San Francisco Bay Area Keyboard Meetup 2017-11 Impressions

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Just got back from mechanical keyboard meetup. It was wonderful experience. I got to touch lots keyboards. (there are more than 1 hundred keyboards there) Here's a quick impression writeup before i forgot.

sf keyboard meetup 20171111 88063 s
sf keyboard meetup 20171111 88063 s

first, special thanks to • Andy Lee, • Kaia Dekker and Jesse Vincent (aka obra) maker of Keyboardio, and • Matt Adereth, creator of Dactyl keyboard. and • XMIT keyboard guy of

ok, here's my impressions.

Topre switch hit bottom problem

Topre switch of Happy Hacking Keyboard fame, sucks donkey ass.

Before, i hear many keyboard nerds say, Topre is the best switch, smooth, better than Cherry MX. Now i tried it, i don't like it at all. It has a hit-bottom finger-shock problem. Topre switch, got this rubber dome, you have to hit with certain force, and because it is rubber dome, the dome collapses at some point and sucks you down, thus hit bottom and creates a finger impact shock issue. In contrast, the Cherry MX Red/Black switch (which is linear), if you don't press it hard it won't create a finger shock. The blue, brown, don't have “finger shock” problem neither. Nor the IBM buckling spring switch.

realforce keyboard 77903
realforce keyboard (with topre switch)

so, i guess, now i see zero merit of the hyper expensive Happy Hacking Keyboard.

[see List of Keyboards with Topre Switch]

[see The Idiocy of Happy Hacking Keyboard]

Dactyl keyboard is the best

kinesis dactyl keyboard 201711 52a0 s289x217

The best keyboard, that i've ever put my hands on, is now, Dactyl keyboard.

[see Dactyl keyboard]

Keyboardio impression

I also typed on Keyboardio for about 5 minutes. Here's my impression:

keyboardio dde64 81493
keyboardio and others [image source]
  1. First, don't get the clicky switch one. It sucks. (it has 2 models, clicky and “quite”, both alps switches. Get the “quiet”.)
  2. The thumb keys laid out in a spread-out arc, isn't that much better than kinesis style.
  3. The palm keys, is not as easy to hit as i imagined.
  4. The pinky column, is much lower than all other keyboards in existence (as far as i know). It will take some getting used to.

here's some detail.

Keyboardio has 2 models with different switch, clicky, and “quite”. i don't like the clicky at all. It requires lots force to press. And somehow i often felt am stuck.

So, if you want keyboardio, get the quite key switch version.

The keyboardio with quite alps switch. My impression is that i'd still prefer any Cherry MX red/blue/brown. So, in the end, i don't think i like alps switches. (i don't know alps switches well. There are many version of alps switch thru history.)

the thumb keys, each hand has 4. Only 2 are really comfortable to use frequently. (same with kinesis thumb layout, just 2 are comfortable) Before, i thought the fan-shaped layout makes more thumb keys easier to each by thumb, compared to the kinesis thumb layout. Now, i think fan shaped is still better, but not that much. I think, the conclusion here is that, there can only be 2 keys for a thumb to comfortably press frequently. Other keys near it need stretch of the thumb (or move whole hand, which is more healthy).

The palm keys, is not as easy to hit as i imagined. I find that i have to move my whole hand about 1cm towards the center of hands to press it. And, seems awkward to press it, because i have to kinda make a particular effort to flatten the palm down.

(of course, i only typed on it for few minutes, and in a social situation that am not at total ease. These things, you have to type on for a week to really give a fair judgment. And each person's finger, their natural force, and hand size, thumb relative position, are different.)

note, i still consider keyboardio one of the top 5 ergo keyboard. Which one is exactly for you, really depends on you. For example, the palm key, even if you can't press it with palm, you can make it a leader key, and coupled with keyboardio's superb customizable firmware, it would be better than any keychord with thumb.

by the way, buy keyboardio now, and save 20%. They have a 20% off code, “november meetup”. Am not sure they'd honor from people not at the event, but you can ask them.

[see Keyboardio Review]

Kinesis Gaming Keyboard

put my hands on this one, that only came out few months ago. Quality build. It's excellent!

kinesis gaming keyboard 20451
Kinesis Gaming Keyboard, Freestyle Edge

Symbolics Space-Cadet Keyboard

now i've put my hands on Space-cadet Keyboard

Space Cadet keyboard 2
Symbolics Space-Cadet Keyboard

the key switch feels like CHERRY MX black, which is the switch i do not like at all. Require finger force of gorrila to press. (it is linear switch)

[see Guide to Keyboard Key Switch Mechanisms]

ADM-3A says to vi: I am your father

i've also typed on ADM-3A terminal a little bit. The key feel is pretty lousy. I haven't touched much carefully on this computer, but, i recall, it's linear switch, and require force. I vaguely recall, it's better than space-cadet though.

terminal ADM 3A
ADM-3A Terminal

[see History of Emacs and vi Keys]

XMIT keyboard and ancient mechanical switches

a guy called XMIT, gave me a walk-thru of about 8 ancient mechanical keyboards, i think they are anywhere from 1960s to 1970s.

OMG, these mechanical keyboards, are a joy ride. Each have different mechanisms, some by magnet, and one seems to use acoustic (sound) to detect on/off (incredible!), and one seems to work like mechanically enhanced gravity, that is, when a key is pressed, some latch got unhooked, and the key fell by gravity. Really nice feel to press the keys, almost like playing a game.

but anyway, each is mechanical, and also in the sense that you can get a clear tactile sensation either as a click or more complex than that, the tactile sensation can be as complex as acoustic piano key! (hyperbolically speaking, since acoustic piano key switch mechanism is likely more complex than any mechanism in keyboard keys.)

anyway, i didn't explore each carefully (would love to, but in a crowd social event i can't do.) I took some photos. Will put up here shortly. Also, i haven't got down what these keyboards are from, some are teletype keyboard, i think. I never explored teletype, what they are like. When i put photos up, i'll try to identify them by name.

the XMIT guy, is creating a keyboard of his own, with hall-switch and wooden frame. I tried it, and it's excellent.

hall effect keyboard 2016 11 12 98908
XMIT Hall Effect Switch Keyboard

here are the ancient keyboard photos, i haven't finished annotating them yet.

univac keyboard 201711 01214
Univac F-1355-00 Keyboard
ibm 5251 keyboard 201711 28942
IBM 5251 Keyboard
smith corona acoustic keyboard 201711 40801 s289x217
Smith-Corona Ultrasonic I Plus 1983

more old keyboard photos


Heavy Metal Apple Keyboards

There are a couple modeled after Apple's keyboard but with with heavy metal frame.

aek64ss keyboard 201711 f2ba5
AEK64SS keyboard
modern m0110 keyboard 3ac74
Modern M0110 Keyboard

buried golden clock

then, there's this one, with a golden clock on the back.

brian huey clock keyboard 3ff93
“fox lab time 80 keyboard” [image source]

more photo at

the clock is really beautiful, but there's a problem: nobody can see it.

unless, you subscribe to a philosophy where everything must be beautiful, even cannot be seen.

maybe you polish your car weekly, but have you looked at the underside of your car? Or, beneath your kitchen sink?

this beautiful clock keyboard, can be applied, by using a glass table, in some modern geometry architecture building office. And, beneath the glass table, there is a contraption of mirror to reflect the beauty.

or, perhaps, the maker should think of a way, to bring the beautiful metal inlay decoration to the top of the keyboard frame, perhaps with a bigger frame with border (like the Apple Macintosh M0110 keyboard).


ergodox 20171111 56524 s
[see Ergodox Keyboard Review]
minidox 201711 7a686
minidox [see]
tex yoda keyboard 201711 7a345
tex yoda keyboard
kantai collection keyboard 201711 03454 s
kantai collection stickers on back of keyboard [see Fleet Girls Collection 艦娘]
i 20171111 42036 s
the brown keyboard on the right is minivan keyboard. [see]
i 20171111 50833 s
i 20171111 50833 s
i 20171111 54148 s
i 20171111 54148 s
i 20171111 82901 s
i 20171111 82901 s
plank keyboard 20171111 64411
[see Planck Keyboard]
truly ergonomic keyboard 64921
[see Truly Ergonomic Keyboard Review]
sf keyboard meetup 20171111 16955 s
sf keyboard meetup 20171111 16955 s
artist keycaps 20171111 19451 s
artist keycaps 20171111 19451 s [see Artistic Keycap Gallery]
magicforce 20171111 75717
[see Magicforce Keyboard Retro Keycap]

Mechanical Keyboard Meetup - Palo Alto Fall 2017 (NorCal) video by “MechMerlin”
sf keyboard meetup 20171111 58807
sf keyboard meetup 20171111 58807
sf keyboard meetup 68596
sf keyboard meetup 68596
hummus food 20171111 fea1c
hummus with lamb
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