One quality example blog post: http://blog.keyboard.io/post/148699005129/day-420-hinges-and...
I use keyboards all day, every day. I currently have three $200+ "ergo" keyboards (two for PCs, another one for a Mac). They serve me well as nearly frictionless devices that turn my keystrokes into money. In the past I have paid more for keyboards that sucked. I have built my own keyboards. I will stick with a good keyboard brand for a decade, no problem.
The current state of keyboards is pretty bad. Microsoft lost me as a customer about ten years ago because they started going cheap on keys (which is a shame, because the original Ergo keyboard they did in the early 90s was nearly perfect, and I have several cow-orkers who are still using those, those and similar ones). The market is full of "gamer" keyboards with various clickity-keys and little differentiation. Their layouts are uniformly terrible.
I don't know if the keyboardio keyboard will be any good. It may be an ergo disaster that I am unable to type on. But I'm pretty sure I want to buy the next keyboard that keyboardio does, assuming they can survive as a company and keep making new designs.
I think there is an untapped market for keyboards that don't suck. It may not be a massive market, but it's definitely nonzero. The ergo market currently doesn't have very many players, and none that really understand tech workers.
I was struck by how motivated the two founders are. They're keyboard geeks of the first water; it was fun to hear them speak.
Skins yes, weapons no.
There's no actual advantage to the player, it's just to have some rare thing for bragging rights.
It's conspicuous consumption in video game form.
The d2jsp marketplace for Diablo 2 items has been around for what FIFTEEN YEARS? Selling all kinds of virtual weapons for crazy money. https://www.d2jsp.org
This is my reasoning on that. As a bespoke item it carries a premium price for folks who value its design points.
A short anecdote; I have a pair of Roger Sound Labs studio monitor speakers that I love, probably paid twice what similar high end studio speakers cost but the folks at RSL were passionate about speakers and made the kinds of quality choices I would make when building speakers myself. That quality is evident in that here it is 30 years later and the speakers still sound great and still as they did when I bought them. Sadly, RSL no longer exists.
I think about that and similar vendors where I have gone out of my way to pay a premium to get a product that isn't working so hard for profit margin that it has compromised the durability or quality of the product. Those vendors are fragile.
If they make a really high quality product with the best components and engineering margins to insure decades of service, you only buy one unit and your done. Others will buy the same unit, but once the market is saturated you are stuck, you aren't selling any more, you still have bills and staff to pay. You need to either move on to a different thing, or shrink dramatically in size to be the maintenance organization.
A Bosch engineer was talking to me about predicting whether or not a particular spare part would be available 100 years from now. For things like machine tools, there are lots of them that have been in service for 100+ years. However, if you collect old computers, you know just how hard it can be to find parts to repair an S-100 machine like an Altair or IMSAI, or Apple II or PET parts. Forget finding a new set of DTL transistors for a PDP-1. Even the Alto project that kens and company are working on, that machine is 20 years old and you can't buy new disc packs for it or r/w heads for the drive. (both considered 'consumable' parts by the Alto)
So at the end of the day, can a company like keyboard.io survive by "only" charging $330 for a keyboard that they have nominally already sold to 2,000 backers. What is the total addressable market for that keyboard? 5,000? 10,000? And it serves a market (desktop computers) which is in steep double digit declines.
Even with big budgets such niche products find themselves lost (I've got a Microsoft 'commander' here you can play with :-))
My thinking then on this artisanal keyboard is whether or not they made the right choice by going to China. It seems like something you will sell a few thousand of, tops, and if you can make/keep all of the tooling in house you can control your supply chain fully.
Anyway, while I can't go that high for a keyboard, I know folks who will. I won't be surprised to find out they are already backers of this project. But from a long term "these guys will be impacting the way we think about keyboards for the next 30 years" I don't think they have set themselves up for even a shot at that. For that, it would have to sell for $1,000 each. That would give them the extra runway to develop additional fabrication capabilities in house and push the envelope on all sides.
I'm sure it's not a huge market but it's enough to sustain a company that wants to focus on making premium accessories. I don't think keyboards are going anywhere anytime soon. Sure, the consumer market is shrinking but the average computer user was never going to spend $300 for a keyboard. People spend that when they do serious amounts of typing all day, and there doesn't seem to be a decrease in the number of people that need to type for a living.
Is this true? I would've thought we have millions of equivalent devices available
I didn't (pre)order the Keyboardio because it uses non-standard key caps - I don't think they'll be in business very long after they ship because I don't think their pricepoint is sustainable vis a vis the size of the market. At least on the others you can easily swap out most parts. The UHK is sourced locally (i.e., EU) as well, which I think gives them an advantage in the long run. Then again, even if such a keyboard lasts for say 5 years - I'll have gotten my money out of it several times over, considering it's the main 'tool' I have in my hands each and every day.
I thought the UHK had a nonstandard keycaps or two?
Well worth it for me.
I hope they succeed. The addons look like an awesome idea.
Also what USB chip do they use?
PS: You can see the direct connection by playing The Hidden Fortress before watching Star Wars.
I used a pre-made PCB, so not quite as hand made as the OP's, but it's something I'm still quite proud of.
There's also a talk I gave a Clojure/conj about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uk3A41U0iO4
I have been looking for a split design of something like the Kinesis Advantage for years.
Thank you for posting this!
I even purchased the [Japanese version of my daily keyboard] to try this out. Haven't planned the functions or made the switch yet though.
The fast tab switch keys next to the arrow is something I need in every keyboard or laptop, to the point I won't buy if there is just the inverted T without any key I can remap to fast-tab switch.
I love this keyboard, what I find disconcerting however is the Japanese writing. I would like to replace all my caps by brand new english caps.
If you want the newest trackpoint you'll need to get the new chiclet usb one. There's a jap version too.
 yea, with the inferior (for many) layout unfortunately ;c
Its probably cheaper to watercut than to buy and use a punch (and hope for perfect alignment)
The problem with lasers is heat distortion that is a huge amount of cutting and the odds of it not turning into a pretzel are not so good.
A weldment with CNC carved rows and columns welded together hopefully into a square array is not ridiculous. In fact its probably the cheapest option. And you could use a nice aluminum and then anodize it some crazy cool color. If not aluminum and tig welding, maybe a somewhat less ambitious steel and silver "solder" (brazing, really) would be more realistic.
if we want to lower it further, i think your brazing suggestion is good to. brass is easier to braze with a small hand held propane torch than steel i think. also more local hardware stores carry products like stay-brite and appropriate fluxes for copper alloys.
is there way to use half thickness so the top tab grabs on two edges and the bottom guys on two others?
I'm reminded of an old Disney cartoon (maybe WWII era ?) where goofy invents artificial rubber. The catch is that it requires rubber tires as an input.
I guess the point I'm making is that 'scratch' is a pretty subjective line. I felt that the article qualified. When someone makes a cake from scratch I am ok if they use pre-milled flour and store bought eggs. I would be a bit annoyed if they started with a mix and called it "scratch."
I think in the 'things' space there is the notion of 'kit built' versus 'scratch built'.
It gets even a bit murkier when you think about wood working. Over the years I've built a number of things where the "plans" were in a magazine or an article and bought all of the wood, cut it to size, and assembled it "from scratch." but I didn't actually design it.
What I like about the keyboard article is that he designs the enclosure, provides his own wiring, and keyboard scanning software/firmware. So for me that qualifies as "scratch."
Perhaps put another way: prefab keys can only be keys; cakemix can only become cake; sheet aluminium could become anything; milled flour could become anything. 'From scratch' is making something from generic materials, to me.
- Carl Sagan
Probably WW2 era, because that's how the Nazi German synthetic rubber ("Buna") worked: It needed small quantities of natural rubber to produce (a lot more) synthetic rubber, with predictable results once the trade routes for that were blockaded.
I know. That's why I typed "WWII" (II = 2)
No confusion on the II/2.
Some resources on making your own custom keys from resin:
Do you know of any where the people built their own switches?
Given that, would you consider someone building their own switch as someone who's created a custom switch from these components? e.g. I've read of folks putting Zealios stems in Gateron housings with 80g+ springs to create their ideal switch type.
I mean if you wanted to be super hardcore, you could 3D print your own switches, your own key caps (or carve them out of wood), but what happens when you get to the controller? We don't have 3d printers for PCBs yet .. well none that are affordable for home use .. or that don't release tons of deadly toxins. :-P
A simple matrix keyboard (downside: will misdetect certain keyboard combinations) requires a quite small set of io pins (if you insist on fully individual switches it'll complicate matters a bit, but not that much) that you could make a controller for with any number of simple old parts that are big enough that etching your own PCB for them at home is fairly straightforward.
For that matter good old 8-bit era parts like 8526/6526 CIA's (IO) and a 6510/8510 CPU are big enough and resilient enough (and still easy to get hold of) that you can build a controller on a breadboard, or even mount them on cardboard you punch holes in (... yes, been there, done that), and you can drive a serial port off them (in fact, the Amiga 500 and Amiga 2000 keyboards at the very least used a SOC version of the 6502 with onboard PROM and RAM for their keyboard controller)
Of course, going the "next step down" and building it all from transistors starts getting a bit more hairy.
How do you learn where to assay for oil in the first place?
If you used a keyboard to make a keyboard, that is definitely not "from scratch".
I see a lot of builds similar to this on /r/MechanicalKeyboards, but which use pre-made cases or other kits. This is more "from scratch" than many, due to hand-cutting the case.
Every time I see one I get the itch to try it myself. The guide he links to makes it seem tedious, but relatively straightforward.
Queue keyboard hackers arguing over whether buckling-spring is really better than MX.
Regardless of which is better, feeling familiar is nice. Those of my age who grew up using Apples are likely to prefer the Matias switches; I grew up with an IBM keyboard, and the Cherry Green is the closest I can find that isn't made by Unicomp.
Great work op, don't let these pedantic asshats keep you down.
There are folks on these sites who are re-creating IBM capacitive buckling spring keyboards "from scratch": new molds for all the components. Also, keyboard.io is a keyboard project complete from scratch (except for the switches) from some friends.
Kudos to the OP for building a keyboard! It's great fun and very instructive. Head to the forums I linked above if you'd like to see more.
If you're looking for more keyboard build logs, I wrote one about my custom keyboard. http://thume.ca/2014/09/08/creating-a-keyboard-1-hardware/
I salvaged the keys from some IBM device. Drilled a bunch of holes in a fiberglass board, mounted the keys in the holes, connected them in an XY grid with diodes, and used a 6800 processor to poll the grid to see which key was pressed, and send the corresponding ASCII value to a serial port.
It was a simple design, and worked well. Later, I connected a 6845 video controller chip, some code, and a display, and voila! a VT52 clone.
Sadly, the thing got lost in one of my many moves.
What's the split keyboard you previously had, shown in the background of the first photo?
For this, the keys can usually be second-hand but everything else is custom. Mainly the MCU, power filter, material around it, etc. One might similarly do a wireless keyboard that encrypted its transmissions.
I currently own a number of ergonomic keyboards. Kinesis Freestyle 2 at office, Microsoft Sculpt Ergo at home and I've discovered my ideal keyboard would be a mix of the two.
Would love any ideas on how a custom keyboard could reasonably (time wise) be designed to combine the best aspects of both keyboards:
- separated halves of the Freestyle2,
- wireless bluetooth for both halves instead of the wire the Freestyle2 requires,
- curve like the Microsoft Sculpt Ergo keyboard.
- Ok with either full keys or scissor keys.
Having the halves communicate wirelessly is a bigger challenge, but still potentially solvable. The easiest solution would be to have each half register as a separate board. Then because it is wireless you have the issues of batteries and charging and stuff.
The curve might also be tough, especially when combined with the wireless part. The easiest solution would be to have a plate cut, heat it up to soften it slightly and then bend it into the curve that you want. There would probably be a lot of trial and error involved in that though, and it may be faster (though a lot more expensive) to design the final 3D version of it in a cad program and have it milled as one big block.
Standard cherry-style keys will be much easier to source than scissor keys.
This geekhack thread might give you some ideas: https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=70221.0
- As a prototype... I'm wondering if the MS Ergo Sculpt keyboard could be cut in half and rewired.
- Maybe two keyboards with two sets of wireless dongles could communicate via the same 2.4 ghz wireless dongle from "their half".
- Maybe even 1 battery each.
That's a great link, thanks I'll see what might be possible.
Believe it or not, there are folks out there creating their own curved keyboards. See the following for an example.
That's a great link, checking it out now, thanks for sharing.
The only keyboard I used like that was the Sharp MZ80K. It was unfun, but that used square and flat keycaps too.
I'm almost build one, because I need a replacement for my MS ergonomic Keyboard:
In short, MS hate me. He refuse to build a mechanical keyboard and also build the most nice Ergo (to me) but each iteration is far less durable. My actual one have several keys fade-out, and the palm rest is kaput. The original one, was rock-solid:
(I have see it at around US 300!)
So, I'm in the weird spot of:
- I like this keyb too much
- I can buy a more durable, but PS-2 antique, version
- I can buy a more up-to-date but cord-less (hate to recharge stuff!) and I'm confident it will break faster
- I can buy from the mech community, but do you remember? This community is CRAZY, and the options get weird and weirder!
- I can buy a commercial gaming keyboard and make my life easy. But I wanna ergo.
- I can build it myself, but do it curved is challenging, and I need to buy a custom keyset, so I need to convince like 20-30 people to do it so it not cost a eye.
Yep, this is nuts. I'm already > 1 year holding off this project, waiting for a reasonable compromise
(Not get wrong: I can settle for less. Is not that I can't, is that I wish a nicer option!)
The options in this space (Ergo+ Mech+ NOT CRAZY) are very limited. VERY.
You can get stuff like
or even more popular
But that keyb is a example of how crazy people are. Note that is not only a weird layout, have less keys than a normal keyboard.
I could buy it instantly if a least is a "normal" tenkey-less.
Right know, is SUPER-HOT to make the keyboard with the less possible amount of keys, where 60% is like the most popular, like this
This mean a lot of material to DIY is biased torwards 60%.
Recap of my build:
Switching from keycaps to some substitute wouldn't be technically harder to pull off, it would just reduce usability. Same for switches -- the input/output of these switches is created with keyboards in mind, other switch choices including a homemade version would be possible, but he didn't set out to create 100 switches, he wanted to make a keyboard.
Looks like the author had fun, though.
This. Is. Bullocks!