Keyboard hipstery

15 Feb 2015

Shortly before the 31C3 I started to be interested in mechanical keyboards. They are an important part of what we do as a programmer. We type. A lot. And we all should investigate more into possible options how we want to do it.

A good cook always has his own knifes. And there is a good reason for that.

On the 31C3 I had the opportunity to try a few options and talk with a few friends about their choices. Shortly after that it was clear to me that I should get a mechanical one, too.

But why a mechanical keyboard? What is wrong with the Apple default keyboard? The Apple keyboard is a pretty solid keyboard. It served me well over the years. But it is not without flaws. For one the keys only travel two millimeters. The tactile feed back is not that good. You mistype more because of that.

After I decided that I wanted one, I just had to decide what I actually wanted. There are tons of options. For example what kind of keyboard switch I want. This is the most important decision. Do you want more tactile feedback? Should it be noisy or a quieter one? Details for this can be found in this epic thread.

On the 31C3 I had the opportunity to try a few switches and after reading a bit more about them on the geekhack forum I decided I wanted Cherry browns.

The next choice was the size of the keyboard. A 60% is great for traveling, but misses some keys that are important for my daily work. I decided to get me a tenkeyless. A keyboard without a numpad. I also looked briefly into other options, for example the ErgoDox or the Atreus, but decided that I want to stick with a more traditional layout for now.

Going through all the available tenkeyless variants I finally chose the WASD v2 88. Why? Because I could choose the color and print of the caps how I wanted them to be. A fully customized keyboard.

Two weeks later I was able to hold it in my own hands. It looks marvelous. And typing on it is a real pleasure. Sadly it is a little bit louder than I expected, but that will be addressed soon by modding it a little.

The custom layout I used can be found in my github repo. If you look closely you will see that I am using a modified german layout. The reasoning for that can be found in this post.

Sadly the keyboard firmware is not moddalbe. I have to use software on my mac to change the layout and tweak a few things. I will write a follow up what I am using on my desktop for this.

Another thing on my todo list is to replace the controller in the keyboard to be able to modify the layout on the keyboard itself with a custom firmware.

Happy typing.

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