separate the halves more (or so I’ve seen elsewhere on the net, I haven’t tried it myself).

    Hope this helps.

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