Today in Apple history: Apple’s last (and greatest) mechanical keyboard

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The Apple Extended Keyboard II might be Cupertino's finest keyboard of all time.
This could be the best Apple keyboard ever.
Photo: University of Chicago

November 15: Today in Apple history: Apple Extended Keyboard II is Apple's last (and greatest) mechanical keyboard November 15, 1990: Cupertino wins a design patent for its Apple Extended Keyboard II, arguably the greatest computer keyboard of all time.

Delivering the perfect combination of durability, feel and a pleasing click-clack sound, the Extended Keyboard II will become a mainstay of pro-grade Apple setups during the early 1990s — and perhaps the best-loved keyboard in Apple history. Courtesy of an ADB-to-USB adapter, some people continue to use them today.

Apple Extended Keyboard II: Best Mac keyboard ever?

The original Extended Keyboard arrived in 1987, after the departure of Steve Jobs from Apple following his battle with CEO John Sculley.

In the same way that Macs of that era focused on extendability in a way Jobs never approved of, the Apple Extended Keyboard models — of which the Extended Keyboard II is the best — included function and arrow keys Jobs did not like.

Jobs likely would have appreciated the quality of the keyboard, however. It combined high-end components with the kind of clever proprietary touches that make Apple products great. For instance, it used mechanical key switches made by Japan’s Alps Electric Co., which later produced keyboards for the iMac.

The Apple Extended Keyboard II’s keys felt responsive in a way that is rare to find. The sound left no doubt about whether you had hit a key or not. And the keys sprang back at an impressive speed after you pressed them, thanks to physical springs under each key.

Features define the best Apple keyboard of all time

The Apple Extended Keyboard II included a couple of other neat touches, too. Its caps lock remained depressed when you hit it (unlike today’s, which indicate they are on by way of an LED). This gave the keyboard a typewriter-style feel that many users appreciated.

It also boasted a power switch located on the keyboard, which drew many accolades in the early 1990s.

Finally, in a notable improvement over its predecessor, the Apple Extended Keyboard II featured an extendable foot in its base. This allowed for a variable height. Combined with a curved ergonomic design, this gave users many options for getting the keyboard angled just right for their individual needs.

Did you ever hack out a document on an Apple Extended Keyboard II? Or maybe you’re still using one? Tell us why it’s the best Apple keyboard ever (or not) in the comments below.