Lesson 1: Tasty Beverage Bad (when mixed with keyboard)
My mechanical keyboard journey started more than 2 years ago when my trusty Microsoft Natural had an unfortunate meeting with a beverage. The lesson learned was that liquid and keyboards don’t mix; I was unable to repair my trusty membrane after several attempts. With a heavy heart I embarked to find a suitable replacement...
1st Microsoft Natural 4000 – It was available from Amazon and, the form factor I was familiar with. However when compared with my original Gen 1 Natural it felt cheap, and more mushy. Over all it was acceptable but as someone who spends 6 Hours a day on a keyboard I was left with an unsatisfied and empty feeling every time I used it...
2nd Microsoft Sculpt – It was sleek and sexy, and I was weak. This was a very short lived relationship. I actually didn’t mind this board as much as the 4000, I had become accustomed to chiclet keys on my laptop, so the travel was not much of an issue. However the dongle disappeared after less than a month. Microsoft was unwilling or unable to send a replacement dongle… so that was that...
3rd DAS Keyboard – On travel to a jobsite a colleague of mine allowed me the pleasure of using his DAS Keyboard. I was immediately taken with the way that it “felt”. It was a solid keyboard. I decided to get one for the office, but a funny thing happened on the way to the market…
I started looking into the DAS, and I somehow ended up on our friendly Massdrop homepage, from Massdrop to Desk Authority, from Desk Authority to Geek Hack, etc. Lo and behold, there was a world of keyboards out there. More options than I had ever imagined. More passion than I ever expected. I took a few weekends to deep dive into what I wanted, then a few more. After all if I was going to spend “that much” on a keyboard I was going to make sure it was going to get everything I needed.
Lesson 2: Switches, Switches, Switches
Finding switches to test and try out was a bit of a pain. To make a long story short, I had to beg borrow and steal to test the different types of Cherry, Topre, and Alps switches. I found myself preferring Cherry Blues. My co-workers preferred to use clears, but that’s a different story all together. I will not dwell on the great switch debate other than to observe the debate is on level with OSes, religions, and politics.
Lesson 3: Less can be more.
I am left handed. There is a level of frustration that cannot be expressed to the right handed world pertaining to having to use standard software, standard keyboard, and a standard right handed mouse. Being left handed one key frustration among the frustrations was that 85% of the shortcut keys in the programs I use are single handed; left handed in fact. Totally awesome right? … Wrong. Left is my “mousing” hand. Switching back and forth a couple thousand times a day is tedious. There were 60% keyboards out that had arrow keys that were also left handed. That meant that I could navigate most of my programs without needing a mouse, with my dominant hand which seemed like a good thing. I settled on finding a good 60% keyboard.
4th The Tex Yoda
I finally settled on the Tex Yoda. It had a pointing stick, which; while not my first choice in pointing device, it would supplement my mouse. This keyboard has been my daily driver for about a year now.
It is solid but almost immediately I realized that when running simulations and such I used a keypad much more than I realized. This was the drove me to start designing my own keyboard.
The Idea: I wanted a 60% with a numpad.
- I dove into even more research:
- I started looking into the community designed keyboards.
- I read about the experiences of others.
- I poured over points and counter points made about various design tradeoffs.
- I tested every mechanical keyboard I could get my hands on.
I decided my custom board needed to feel Solid, it needed:
- Switches that are plate (aka panel) mounted.
- A metal top plate (panel) and metal bottom case.
- PCB mounted stabilizers.
It needed a few features that existed already:
- Programmability. The board needs to be fully programmable, macro enabled.
- Back lighted Keys. (I actually do work in the dark when possible).
It of course also needed features that I desired:
- 60% + Numpad.
- Low/thin profile.
- Anodized finish.
Lastly, it needed two versions:
- A version for right-handed users.
- A version for left-handed users.
I call it my DLD77. The conceptualized iteration for the 'right-handed' version is shown below.