In what will probably come as no surprise to any regular reader of the site that I have had my current keyboard for more than a decade. The keyboard, a Logitech G15, appears in a picture I posted of my desk back in middle of 2007, while Amazon says I purchased it in 2006.
As noted every time I use this picture, not much has changed. The headphones have been updated, the iPod dock is gone, a second, even smaller monitor has appeared, and a lot more crap has managed to accumulate. But the monitor, keyboard, trackball, and speakers are all pretty much as they were ten years back.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The G15 has been a solid keyboard and, while I haven’t taken full advantage of every feature of it, I have grown used to some unique aspects of the keyboard. Chief among them is the LCD display.
In the picture above you can see the LCD display, nicely back-lit with a blue-ish tint, at the top center of the keyboard. Not a huge piece of display real estate, but I have grown used to having it there. As it turns out, quite a few games and applications wrote out to Logitech’s display API.
Not that everybody uses the LCD well. I posted back in 2007 asking what would be useful to put on the LCD display. You can’t put anything there that won’t otherwise be available in game, but you ought to put something useful on it. Games, like WoW, LOTRO, and EQ2 default to putting your character attributes, hit points, and maybe mana/power/whatever on the screen. But things like hit points are already better represented in the main UI, while your stats like strength and what not aren’t generally something you need to be updated on constantly.
Still, some games, like World of Tanks, use the display well. And I can always swap the LCD back to the default clock display, which is handy when playing games that do not have real world time somewhere in their UI. Or it can show me what I have playing in iTunes currently.
EVE Online does not support the display, but Mumble and TeamSpeak do, showing on the display who is currently speaking. That is probably more useful than any in-game data I might want. I know many people by the sound of their voice on coms, but there are still a lot of strangers out there, or people who sound very much like other people, so having that name up without having to use the wonky (and, to me, annoying) in-game overlay running is of value.
Basically, I’ve gotten used to having that display.
However, wear and tear has worn down the keyboard. After more than a decade of heavy use, the back lighting on the LCD has failed, I’ve worn through a couple of the key caps, the back lighting on the right half of the main keyboard flickers and goes out regularly, and I have to hit the space bar at the left end because the senor doesn’t register if I hit it on the right.
So I went to the Logitech site to find a replacement. I knew the G15 itself was long gone, supplanted by new models and, as I recalled, even a color LCD display. But I was sure the LCD display would still be a thing, given how many apps support it.
However, the LCD display on keyboards seems to be a thing of the past at Logitech. Technically it is still supported via their G13 Gameboard accessory, but the keyboard they offer are all LCD free these days. I suppose the list of titles supporting their game panel LCD is a bit of a clue as to how long gone the display might me. Some selected historically interesting entries:
- America’s Army
- Duke Nukem Forever
- Everquest II: Extended
- Hellgate London
- Neverwinter Nights 2
- Star Wars Galaxies
- Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
- World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
I think you could pin down when that list was written based on when those titles were all viable.
Logitech does have some new technology called Arx Control, which can put up a panel on your smart phone or tablet. I tinkered with that for an evening, wondering if they would be able to just pipe things from their older game panel API to it. I have seen posts saying that this is possible.
However, most of those posts are a couple of years old, so if it was once the case it does not seem to be that way any more. Arx only appears to work with items specifically built for it, which appear to be few and far between. World of Warcraft was the only supported title I could find, and I couldn’t get it to do anything that made WoW appear to actually connect and display something via Arx. All it could do was launch WoW, which isn’t all that useful a feature, especially since it launches it directly and not through Battle.net.
So Arx seems to be a complete bust.
If I want the Logitech game panel support, it looks like I have to go shopping for a vintage Logitech keyboard with an LCD. However, I distrust used ones and the few new-in-box- models I have seen are priced pretty high.
And if I am willing to let go of the LCD panel, then I have a plethora of keyboard choices to wade through.
For now though, the G15 on my desk continues to soldier on. The back lighting flickers, and I can feel the “a” and “e” keys due to their tops being worn off, but it still does what it needs to do.