The Horrible Canadian Bilingual Keyboard Strikes Again!

Let me make this perfectly clear: I am Canadian. I was born in Canada. I have lived my whole life in Canada. I love our awesome “cultural mosaic” society. However, none that means I want to use some wacky bilingual keyboard on my laptop computer.

I don’t, at all. Ever. Thank you.

Here is an old MSI Wind netbook with a standard US layout and a Chromebook with the Canadian bilingual layout.

Here is an old MSI Wind netbook with a standard US layout and a Chromebook with the Canadian bilingual layout.

But here’s the problem we Canadians (who have spent 30+ years typing on standard US layout keyboards) face when shopping for laptops online:

Even super “tech savvy” and crazy diligent people such as myself, who literally spend months researching their options and waiting for sales, can fall victim to the menace of the Canadian Bilingual Keyboard. I swear to all things one can swear upon, I couldn’t have put more effort into my pre-purchase research, yet when I flipped the lid of my new Chromebook today, what did I see? That obnoxious tall ENTER key and the super annoying, super short left side SHIFT key!

How could this be? I did everything right. I read all the documentation and sales information…. Well, it all boils down to two things:

1. Online retailers don’t give a damn about providing the correct product information. This goes for every major online retailer and every OEM hardware vendor unfortunately. For instance, SOME will say a device has a bilingual keyboard, yet NONE will say a device doesn’t have one.

2. Online retailers will send you whatever the hell they feel like and there’s nothing you can do about it. No amount of research can save you from their whims.

This Curse of the Canadian Bilingual Keyboard issue isn’t new and has indeed been covered in the past mainstream media outlets such as The Globe and Mail, with articles dating back to the mid 2000s. I knew about it and because I purchased my Chromebook explicitly to type on it all the time, I paid very careful attention to the issue (while researching an upgrade to my Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop over the last couple years). And… I still took a tall ENTER key to the knee…

I guess the bottom line here is this:

When it comes to an important physical tool, such as a keyboard, a mouse, an electric drill, or other such device with whom your hands will become intimately familiar, it’s truly worth paying the “brick and mortar store price premium” to actually see, feel, and use the item at the time and place of purchase. The upside to making purchases in “brick and mortar” stores is that the new device in your hands can’t lie to your senses or leave out critical physical details about itself.

The downside, here in Canada, is that unless you live in one of a handful of major cities, you simply won’t find most current products at all and the ones you do find will often be marked up by 30 to 500 percent or more. As ludicrous as this would sound to any European, for we folks who live in the minor cities of Ontario, it’s literally more cost effective to drive a car 200Km down the 401 and buy computers and computer parts in down town Toronto than it is to buy the same items locally. I’m all for the “Buy Locally Owned” mantra, and I am sure many of its proponents wouldn’t appreciate me sharing that nugget of wisdom with you, but it’s simply the truth.

If you’ve ever wondered why some online retailers boast about how excellent their return policies are, this is it. Perhaps the old saying, “you get what you pay for” could use an amendment for life in our modern times, “… unless you bought it online, because then it’s more like a box of chocolates…”.