Problems with Apple Pro Keyboard: I guess it must be my typing

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
November 7th, 2006 • 2:24 pm

I have now been through five different Apple Pro keyboards, and they all have the same problem. When I hit the Delete key (or the cursor keys, or sometimes other keys as well), instead of a single keystroke, Mac OS X registers two keystrokes, i.e. it thinks that I have pressed the key twice, and consequently duplicates its own action: it deletes two letters (or items) instead of one, it moves up or down two lines instead of one, it inserts two letters instead of one, etc.

I have been through five different Apple Pro keyboards because:

  1. I first had the problem with the Apple Pro Keyboard that I got with my new G5 Quad last year. (At the time, Apple sent me a replacement that happened to be an older model, which didn’t have the problem.)
  2. I have the same problem with the Apple Pro Keyboard that I got with my new Mac Pro a month ago.
  3. Apple first sent me a replacement keyboard for the Mac Pro’s keyboard that was actually a keyboard with the Canadian / U.S. English layout. I need a keyboard with the French Canadian keyboard layout (also known as “Canadian CSA”). Before returning the English keyboard, I tested it, and it had the same problem with duplicate keystrokes.
  4. Apple then sent me a replacement keyboard that was actually a French from France keyboard (with the “AZERTY” layout). (In retrospect, maybe I should have opted to speak with a French-speaking Apple Canada representative…) Before returning that French from France keyboard, I tested it too. Same problem.
  5. I finally got the right replacement keyboard (Canadian CSA) yesterday, and, of course, it has the same problem.

So far, this has not cost me anything—except in time wasted talking to Apple representatives and UPS representatives and unpacking and packing keyboards. But it is now time to come to the obvious conclusion: There is something in this particular keyboard design that does not agree with my typing.

I can personally reproduce the problem very reliably. All I have to do is type a sequence like this in Word or another text editor:

dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg dfg

It’s a simple sequence of four characters (d, f, g, space) repeated multiple times. Then I place my insertion point at the end and I start pressing the Delete key repeatedly in sequences of four keystrokes, with a pause after each sequence.

Inevitably, within a few seconds, I end up getting a single Delete keystroke that deletes two characters instead of one, and so the next sequence starts in a different spot, and I notice it right away.

It’s not the computer. (The problem is the same with several different machines.) It’s not a software problem. (I’ve fiddled with the keyboard settings as much as I could.) And it’s obviously not a widespread problem, otherwise I would surely have read about it in various forums and there would have been enough of an outcry to prompt Apple to do something about it. (Even a problem that only affects a small minority of users would have been addressed by now. This Apple Pro Keyboard has been the standard keyboard offering from Apple for many years now.)

I have no reason to doubt the honesty of the various Apple representatives and Apple “product specialists” that I have talked to about this over the phone in the past couple of weeks. They are just as puzzled as I am. And the only possible conclusion is that there is something in my way of typing that simply doesn’t agree with this particular keyboard design.

My wife has tried the keyboard and does not seem to be able to reproduce the problem herself. She has watched me typing and doesn’t notice anything special, except for course that I tend to hit the Delete key in a particular area, usually near the right edge of the key, and rather softly. If I hit the Delete key really hard and right in the middle of it, I cannot reproduce the problem. It’s only when I hit the key “normally” as I would in the normal flow of my typing that the problem occurs. I definitely do not hit the key twice in any way, not even in a nearly subconscious way. I hit it once, very simply, on the right-hand side, without pressing too hard. And that’s enough to trigger the problem quite frequently.

The problem is not just that I end up deleting too many characters or words in my text. It’s also that, in an application such as Mail, for example, I sometimes end up deleting two e-mail messages when I only meant to delete one, since the shortcut for deleting messages is a simple Delete keystroke. If I don’t notice the double deletion right away, it can be a major problem!

In other words, I simply cannot afford to continue using the Apple Pro Keyboard. It’s too risky. I also cannot afford to spend any more time investigating the issue. It’s not worth it. Apple cannot do anything to help me. (They no longer have any older model in stock, so they cannot replace this keyboard with an older model, like they did last year.)

My only option at this time is to keep using with the Mac Pro the replacement keyboard that I got for my G5 Quad last year, and hope that it lasts for a very long time. (When my G5 Quad is eventually fixed, I will use it as a second machine, and I won’t have to do nearly as much typing on it.)

Beyond that, I guess I’ll have to look at third-party alternatives. Unfortunately, alternatives for Mac-friendly Canadian CSA keyboards are not as common as they are for U.S. keyboards, for obvious reasons of market size. But eventually I’ll have to find something that works for me—except that it’s pretty hard to find a good keyboard without being able to try it first!

This is all rather frustrating, but my only possible conclusion is that this is a very unique situation and that I am just unlucky. As I have said before, if that’s the worst problem that I ever get with my Mac Pro (so far so good), I won’t complain.

Still, it is very puzzling.

10 Responses to “Problems with Apple Pro Keyboard: I guess it must be my typing”

  1. henryn says:


    Have you tried booting the Mac into single-user (unix) mode and typing at it? Or into Open Firmware? If the problem shows up in those modes, it will give you further confirmation that the keyboard is at fault. Or suggest the problem is at a higher level in the MacOS — the process of getting keystrokes from the keyboard to programs is quite complex.


  2. ssp says:

    “I guess it must be my typing”

    That must be the most absurd thing you could write on the topic… I mean a keyboard has a very clearly defined task of sending exactly what you type to the computer. And if the keyboard decides to duplicate some of your keypresses, it is run by broken software or has shoddy mechanics.

    I don’t think that the mechanics of Apple’s newer (post Extended-II) keyboards are particularly good. In particular the larger keys can be quite sensitive to where exactly you hit them (some just sound bad, others need extra force or even stick a little when not hit right in the middle). So you should definitely blame the keyboard first and yourself second. It’s hard to use a keyboard in a ‘wrong’ way. And the only ‘wrong’ ways I can image tend to include food or drinks that are spilled on the keyboard… which I’m pretty sure is not what you did.

  3. Pierre Igot says:

    Henry: The problem also occurs in single user mode.

    ssp: I am only stating the obvious. Just like there can be pairs of shoes that will never quite fit you and feel comfortable, no matter which size you try on, it looks like there are keyboard designs that are simply not a perfect match for certain typing styles. It certainly seems to be the only reasonable explanation for this. I don’t see the point of blaming the keyboard if no one else is able to reproduce the problem. It’s not going to get me anywhere.

  4. henryn says:

    Hmmm, OK, consider Open Firmware, which runs out of ROM before anything at all is booted. This is a Forth language environment, totally intended to support hardware debugging — one can even write up small programs to test, I dunno, whatever theory you want to check. I can send you a couple of samples or we could try debugging together with two machines each running Open Firmware on one (the one with your erratic keyboard) and IM on the other.

    One can have a program check to see if a keystroke is available, and do something or not until it is. Or you can have it wait for the next keystroke. Insert delays here and there. I don’t know for sure, but it is likely there’s visibility into the low level of the keyboard input, for example, you might be able to read keyboard status and/or individual key-down and key-up events.


  5. Pierre Igot says:

    Well, Henry, it’s harder to reproduce in Open Firmware (i.e. it occurs less frequently, as far as I can tell), but I can definitely still reproduce it, even in OF.

  6. henryn says:

    Hmmm… well, what do you want to do now? I’ve certainly willing to do some homework to see what can be done about diagnosing the keyboard character input stream in OF, which -as I’ve said — is intended for such tasks. There may also be additional keyboard parameters that can be adjusted at this level. Do this work you got what amounts to a super-computer listening to a dinky little keyboard microcontroller, probably running at a few MHz, and so I’d expect the OF program can run circles around the keyboard, just the situation needed for diagnostic use.

    I may have mentioned that I’ve programmed a keyboard, written the firmware to make it work with a Mac, using ADB to be sure, but the principles are very similar, just the transmission layer differs (I think). What I recall about that work a million years ago is that making a keyboard work is, well, very simple and generally foolproof, so I’m really surprised at what you are seeing.

    Hmmm, I wonder: Can you make it fail if you remove the keycap on the “worst” key and press the little stub instead of the key/

    Off-topic: Do I remember that Betalogue did or does send a notification of a new post on a subject in which I’ve participated? It isn’t doing it now, and I’m absent-mined, so I’m worried I’ll ignore something… Please feel free to continue via direct email.

  7. Pierre Igot says:

    Henry: Thanks for all your suggestions and help. I am not sure I want to spend much more time investigating the problem, though. Even if I were able to more specifically pinpoint the source of the problem, it still wouldn’t change anything to the fact that it only appears to occur with me and my typing. (I don’t see reports of people with the same problem.)

    If I remove the keycap on the Delete key, I see a structure in solid plastic that does not move. The part that moves is deep inside the centre of that solid plastic structure, and cannot be pressed without a sharp object mimicking the protruding piece in the keycap that presses on it when the keycap is on. So I cannot really try to reproduce the problem without the keycap.

    I thought that Betalogue should automatically send you notifications of new comments added to posts where you have already posted your own comments. But I must admit I haven’t looked into this in a long time. I am trying to check this right now, and I cannot find anything about it. Maybe you actually have to subscribe to the RSS feed for the post (or to the general RSS feed for comments). I am not sure :-/.

  8. henryn says:

    Right, it makes little sense to explore this further if you can’t do anything about it.

    I guess the key attachments have changed since I looked last, which has been a long time. I just pulled of a key on this older keyboard and found what you described.

    By the way, I just pulled out this keyboard from “stock” to replace one that I’ve been using 5 or 6 years, which finally failed — one shift key went completely dead. Mechanical stuff… fails.

    I don’t think RSS feed is the path that existing before — as I did get notifications, I’m almost certain, but I have no idea still how to subscribe to a feed. Well, good luck sorting it out.

  9. andykonwinski says:

    I have experienced this very same problem. I came upon this blog entry while googling the topic to look for others who have experienced this.

    I started a summer internship 4 weeks ago in New Mexico, and they provided brand new apple keyboards (the box just says apple keyboard on it, so i don’t think it is a pro). the keyboard is nice enough, though i am used to microsoft’s split keyboard design and miss it a little since it seems to make more sense for keeping ones wrists straighter. Anyway, my office mate and I have identical keyboards which were purchased from the same place and opened for use at the same time. He has no problems, but I have the exact problem you describe for a variety of keys. I have not tested this much, but i have a strong suspicion that it is just an unfortunate combination of this particular keyboard design and my typing style since the problem is sporadic and the keyboard is so new.

    I have though about calling apple and asking them to send me a new one because it really is annoying but I don’t think it will help, and your story makes me even more convinced of that.

  10. Pierre Igot says:

    Yes, I am afraid it’s just not compatible with our typing style. (BTW, Apple only makes one model of its wired keyboard, so it’s probably the same.) If my older (previous generation) white keyboard ever dies, I will have to replace it with a third-party product. For now, it’s working fine—although I have noticed that even with that keyboard, sometimes when I press the Enter key I get two keystrokes instead of one. But it’s only with that key. Go figure.

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