Do the Letters on Your Keyboard Vanish?

March 2, 2011

Sometimes I need to put a little of myself here on the website. This is one of those times. I am assuming that most of you who visit here are writers. I have a question to ask you: do your keyboard letters vanish? I admit, I am on my 4th Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard in a year. My first two lost almost all of their letters, and the last one just died completely. Is it possible that I write that much?

Invariably, the first letter to disappear is the E. Then the D. Now my C, F and S are starting to fade into obscurity. I’m not sure why the left side vanishes more quickly than the right. Both my hands and wrists are equally tired at the end of the day. It is a good thing I touch type or I’d be completely lost.

On my first keyboard, I had more blank keys than lettered keys by the time I called Microsoft to complain. They were happy to send me a new keyboard, but they haven’t done anything to fix the problem. Within three to four weeks, my letters start to disappear, one by one. I’ve had my current keyboard since October, so I guess I’m doing okay so far. I’ve only lost 4 letters and another is showing signs.

Why can’t they make a keyboard with permanent lettering? I would hazard a guess that writers everywhere would rejoice. I know I would. I told Microsoft I would close out my case file on this issue if they would make the lettering more durable. Have they closed the file? Yes. Have they made the lettering more durable? No. Sigh.

And while we’re at it…it should be easier to find ergonomic keyboards. Why did they disappear?

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13 Responses to Do the Letters on Your Keyboard Vanish?

  1. Linda Cassidy Lewis on March 3, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    I’m with you. I love my ergonomic keyboard, but the letters do disappear way too soon. The MS keyboard I used to have lasted much longer, but my new one started losing the M within a month! I know most products are purposely made to be disposable nowadays, but do they seriously expect us to replace the keyboard because the letters wear off?

  2. Kristle on March 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I’m letting my inner geek out to answer a few questions. I swear I’ll lock her up afterwards.

    The letters on the keyboard disappear because they’re printed, not engraved, on the keys. Keyboards that use rubber domes, such as the MS Ergonomic Keyboard, also wear out quicker than keyboards that use mechanical switches. (Rubber domes are also cheaper. I can’t guarantee yours is a rubber dome, but the last one I took apart was.)

    I’ve experimented with many keyboards over the years, including a truly amazing Kinesis Advantage a friend lent me once (best of both ergonomic and mechanical switch keyboards in my opinion). Since the Kinesis was out of my budget, I continued experimenting. For me, a regular, mechanical switch keyboard causes less hand pain than an ergonomic keyboard with rubber dome switches.

    My current keyboard is a DAS Model S Professional. Instead of stickers, the keys are lasered. I dare these to wear off! (Not that it matters. I type DVORAK, not QWERTY, so labeled keys are rather useless. The white epoxy on the key labels could wear off. It hasn’t, yet.)

    Sound-wise, typing on a mechanical switch keyboard is like typing on a type writer. Brown cherry switches (used in the keyboard, but the manufactures advertise this) are quieter than the other options. If you know a coding geek or a gamer, they might already own a few different types of keyboards. (I’m talking the specialty kind you don’t normally find at Best Buy.) If you ask nicely, they may even let you try a few. Just remember that keyboard might be their baby, so don’t bash it if it doesn’t work for you.

    For your main issue, the answer is “lasered keys”. They don’t last forever, but good ones last longer. Alternatively, go to Amazon’s electronics section and search for “keyboard stickers”, cheaper than a new keyboard.

    Okay, the geek’s run off with my brain. Better catch her and lock her back up.

    • Toni Rakestraw on March 23, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      Thanks for the info. I know about the stickers, but not sure if they’re worth it. I type QWERTY, so I don’t even look at the keyboard most of the time. I’ll have to look into some of these other keyboards that may be available. :)

  3. Isabelle on March 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I have the same problem, since I’m a proofreader. I type a lot. I have a QWERTY keyboard, also ergonomic (Microsoft). Since I don’t want to change my keyboard and I don’t need to look at the keys to type, it’s not urgent, but my husband uses the same computer to do my invoices so I must find stickers to solve the problem. However, I don’t know where to find those who have exactly the same symbols on a same key (sometimes, like on the dot key, there are more than one symbol). I believe Microsoft should engrave them. Good luck!

  4. Debbie on March 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I am also having the same problem with the letters on the left side of the keyboard coming off. I frequently have to get new keyboards and I have also mentioned this to them.

    I am also having problem with the keys are getting really oily and no matter what I do, it doesn’t solve the problem. I like the ergo keyboards, but thinking I will look for another kind, because I think the letters coming off are causing problems (with oils as well).

  5. Mike Haro on April 28, 2011 at 10:45 am

    I’m also having the same problem. Also with a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic keyboard. My S and E keys are the first to be almost gone.

    Just for info, I read some place that there is an argument against the QWERTY keyboard in that it was configured to favor the left hand. More words use more letters on the left side.

    I found another site that referenced the stickers at I haven’t tried them yet but thinking about it, at least to just replace the ones that start fading.

    I also love the ergonomic keyboards and also have a hard time finding good ones. Will have to check out some of the ones that Kristle mentioned above.

  6. Jack on June 30, 2011 at 8:00 am

    I have had the same problem with several of my keyboards and laptops. I found a company They explained to me not just laser printing but the white ink can also be just pad printed to cut costs for keyboard manufactures. Keyboards use to have 2-shot keys so they would never wear away. Everyone trying to save money I guess at our expense. I bought some labels from this company standard letters and large print letters. They still look as new as the day I put them on. In fact I like the boldness of them much better than my original printing on the keys. The print I guess is under the material so I am sure that is why they are still very bright. I was very impressed with the product and the service they gave me in explaining.

  7. Junior on October 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Hi all. If you are looking for keyboard stickers, you can go to eBay and just do a search for them. They range from as low as 10 cents up to $30. It just depends on what you want. They also have other language keyboard stickers that you can use. Some even come with pics/images. The only problem I’m having right now is trying to find split ergonomic keyboard stickers. But, if I can’t find them I’ll just make the normal ones work.

  8. Nathan Lee on May 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Just saw this post. Recommendation:

    Buy a DAS mechanical keyboard. They are laser engraved.

    The end.

  9. Lynda on December 12, 2012 at 10:18 am

    I’m wondering if my skin has an acidic condition that causes the letters to fade. It happens on all the keyboards i have used.

  10. Lou.b on January 15, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I think Lynda might have a point. I am a secretary in an office where five other women type around the same amount as I do. We all have the same (ergonomic) keyboards. However, the letters on my keyboard disappear much more quickly than theirs do. There is no way I type more than them. I too wonder if it is something in my skin and whether it might be a sign of some kind of imbalance? I shall research further and let you know what I find (if you’re interested).

    • Toni Rakestraw on January 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      Thanks, Lou. Yes, if you find out something, please come back and update us! :)

  11. Sharry on July 18, 2013 at 7:40 am

    My second keyboard is Omega and it really sucks in so many ways. However, the letters started coming off the FIRST WEEK!! And like my first keyboard, the ones coming off are not on the left side, the most-used ones. They are again on the RIGHT side: K,L, N,M. And now, incongruously, the F is coming off on the left side. I am thinking that my right hand exudes a different kind of oil than the left, except don’t see how that is possible. Wonder if its the amount of pressure applied, if right handed people slam the keys harder. (And this keyboard sure needs slamming).

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