keyboards

thursday, 5 march 2015

i have lost count of all the keyboards that I have owned and used. Ones I remember..

  • IBM Model-M with buckling springs
  • numerous Logitech rubber dome keyboards
  • Microsoft keyboards including the MS Ergonomic series (which are very comfortable to type on but, unfortunately, use rubber dome keyswitches)
  • Apple Alps keyswitch and wireless chicklet keyboards
  • Matias Tactile Pro with Alps keyswitches

As much as I like the MS ergonomic keyboard designs, there is something about the tactile feel and “clack” of mechanical keys derived from a long affair with manual and electric typewriters, hammering out Gestetner copy for high school publications aeons ago. Today, it’s the traditional rectangular desktop keyboard – with the Colemak keymap layout – that I pound away on.

majestouch 1

the keyboard I have had for a very long time is the tenkeyless Filco Majestouch 1 with Cherry MX Blue mechanical switches.

The Cherry Blues are notoriously loud when the keystrokes are bottomed out on the plate of this hefty keyboard – music to my ears and fine for solitary writing. But if you press lightly without bottoming out the keys, you can hear the subtle click of the keyswitch, characteristic of the Blues. Most of the noise is created at the end of the downstroke where the vector meets the keyboard plate.

o-rings

enter O-rings. I finally got around to taking an hour to clean the keyboard and install these O-ring dampeners.

They cushion the bottom of the keystroke, pamper your fingers and wrist, and leave the MX Blues with just their distinctive “click”. As well, the 0.4mm O-rings shorten the keystroke to just beyond the key’s activation point (where the key registers with the computer), further enhancing the responsiveness of the keyboard.

It is like getting a new and even better (subjectively) keyboard for a pittance – though, if you like bottoming out your keys, it might not be your cup of tea. YMMV with other O-ring thicknesses and hardnesses, and Cherry switch types but the right combo can transform your typing experience.

audio emulation

audible feedback is not just limited to the mechanical sounds produced by the keyboard switches themselves. Keystrokes can be augmented by software. While this may sound excessive, applications like qwertickle can enhance the typing experience by furthering the “typewriter” illusion – obviously, my ingrained fondness of typewriters makes this so.

bspwm can easily be configured to toggle qwertickle to turn typewriter sounds off and on, as well as, volume. The sounds through computer speakers elicit a relaxing rhythm to writing, distinguishing printable characters from space bar, return key and backspace – only with all the advantages of a word processing editor!

The aural interaction with the physical key strokes alters ones perception, making the typing feel more tactile in a pleasing and softer way. All an illusion, of course. But a delight for the fingers to dance to.

poker 2

is a 60% keyboard devoid of separate function and cursor control keys, making it look diminuative and smaller than it actually is – the keycaps are still full size. Function key combinations provide the complete keyset which, at first glance, would appear to be a disadvantage.

However, once the finger memory is established, it is actually, IMO, a more efficient keyboard to type on. Your hands stay on the home row without requiring shifting the hands to the top or right to strike the function row or navigation cluster. In addition, the keyboard is programmable to customize the layout and function of the keys (Colemak layout in this case) providing endless possibilies. Plus, the mouse, when required (and seldomly with a tiling window manager) is closer to the keyboard for easy access.

With ultra light linear Cherry Red key switches – models are available with the complete range of Cherry key switches – and O-rings (0.2mm red) installed, the Poker 2 is a joy to type on with a completely different feel to the Cherry Blue Filco. And the desk has never looked so spacious!

tex aluminium case

the stock ABS Poker 2 case tilts the keyboard in the conventional manner (back to front) but my preference is for a flat, if not inverted tilt. Adding a green Tex aluminium case levels out the keyboard, lowers it and adds mass, as well as, a beautiful anodized finish. Fix a pair of small vinyl bumpers to the front of the case and you have a negative tilting keyboard!

Adding between the keyboard plate/PCB and aluminium base, a run of pliable Weather Shield Crack Seal dampens key vibration, as well as, further adding mass to the keyboard.

Seat a 1/2” (three strands) wide strip between each of the grooved aisles. Aside from the USB and dip switch case cutouts and screw posts, notch the front Crack Seal piece under the space bar to accommodate the small protruding surface mounted component on the PCB (for ease of flush mounting the PCB to the Crack Seal).

Add a layer of tissue paper or thin plastic wrap between the Crack Seal and the PCB to make future disassembly easy – otherwise, the keyboard assembly will need to be pried carefully from the tacky Crack Seal. The easiest way to do so, in this case, is to gently pry up one of the sides with a tape wrapped jewelers screwdriver (to prevent marring the anodized finish), then run a credit card around the edges of the keyboard plate to separate the PCB from the Crack Seal.

Together, the Tex case and Crack Seal, elevate the feel of the Poker 2 keyboard considerably. If you prefer the tilt of the original ABS case, one could line it with Crack Seal, with extra layers to accommodate the keyboard case depth – to similarly dampen and weight it, and save some serious change!

This combo has ended my keyboard search. For now..

───  poker 2

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