San Francisco Bay Area Keyboard Meetup 2017-11 Impressions
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.
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 XMIT Keyboard
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.
so, i guess, now i see zero merit of the hyper expensive Happy Hacking Keyboard.
[see Topre Switch]
[see The Idiocy of Happy Hacking Keyboard]
Dactyl keyboard is the best
The best keyboard, that i've ever put my hands on, is now, Dactyl keyboard.
[see Dactyl keyboard]
I also typed on Keyboardio for about 5 minutes. Here's my impression:
- First, don't get the clicky switch one. It sucks. (keyboardio has 2 models, clicky and “quite”, both alps switches. Get the “quiet”.)
- The thumb keys laid out in a spread-out arc, isn't that much better than kinesis style.
- The palm keys, is not as easy to hit as i imagined.
- 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 Model 1]
Kinesis Gaming Keyboard
put my hands on this one, that only came out few months ago. Quality build. It's excellent!
Space Cadet Keyboard
now i've put my hands on 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 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.
[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.
here are the ancient keyboard photos, i haven't finished annotating them yet.
Heavy Metal Apple Keyboards
There are a couple modeled after Apple's keyboard but with heavy metal frame.
buried golden clock
then, there's this one, with a golden clock on the back.
more photo at https://en.zfrontier.com/products/foxlab-time
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).