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Interview with Eiiti Wada, Creator of the Happy Hacking Keyboard (massdrop.com)
69 points by PascLeRasc on Sept 26, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 40 comments



I really like one of the highlighted quotes from him since it pretty much sums up my view on computer peripherals:

"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But that’s incorrect. When America’s cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces."

Also the title should probably be marked with (2016) since this isn't a new interview.


Yeah, that part made me imagine a world where everyone carries around a cool keyboard with their dotfiles stored on it, and logs into public UNIX machines just by plugging it in.


The Kinesis Freestyle Edge has a tiny 4MB memory drive built into it. It's intended for storing the keyboard's editable config files, but you could easily keep your dotfiles there, too.


Really? That's pretty handy actually. A long time ago I ran an experiment where I kept my dotfiles remotely and union mounted them to the right places. The real issue was getting it set up on temporary usage boxes and managing the differences.

While not as fun, this is why I built my own ErgoDox. So I can have my own personalized layout/layers and never have to worry about trying to configure the system. Just plug and go.


Custom keyboard with Raspberry Pi Zero should be able to deliver that.


Hahaha, I love his answer to "hhkb is great for unix programming, how would you design a keyboard for a modern ide that uses lots of function keys and key combos?"

>I once wrote an application for iPhone. The environment was quite different from my previous experience. I am already quite old, and personally the present environment is pleasant and comfortable for me.

Which I read as "I'm too tired, that's someone else's problem."


Xcode key bindings are pretty easy to use with HHKB. I used HHKB with Xcode "back in the day" (pre-iPhone). The main Emacs text navigation shortcuts work in Xcode, like most macOS apps, and the HHKB makes those even easier. Xcode uses simple shortcuts like ⌘B for build and ⌘R for run, which are easy to type on the HHKB.

Supposedly, Steve Jobs insisted that the original Mac ship without F-keys in order to force application developers to design new UIs when porting to the Mac.

Visual Studio, on the other hand, uses the F-keys aggressively (and they seem to change the bindings every few years?), and navigating through text on Windows usually means having HOME/END/PGUP/PGDOWN, so Visual Studio sucks if you have a HHKB.


I used Eclipse, Netbeans and Idea, even Visual Studio (old versions) and don't remember using F-keys. F-keys were heavily used in DOS era, but later not much.

Modifier keys are even more heavily used in Emacs than these IDEs.

You will probably be more productive in all these eclipses with HHKB than with full-size PC keyboard because mouse will be closer to right hand home row position, and you can't avoid mouse with these IDEs.

When Apple removed F-keys row on Macbooks, everyone missed only Esc key which was on that row, almost no one complained about removed F-keys. And AFAIK you can't press these keys with Fn+numbers on Macbook.


> And AFAIK you can't press these keys with Fn+numbers on Macbook.

There is a System Preferences > Keyboard > "Press Fn key to <Show F1,F2,etc Keys>" option available to do just that.


The JetBrains IDEs I use all have many shortcuts bound to function keys by default. I haven't tried, but i think it would be a drag to for me to use a keyboard without main layer function keys.


A rather hostile website in that whenever you click or try to select something, a signup popup appears. 90's / 2000's popups were less aggressive than that.

Web developers, please stop with the popups!


Unfortunately, usually it's not up to web developers, blame it on a business people.


I can't stomach purchasing anything through massdrop for this reason. It's so difficult to browse the site that I always end up navigating away.


Using my ad blocker's element picker worked great to permanently remove the popup.


As a big fan of ergonomics, it's really hard for me to understand how anyone likes these types of keyboards....

Maybe its just my physical size, but to me, one of the biggest problems with traditional keyboards is how close the right and left key 'wells' are to each other.

I started using a kinesis advantage some years ago and find them simply amazing for a multitude of reasons.

- First off, the separation between right and left key 'wells' decreases pressure at my wrists significantly.

- Secondly, the small, natural curve in the wells seems to greatly reduce the effort required to reach the most used keys.

- And thirdly, thumb keys are bomb!!

All of that said, it is a pretty expensive piece of gear... but it's also where the rubber meets the road -- where my fingers do the talking.. so why shouldn't it be nice?


One of problems with columnar/ortholinear/split keyboards is that all of them are 40%-50%ish. I never seen such keyboard with '[' and ']' keys in standard places. Sometimes there's no "'" too. Yes, this is by design, because these keys are too far away from home position, but I use Russian layout and it has 'х', 'ъ' and 'э' letters on these keys. Not the most frequent letters but still I don't like idea to have letters on some unrelated places on "punctuation layer".

Not everybody likes heavy use of modifier keys. Despite using computers from early 90s I still struggle with pressing ctrl/alt/super before alphanum key, sometimes I press keys in wrong order (i.e. I press alphanum before ctrl is fully pressed). Using multiple layers with Fn keys would be probably a nightmare for me.


I think a fully programmable keyboard might be able to satisfy your requirements. Off the top of my head Ergodox/Ergodone, Iris, Helix, and Let's Split are a few that are split and programmable.


You can also build ergodone or sp50 for half of the price.


Yeah... that seems like a reasonable option - certainly for the price reduction alone.

A couple of cons to that option for me:

- Having already found a keyboard I love, It would be hard for me to switch without trying it first at no cost to me :).

- I notice it does not have the curved key wells, which I have really come to appreciate. It may seem subtle, but after typing on one for a while, I find it really amazing what a difference the curves make. Any keys around the home keys just require less effort to activate. It feels quite nice to type with.

- I have never built a keyboard before (but would like to give it a shot). Does that require soldering? Unless assembly is just completely foolproof, I think Id just prefer my main keyboard to be built by people who build them regularly :P


Ergonomics was a large factor in building my own ErgoDox, my shoulders were killing me due to the keyboard being too short to be supported by the rests on my chair. Choosing to build your own keyboard is it's own little rabbit hole to go down, but it's worth it and you have a truly personalised device at the end. Some soldering and research is required but places such as r/mechanicalkeyboards and geekhack exist along with many many tutorials.

As far as curved keywell that comes down to your choice of key profile. I'm using XDA which a flat profile, while a SA profile has a decent curve to it. The choice of board does come into play but most kits are flat as to avoid 3d printing and whatnot[1]. For the feel of the key itself there are a ton [2] of options, from extremely smooth and light linear switches to heavy clacking tactile switches, most being compatible so mixing and matching is possible. PCBs come in all sorts such as tiny 70% sizes, split, stenographic and some freakazoid monsters [3]. Even FOSS firmwares such as QMK are common and hackable! There are are too many options to enumerate!

I just wanted a split keyboard that was small, light on my fingers and wouldn't wake the girlfriend up. I took some time and built a ErgoDox with Gateron clears, XDA blank keycaps and a programming focused layout. For less then 150CAD, it was worth it for it being entirely my own.

[1] https://github.com/adereth/dactyl-keyboard [2] https://deskthority.net/wiki/Category:List_of_all_keyboard_s... [3] https://keeb.io/products/bfo-9000-keyboard-customizable-full...


Very cool. Thanks for sharing! This definitely makes me want to build one now!

One thing I really like about the ErgoDox, and similar designs, is the ability to move the key wells to wherever you want! Even the kinesis still feels a bit too close together for me!


Exactly! My arms rest perfectly on the arm rests and my spine is thanking me for it! If you want a prebuilt there's the ErgoDox EZ but that takes half the fun out of it :)

Take the dive, be the guy that built his own damn keyboard!


The Ergodox-EZ is a pre-built model you can buy. If you get the DCS profile keycaps it will have a bit of a faux curve, not like on the real deal Kinesis, but better than standard keyboards.

I imagine my ideal keyboard would be a Kinesis Advantage, but split and fully programmable.


I always wanted one of these, but never got around to buying one. I’ve used the Filco Ninja keyboard with a similar compact layout, which I enjoyed. The keyboard I use the most, however, is the Apple Extended Keyboard II. It requires an adapter to work with USB and doesn’t have media keys, but it’s just the most comfortable keyboard that I’ve ever used. It looks odd paired to my 2018 MacBook Pro, but I’m willing to forego the aesthetics for the comfort.


It looks interesting, but I'm no vim / emacs pro (I never got used to it) and need arrow keys.

At home (leisure, gaming, forums etc) I have a Filco Majestouch, tenkeyless version. At work I have the new apple wireless keyboard, also without numpad; I prefer a low profile for work.


It is ok, but, imo it could do with a smaller space bar and more thumb keys. Also, the wasted space on either side of the bottom row is irritating when it could easily have been used for keys. The uhk-60 looks a lot better in that regard, but unfortunately is well out of my price range.


So I was wondering if anyone else finds the lack of F keys to be a minor annoyance? I currently have been using a 60 percent keyboard and am thinking of getting a similar keyboard with F keys because some times it's just really inconvenient...


I use a HHKB and its solid response on key press is irreplaceable for me.

I wonder how I can reduce the noise, though. A 5mm shock absorbing mat beneath helps to some extent (cheap one, like $2 USD), but apparently that's not enough.


I can highly recommend hypersphere's silencing rings but they are pretty expensive so it's probably more worthwhile to check out the cheaper ones made by KBDfans or KeyClack.

Here's a video demonstrating the before and after sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdqYnI55kVw


I have silencing rings on my Realforce and my HHKB and I haven't looked back. It doesn't affect the key feel at all since it only silences the upstroke, where the slider hits the housing. They're fairly cheap on AliExpress or eBay. Not as easy to install as Cherry silencing rings but absolutely worth the effort.


Open the case and put a slab of neoprene or something fancy like Sorbothane in there.

You can also get silencing rings, and lubricate the sliders with a thick lubricant that won't run down onto the PCB.


My dream is a tenkeyless membrane, i.e. all keys in the usual size and layout but simply w/o numpad. Somehow our bloated over-consuming society won't make one.


The IBM SpaceSaver II is a TKL membrane board if you don't mind digging around or a big ol' IBM Logo


If only it didn't have the mouse nub. I tend to hit it a lot when typing. Otherwise it would be perfect.


AFAIK there are lots of such keyboards nowadays, but almost all are with scissor low-travel keys.


There are lots of compact keyboards but few, if any, that have the cursor keys and the ins,del,home,end,pgup,pgdn cluster in their traditional positions. I am too old and used to this layout to change.


Maybe I've misunderstood: maybe a Topre Realforce suit you ?


Topre's are mechanical. There is nowhere in town I can go to test to see whether I like mechanical switches and what color switch switches to get. I also need something that is no louder that a typical non-mechanical keyboad.


Back in the 90s, I started using the Microsoft Natural keyboards at work (the ones that are 'bent' in the middle) and I am most comfortable with that layout.


Massdrop website is awful.

I can't even browse it unless I am registered?

Keep your sh*t, I'd rather pay full price than agree to this kind of behaviour.




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