|Manufactured in 1991.|
I know what you're thinking. Northgate died as a corporate entity back in the 90's, right? You would be correct. Northgate was a fairly unremarkable computer company with one remarkable product: the OmniKey. Thankfully when the company went bankrupt, an equally unremarkable technology consulting firm picked up the OmniKey design and carried on manufacturing it. A complete tragedy was averted, as Northgate's singular significant contribution to computing carried on under the Avant name.
Creative Vision Technologies was that company. They simplified the OmniKey's myriad versions down to two: the Avant Prime and Avant Stellar. The former sold for $150 and the later for $190. The Prime used a standard 101 key layout with the function keys on the top, while the Stellar added an additional set of function keys on the left while still retaining the top function keys. Both were fully programmable and every key could be remapped or have a macro assigned to it.
|The modern incarnation of the OmniKey. Sadly no longer in production.|
My old OmniKey 102 (pictured above) was manufactured in 1991. It's older than a number of the college students that I deal with during the week. I've abused it mercilessly for a good chunk of its 20 years. Despite that, it still works. Sure, it needs at least one adapter (sometimes two) to run on anything these days, but it works.
I bought an Avant Stellar a couple years back to give the OmniKey some company. It's pretty much identical with the addition of the double set of function keys. The macro functions were quite useful when I played World of Warcraft, and the heavy-duty construction serves pretty much any game I play quite well. It will most likely still be serving me well in another 20 years.
Thus ends the reign of the king of keyboards; the almighty OmniKey and its modern clone, the Avant Prime/Stellar. A few can still be found floating around ebay, but that number is likely to dwindle. Fortunately, there are many alternatives for sale these days if you still have the desire to experience the joy of mechanical typing. Overclock.net has quite an extensive guide posted here.
Oh yes... this article was typed up entirely on my Avant Stellar.