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Pricing niche products (kevinlynagh.com)
769 points by speps on Oct 4, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 356 comments

When eBay first started, I loved the idea of auctions as a way to set market prices. From an economic and game-theory perspective, it is so optimal!

Clearly as later examples like Amazon have shown, auctions don't make sense for most product categories. I believe this is mainly due to psychological reasons.

Decision-fatigue is a real thing. People dislike having to think hard. In a fixed-price sale, the buyer just has to ask themselves one yes/no question: "Would I be happy buying this item for $X?" This is a very simple question to answer. In a sealed-bid auction, people have to ask themselves "What $X am I willing to pay for this item", which is a tremendously more complex question to answer. In fact, from a game theory perspective, you should never put in a bid that you're "happy with". You should put in a bid where you're exactly neutral between buying-vs-not-buying. Otherwise, you're leaving money on the table. This is asking people to make purchasing decisions whose outcomes will leave them explicitly not happy - a state of mind that every person hates putting themselves in.

Couple this together with the fact that the buyer doesn't even know whether they won the auction, until X hours/days later. And during this period of time, they are under a state of uncertainty, which is another mental state that people generally hate.

I think that for very expensive, non-time-critical and hobbyist items, an auction may work great. People may actually enjoy pouring effort into it because it is their hobby. But for any item that people just want to buy-and-move-on, auctions are a horrible mechanism. Perhaps one day when AI assistants make all our purchasing decisions for us, auctions will become the norm, but certainly not today.

> You should put in a bid where you're exactly neutral between buying-vs-not-buying. Otherwise, you're leaving money on the table. This is asking people to make purchasing decisions whose outcomes will leave them explicitly not happy - a state of mind that every person hates putting themselves in.

It seems that this is a problem the Vickrey auction solves. By charging the price offered by the 11th highest bidder, they are ensuring that everyone pays less than or equal to their bid, and most likely less than.

This works out perfectly if everyone actually bids their neutral point: the winners are all either neutral or happy (most likely happy), the 11th is neutral, and the losers are all neutral or happy (most likely happy).

In practice, people bid at a price that they'd be happy to get it, so actually the 11th will feel slightly miffed that they weren't able to purchase at that price. And of course all the losers will be annoyed that it cost so much. But the former problem can't really be helped, and the latter is baked into basic supply-demand.

> so actually the 11th will feel slightly miffed that they weren't able to purchase at that price.

Why not including the 11th in the winners? That would solve the "unhappiness" of the 11th bidder; am I missing something?

It reintroduces the incentive to cheat in some situations. It also completely falls apart when there can only be one winner, which is a significant portion of the time.

There are only ten widgets for sale.

So it's not really "why not include the 11th in the winner," it's "why charge the 11th bid and not the 10th?" I think the reason is that everyone feels like they have a good chance of it going for less than they bid (and so they feel happy), but it probably also incentives higher bids.

Increasing bid auctions, reverse auctions, and Vickrey auctions all have their pros and cons.

Estate auctions and multi-seller auctions at auction warehouses give liquidity to the assets that would take a lot of time and energy to list and sell individually. Contrary to the scenes of Christie's and Sotheby's in TV and film, many auctions don't come extensively catalogued. It's often just "Here's another batch of knickknacks. Bidding starts at $3" or "Here's four more boxes of books, mostly nonfiction. Will anyone bid $5?"

> When eBay first started, I loved the idea of auctions as a way to set market prices. From an economic and game-theory perspective, it is so optimal!

> Clearly as later examples like Amazon have shown, auctions don't make sense for most product categories. I believe this is mainly due to psychological reasons.

I've always loved eBay as a way to introduce sanity into the prices of old/used items. Especially computer equipment, where "regular vendors" would rather let it sit on the shelf marked at 10x what its worth than actually price it to a level someone would be willing to pay.

Of course for new items, it never made any sense. The eBay prices were sometimes even higher than regular vendors, hoping to catch people in the place they happened to be looking.

> The eBay prices were sometimes even higher than regular vendors, hoping to catch people in the place they happened to be looking.

Before sales tax was mandated on eBay, it may have made sense to pay a little more than retail but save the amount in tax.

I just do not trust that my item will gain enough traffic during the 7 day auction for there to be any competitive bidding. If there's not competitive bidding, it will sell for around the low initial bid.

Much better to stage a "Reverse Auction" via Buy It Now + Easy Pricing. People can discover the item over weeks/months, and Watch it. When the price drops every week, they get an email. When it's low enough, they can buy immediately with no bidding or waiting.

The key to that is to list the item at $1 with no reserve. That will generate enough interest from bottom-feeders that it will usually do okay. I like your Reverse Auction if it's not something you want to sell quickly, but if you want to get the $$$ faster, the $1 auction does usually generate sufficient interest.

This is the way I ended up selling my IBM Model M keyboard on the swedish auction site Tradera for 1 SEK (about 10 cents). Not successful in my case.

On top of decision fatigue and needing to know the market, losing auctions gets expensive fast if you value your time.

aka transaction costs

Book I read about market design estimated that only 30% of commerce was done in an open market. Relationships, fulfillment, quality, service, returns, etc are all factors too. All those non-price intangibles that the Freedom Markets™ zealots ignore.

This book sounds interesting, what is the name of this book?

All the "Freedom Markets zealots" I follow are cognizant of everything you mentioned.

How are markets that aren’t open not free?

Hence the emergence of the middleman.

It's not about complexity, it's about convenience. The simplest bid on eBay is... the highest price you'll pay for it.

However, most people didn't think of it that way or want to do that (believe me I worked there for years), and they didn't like the chance to lose it anyway after waiting (snipers and bid shilling got ridiculous).

Fixed price is easier and you get it quicker. It may be less complex but if the price looks reasonable it's definitely more convenient.

> snipers and bid shilling got ridiculous

Since you've worked there, I've always wondered: What did eBay think of this? Did they not care because it indirectly benefitted them?

I feel like they could've done much more to prevent snipers and automated programs from putting in a last second bid.

eBay shows the top bid, which apparently is enough to induce a significantly different "sniping" strategy as optimal: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~inet0118/pdf/itterative.pdf eBay's done some things with "bidding agents" to attempt to ameliorate this but I don't think it worked since eBay is now 80% fixed price: https://tamebay.com/2017/02/are-ebay-auctions-a-thing-of-the...

Amazon has seller-side auctions with its third party system. Presumably this results in a little bit of competition to lower prices, but there aren't really enough third party sellers to make it happen.

Treasury bills are probably the largest auction held regularly and they seem to work well. But consumers all place non-competitive bids while the competitive bidding is left to expert financial firms.

If I had to guess I'd say the real issue is people don't understand economics and would rather buy something at whatever price than spend the effort to identify a good price. Certainly my roommates at college never bothered picking out what was on sale, or even looked at the flyer. And I think the rest of the populace pays more attention to the size of the coupon than the price of the item.

It's not only the price, it's the time and certainty, resources often more scarce than money.

A fixed price item is yours once you have paid for it. The amount you have paid is also known and fixed.

In an auction, there can be no certainty for days.

An auction may make sense (to me) for very expensive items, where a 10% difference can affect my ability to pay, but I am not in a hurry. Then the uncertainty can be worth it. Something like a car maybe.

For daily items, it absolutely does not apply. Paying 50¢ less for a tube of toothpaste? Nice, but doesn't beat not having toothpaste in the morning because I lost my bid and the next auction ends in 2 days.

The biggest reason why I use amazon over eBay is because I buy things I actually need, and I like knowing when I click the button I will have it tomorrow vs maybe not getting it ever.

That sounds like why eBay added the "buy it now" feature.

To expand on this, Amazon’s Subscribe and Save is decision-fatigue on steroids. Maybe one day (with A.I.) Amazon can figure out how to order everything I need, when I need it. It’s already really handy for Tide to come once a month for a good price without thinking.

With respect to the high price, it seems pretty simple really. Some people have a fair bit of money that they're willing to spend on their enthusiasms. This wouldn't even be a notable question if, instead of mechanical keyboards, we were talking "designer" handbags, shoes, custom-made suits, etc.

The auction question is more interesting. Auctions are well accepted when there's clear scarcity or uniqueness in what's being sold. With manufactured good, we at least harbor illusions that there's some relationship with cost. But for niche items, that's not really true of course.

Well I guess that's sort of the answer to the author's question about why auctions aren't used more often. The same way we (most of us anyway) wouldn't trust a company that begins with a crowdfunding campaign, selling your items at auction makes it look like you've done no market research and have no business plan. And I'm reluctant to back a company without business sense or a plan.

>I'm reluctant to back a company without business sense or a plan.

Depends on what I'm buying really. I don't really care if an artist has a business plan. Indeed, I figure they probably don't or they wouldn't be an artist. But a manufactured good that I might expect support or replacement for defects for? Sure. By and large, I don't want an artisan laptop.

These things have become so esoteric and expensive because the mechanical keyboard hobby is undergoing a more intense version of what happens to most hobbies/pastimes; the purpose of the hobby has transitioned from primarily "making/using the thing" to "obtaining and displaying ever more extreme versions of the thing to impress other people who know about the thing".

I feel like this is an outgrowth of the basic human desire to form groups and define an in-group and an out-group; people start a hobby because they are interested in whatever, but after a while there develops an (often arbitrary) right way and wrong way to pursue the hobby, cliques form, and after a while participating in the hobby becomes an exercise in demonstrating that you've bought/made/done the right things and are therefore worthy of being in the in-group instead of the out-group.

I think this is so strong in the mechanical keyboard community because there's not a lot of "there" there; mechanical keyboards are nice to type on, but there's no core competitive activity that they're used for - you're not spending $1600 on a keyboard to improve your typing speed and accuracy 1.2% so you can have a shot at winning the big annual World Typing Tournament in Las Vegas. The mechanical keyboard community feels to me more like the streetwear or sneakerhead community than, say, R/C planes or surfing or whatever.

Very much signalling, you want something that sets you apart from other users and if that means custom CNC'd cases, with harvested switches that have been lubed using the finest tears mounted on a custom plate. So you have something to ogle and show off to the others. And that's before we get into the scarcity territory that sees secondhand TGR Alices going for over 5K.

It's weird, a good chunk of people buy my Georgis [1] and _don't actually use them_. It's a strange feeling to have something bought only because it's different and to be collected. I think keyboards are to be used, not hoarded personally but in this community it's very common to own at least a dozen boards.

It's very weird.

[1] https://www.gboards.ca/

A side tracking question: How do you know they're not using them? (I'm a telemetry avoider)

Funny you should ask that! It's mostly because I'm hanging out it a ton of keyboard related Discord servers and the topic comes up naturally (downside of designing the things, your life revolves around it). Usually I'll post a few new images or screengrabs from KiCad and get a few comments along the line of 'someday I'll learn how to use mine!'. I mean there's students and people using them daily, but those comments just get me thinking.

A big issue moving to a new layout is learning/adapting to it. Georgi uses a chording approach [1] and is a compactified version of Gergos layout [2]. That makes it harder to learn.

Thankfully Gergos layout is meant for programming/shelling around and is fairly traditional. All I know is that my RSI flares a ton less then it used to! In theory, this applies to Georgi as well.

[1] http://docs.gboards.ca/Unboxing-Georgi

[2] https://qmk.fm/keyboards/gergo/keymap.png

It's funny how on hacker news apparently buying a fancy keyboard for your home where no one can see it is "signalling", but if you point out that wearing Apple watch, holding iPhone, and displaying those ear buds is also signalling/branding/status symboling, I am generally very aggressively downvoted.

I'd say buying a mechanical keyboard with RGB lights and nice switches is probably 100X less signalling (several orders of magnitude) than buying a $300 phone for $1100 and wearing gaudy white ear buds.

It's very rare personally that I see other people's setups. It's not like people lug around $300 keyboards with their laptops.

But walk down any popular street in any major city and I bet you can tell who is signalling that they're part of the apple brand.

You're making an emotional response to something that you think is about you. Buying a mechanical keyboard and using it without showing it to anyone isn't what anyone was talking about. There are people that buy rare and expensive mechanical keyboards just to take pictures of them and post them on the internet.

I'm not sure why you tried to turn a discussion about hobbies degrading into wealth signalling into your distaste for apple products.

I actually think the original parent post was a more emotionally reactionary than this response. Yeah, it could be the case that mechanical keyboard enthusiasts are all virtue-signaling snobs chasing clout on the internet... or it could be that some people just enjoy the things? And want to share their cool things?

It could be that the community hivemind has decided on an orthodoxy and aggressively judges anyone who doesn't conform.. or it could be that we all just have different preferences and enjoy customizing our desks in this way!

Idk maybe some people are buying expensive kits just because they're expensive but that never occurred to me.

I've put together a number of fairly expensive keyboards ($700+) and I'm embarrassed to tell anyone I know (who sees them on my desk at home) how much they cost. I didn't build them for anyone but myself.

My dad thought one of them was really neat looking and was curious how much it cost. I was very reluctant to tell him but he kept asking and obviously was completely shocked when I told him the final cost. He couldn't understand it.

But, he has some expensive hobbies and I likened it to one of those. He couldn't relate to the joy of mechanical keyboards but he could relate to the passion of spending an illogical amount of money on something unnecessary but enjoyable.

Nearly everyone who has disposable income spends more than the average person does on something that they enjoy. That often means that you get something that is very unique to you and your personality. It's an expression of you, and that's comforting, even if it's only for yourself. These things are often entirely emotional decisions with no basis in logic whatever, and I think that's ok (assuming you can afford it).

I don't think many are buying any keyboard or kits just because they're expensive, but the cost might be indirectly related to the appeal -- because they're expensive they're more rare and that may make the buyer feel like they have something that is special and somewhat unique to them (because few others have it). I believe that same thing happens with rare and/or high end watches, cars, etc.

For sure, and starting from the assumption that we'd only get these things because they improve our typing is kind of like assuming car collectors only do it to improve their driving. Amusing to watch hackernews reverse-engineer the concept of a hobby from first principles.

I understand it can feel embarrassing to acknowledge the price of your hobbies but ultimately this is your money and you should be spending it on something that makes you happy (after you meet your personal obligations to family, those less fortunate, charities depending on your convictions, etc).

Ya, money is not a concern, it's just embarrassing because it's an obscure hobby that is hard to understand so most people just think I'm a little crazy. But if I had $5,000 in a stamp collection, nobody would bat an eye and those would literally never get used for their actual purpose. So, it's just kind of a double standard that probably haunts everyone with unusual hobbies.

Sorry I wasn't clear! What I'm getting at is when you're flexing in Discord/GeekHack/Reddit using a Alice is a very strong signal.

Just using it as your personal keyboard in normal day-to-day settings isn't nearly the same. Because you're not actively showing it off.

I would disagree strongly, and I would go so far as to claim that signalling isn't done for the in-group, it's done for the out group.

Apple users don't wear white ear buds to signal to one another, they do it exclusively to signal to people who don't have it that the apple user can afford product and symbol greatly in excess of the person.

Same with mechanical keyboards. The signal there is to people using shitty 20$ dell membrane boards, and who see those beautiful machined aluminum boards and custom caps and feel jealous. The signal is about demonstrating you have more than someone else.

When two people who have similar things are showing it off, that's not signalling, that's talking shop.

Apple users don't wear white ear buds to signal to one another, they do it exclusively to signal to people who don't have it that the apple user can afford product and symbol greatly in excess of the person.

Or, you know, they're not interested in "signaling" anything, they're wearing them because they're the free ear buds that came with their smartphone and they're listening to music or making a phone call.

Right, and a decade of advertisements featuring those status symbols were pointless because no one cares about them.

Alternatively: Or you know, mechanical keyboard users aren't interested in "signalling" anything, they're just using well manufactured accessories featuring high quality processes and materials.

> Right, and a decade of advertisements featuring those status symbols were pointless because no one cares about them.

Or... we just use them because they are there. I use Apple products, also bought a pair of AirPods just a few weeks ago, not cause I want to signal I got money, but because the things are pretty nice to use as headphones. I have 6 pairs of headphones, and while these aren't perfect they fit the overall pro/con situation well compared to even stuff like Shure headphones.

Sometimes a spade is just a spade. Sometimes people really do just buy something for its utility. Even when we may not see it personally. While I'm sure there are BMW drivers that buy them for prestige or signalling, I am also quite sure there are drivers that bought it because they like the overall BMW experience, garage visits included (I can't resist sniping on this for my one buddy).

Just accept that there are Apple users that not only prefer, but are willing to pay the "tax" of not using Android or other phones.

So people are supposed to buy different earbuds so they're not signaling? Can't we then accuse them of signaling that they're not signaling? Doesn't that make your "wearing Apple earbuds = signaling" assumption completely pointless?

I'm just saying people do really use ear buds for their actual function, which is something your use of the word "exclusive" seemed to dismiss out of hand. Does that mean that nobody's going "ooh, look at my white earbuds, everyone?" Of course not. But the fact that some people do want to show them off doesn't mean that other people -- I would argue a lot of other people -- are just using the thing that came with their phone.

I never argued that mechanical keyboard users were interested in signaling anything -- but I'm sure a similar dichotomy applies. Some are interested in signaling. Some are interested in them because they're good to type on. The analogy only goes so far, though, because mechanical keyboards are an extra-cost purchase, while iPhone earbuds are free pack-ins which most people don't consider to have particularly good fit and sound quality. If I'm interested in a well-manufactured accessory featuring high quality processes and materials, I may buy a mechanical keyboard, but I will probably not stick with the damn white earbuds. If I'm wearing an audiophile brand of in-ear monitors most people won't recognize out in public, am I still doing it to "signal"?

Some people care about them. Personally I resent all this signaling because I just want to use my nice phone but everyone else is always "oooo you're so rich, look at your nice phone"

Or, alternatively, since I'm currently on an iphone SE, "oooo, what is wrong with you, why don't you upgrade to a new phone?!"

Another comment mentions functional utility. Put me in the camp that resents the desire for functional utility being misconstrued as social signaling

Are you willfully blind to the fact that people have consumer preference for Apple products? I spent extra money for a case that covers up the Apple logo but would gladly pay 2x the cost of this phone to avoid going back to Android hell.

> Same with mechanical keyboards. The signal there is to people using shitty 20$ dell membrane boards, and who see those beautiful machined aluminum boards and custom caps and feel jealous. The signal is about demonstrating you have more than someone else.

I think the average $20 membrane keyboard user is looking at these things and thinking, hey, that looks funny, assuming they notice them at all. Most people don't know that it's possible to spend $100, let alone $400 on a set of keycaps.

I use my earbuds all of the time. Why? They were free and are pretty good. I paid $1 for my subsidized phone.

Try buying earbuds. They are either $40-60 or shit.

Did it ever occur to you that people buy Apple stuff because it’s just good/better?

Many of them do, but I'm sure most just think they do.

It did until 2017 when I traded my 2015 MBP for a new one.

If you liked your MBP good for you. I'm not sure why me not liking mine makes you mad.

Did it ever occur to you that people buy mechanical keyboards because it's just good/better?

(And P.S. subjective ideas of good/better are what they are, but no fair objective analysis of price and value would agree with you. A thousand dollar phone is a pure status symbol and owning it has nothing to do with a rational attempt to achieve value per dollar)

I buy mechanical keyboards because I prefer them for desktop use. I buy iPhones because I prefer iOS's app ecosystem. These are both subjective but rational choices.

I own a $1000 phone and avoid as much as possible other people in public seeing it, because I don't want it to get stolen and I think being recognized for owning a "status symbol" is awkward.

Is it really so hard to believe that some people buy the most expensive iPhone simply because it's the best phone available on the market?

He never said no one buys apple without thinking about status.

"Is it really so hard to believe that some people buy the most expensive iPhone simply because it's the best phone available on the market?"

I can believe that you THINK it's the best, and worth the money -- that's literally what advertising is for and how status symbols work -- but of course I would reject any claim that any $1000 phone is worth it on the merits. (Example, this 'pro' branded flagship phone comes standard with a bottom-of-the-industry 32GB of space, a laughably inferior specification for 2019 flagships where 64gb is standard and 128gb base is available. That's objectively the worst, not the best).

The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro both have a base storage of 64gb. If you are going to claim that a phone is overpriced at least get the specs you're complaining about right.

$1100 Iphone - I'm with you on this one, I have a super expensive phone and I don't see the quality over the flagship phones of what seems like yesterday being $600. There's a lot of expensive, cutting edge stuff in my Note9 and my wife's giant iPhone that we probably wouldn't miss if it were cheaper.

That being said I don't think in a world where so many people have iphones we can consider an iphone as that much of a signal for anything.

iWatch - This is a niche genre of cools toys where there's 2 viable options. 1 clearly nicer than the other but it doesn't matter because your phone unfortunately dictates which one you get. Yea its a signal but some people like to be early adopters and play with new toys, I don't think those people are buying them for the wrong reasons.

Apple Ear Buds - Headphone jacks are gone on our expensive phones. For a while there were like 2-3 options, all like $200, and they all have like 2-3 out of 5 star reviews because the tech isn't ready for primetime but apple's a POS and lets their products suffer just to be trendy and Samsung's a POS by racing to copy them. So the end result is people that want ear buds need them or a dongle. I don't really consider this a signal, but maybe that's because all of the wireless earbuds are bad and stupid looking. I bought Jabra but I honestly like the Apple ones though because its one of the only times they ever (in a way) chose function over form. They look far more ridiculous than most wireless earbuds.

I wouldn't pay much more than I already have for a keyboard, but I can provide one example of where someone paid a lot of money for a keyboard where he would not have gotten the same thing or a similar thing if he had paid less.


This video is considered the holy grail in terms of what a mechanical keyboard can sound like. An Apex Legends pro (Dizzy) asked him to replicate that exact build and at that point the parts were harder to source. Was it worth it? Still subjective, but to many people mechanical keyboards feel good to use because they like the way they sound.

I would love to pay less than $1000 for the new iphone, but the alternative is a platform that will sell me out to Google's highest bidder (Android) and has so many security and privacy issues that it is just downright scary. What's a nerd to do then if he wants the latest tech?

Librem/PureOS is an option but it's a bit of a nonstarter socially as there are a lot of interactions that take place over proprietary apps where alternatives are either way worse usability-wise or simply nonexistent. I'd love to switch to this platform but... most of my chats are on FB messenger/WhatsApp, my friend and I play scrabble via the scrabble app, and so on. What's the Librem option for that? Leaving open browser tabs and enabling those sites to send notifications?

I think this is so strong in the mechanical keyboard community because there's not a lot of "there" there

I think cast iron frying pans are an even more emblematic example of what you're describing. It's a four thousand year old product with no moving parts that's long been mastered, but over the past 15 years they've transitioned into a hobby item with ever-more-expensive niche vendors (Finex, Butter Pat, etc.) selling increasingly souped up versions that fry an egg almost indistinguishably from a basic, well-seasoned model.

Meanwhile there's another subset of hobbyists chasing esoteric vintage cast iron frying pans, often claiming the modern ones can never be as good.

Funny... my wife avoids status-chasing like the plague, yet giggled like a 12YO when she found her grandmother's ancient iron frying pan. She swears it is the best tool for the job, despite the fact that we have 3 others. Well-seasoned, indeed.

Sounds about right to me. The book The Human Zoo by Desmond Morris discusses this phenomenon r.e. people need to feel the best at something so they pick ever smaller niches or hobbies where they can finally compete at a level where they have a chance to get to the top.

I would recommend the book as a whole, it has a lot of other interesting info in it too.

Go for Emacs.

It is niche, belongs to the oldest softwares, and a true mark of professionalism:)

And make sure you use tabs!

Heresy! Always indent using spaces so that you can easily use Vim's `conceal` feature to replace the spaces with the 🅱️ emoji. /s

>I think this is so strong in the mechanical keyboard community because there's not a lot of "there" there.

I actually disagree with that, which is why I'm a bit annoyed at the state of keyboard enthusiast communities. I think that there's plenty of room for improving keyboards, not necessarily for better performance but mainly for more comfort.

Over the past decade or so I've been using more and more "esotheric" layouts and mappings. I'm typing this comment on an ergodox mapped with a pretty heavily customized dvorak layout. And you get get much deeper in this rabbit hole with custom 3D printed keyboards like the Dactyl for instance. I've been working on a custom model in OpenSCAD and I'm looking at buying a 3D printer to experiment, I'm looking forward to using a custom Frankenstein'd keyboard in the future.

So clearly, I don't think keyboards are a solved problem. There's plenty of room for experimentation. What about foot pedals? Palm keys? Integration of touch pads or trackballs in the keyboard? What about weird modifier keys, for instance using shift keys to input ( and ) when not used as a modifier (I've been using that for about a year and I love it). What about adding cameras and some processing so that you can use hand gestures on top of typing on the keys? A compromise between "minority report" style interfaces and a good old contacts, with the strengths of both?

But I agree with your overall point: it seems like the bigger hobbyist communities around keyboards these days are about collecting and making fashion statements, not hacking keyboards. Just look at https://www.reddit.com/r/mechanicalkeyboards , if you like pictures of keyboards and keycaps (and ridiculously overcomplicated cables) it's amazing but beyond that it's mostly boring old typewriter layouts and qwerty. That's a bit disappointing IMO, but I guess it's just not for me.

Hi. Yes also annoyed by the state of the keyboard enthusiast communities, or rather, I just don't care about having an artisanal key or a rare keyboard, but rather RSI, efficiency, and customizability.

It sounds like you've gone down the rabbit hole with this. Could you tell me a bit about where you've landed especially wrt layout and custom programming?

I agree, because for all the money and chatter about them most of the companies providing them are making carbon copies of each other with little real innovation -- they're always the same square shape and its always about fancy keyswitches, RGB, and little else.

Computer-building has turned into this, at least if r/pcmasterrace is any indication. It's positively infuriating -- 99% of people's posts are bragging/validation, there are cliques/cargo cults around 144hz, LinusTechTips, RGB, and watercooling, and I cannot remember the last time I saw an in-depth technical discussion about anything there.

I personally think humans' need to form cliques and ingroups is its worse trait; it has transformed a deeply technical hobby that I love into yet another bragging and dick-waving contest :(

> they're always the same square shape and its always about fancy keyswitches, RGB, and little else.

This is where I disagree. I had severe hand and arm tendon pain for years, and finally dove into ergonomic mechanical keyboard options. It solved my issues, and I no longer feel the pain after typing all day.

I easily spend $350+ for a keyboard, and it's a very practical, life-changing decision, which involves a non-rectangular, non-RGB keyboard.

For reference: https://ergodox-ez.com/

Fair enough, but when I look at pictures of peoples' builds it is almost always a square keyboard with fancy backlighting.

I'm personally a fan of the MS ergos with the wrist wrests and have mixed feelings about how that design doesn't seem to be getting replicated anywhere

I would guess there's a patent involved preventing another company from using it. I would definitely have bought an MS 3000/Sculpt with mechanical switches before I built my own ergodox. My problem was that I wore out my sculpt in like 14 months. Half of the space bar stopped working. I'm actually a little surprised Microsoft hasn't released one with mechanical switches.

As someone who also uses mechanical keyboards but just for health reasons this looks interesting, thanks for sharing.

What's most absurd is the difference between $90 and $1000 is trivial. If that money went into engineering, every key would be using a hall effect sensor and pneumatic springs, machined to high precision, NOT just more of the same mechanical switches. They are spending money on status and sometimes fancy raw materials, but not any substantive engineering effort for a better keyboard.

not exactly the same but reminds me of a lot of this key and peele sketch (dueling hats)


I just don't see how someone can possibly charge that much for a keyboard that would be significantly cheaper to make yourself even as a one off. It isn't like there is anything particularly special about the keyboard in the link, there isn't any specially skilled craftsmanship, it is just a couple anodized CNC machined pieces, a PCBA, and purchased switches and keycaps.

It's probably also because there are a lot of highly paid young guys programmers that don't know what to do with all their money.

"you're not spending $1600 on a keyboard to improve your"

Well, it is $1600 for a keyboard that you are using 8h a day for the next five years vs a $5 Latte that you are enjoying the next 4 minutes. You do the math.

The difference here being that a decent latte costs about $5 but a decent keyboard costs maybe $50.

The difference being made that people are willing to spend big on short term things but are stingy on things that they use a lot. Be it a keyboard, shoes, bed sheets or whatever.

I just ordered a "new" keyboard. IBM Model M, space saving version. With below USD 200 a steal!

I’d say it’s more about status signalling, even if it’s kept within that small group of keyboard aficionados.

"More"? I understood CommieBobDole to be saying it was entirely about status signaling:

> the purpose of the hobby has transitioned from primarily "making/using the thing" to "obtaining and displaying ever more extreme versions of the thing to impress other people who know about the thing"

What do you think the difference is between "status signaling" and "impressing other people"?

Erm. Not having used (nor heard) the term "status signaling" before, I'd suggest that "status signaling" is a status signal that you (and now me) is trying to impress someone. ;-)

Status signaling is a specific way of impressing other people: it's impressing them with your status, sometimes called more precisely prestige (as opposed to, for example, your money, your strength, your talent, or your character), in a way that's difficult to fake because it's costly. So, for example, Donald Trump bragging on a talk show about sexually assaulting strange women counts as "status signaling", because it cost him some prestige, and if he hadn't had a lot of prestige to begin with, he would have ended up in jail. (Hopefully he will anyway, but so far he's not.)

Buying more extreme custom keyboards, by contrast, demonstrates knowledge and wealth, and it's a difficult-to-fake and costly signal of wealth — though much less so than, say, a Honda Accord or a Learjet. But wealth isn't the same thing as status, and attempting to signal wealth with something that costs US$500 or US$1000 is pretty much going to backfire unless you're in like Nigeria or something. It's like a hacker equivalent of putting spinners and tinted windows on your car — these are not features that distinguish Bugattis and Lamborghinis from quotidian BMWs.

Anyway, so I think that if it's impressing anybody, they're either poor or they're keyboard aficionados who are impressed with the refined taste that demonstrates your profound knowledge, not your elevated social standing or your wealth.

As for the guy who misread "signaling" as "virtue signalling", honey, bless your heart.

Every part of that is wrong:

- Status signaling is the only way of impressing other people.

- Signaling is sending any message by any means. Signals that are difficult to fake are more effective than signals that aren't. But easy-to-fake signals are obviously still signals.

- Status is anything that impresses other people. Money, strength, talent, and character are all forms of status that are valued differently by different groups. If you're very strong, then you have high status among groups that respect strength -- as long as they know you're strong. Which is why you have to signal it.

You appear to have confused the concepts of "status signaling" and "conspicuous consumption".

Bless your heart. To anyone who would like to know more, I recommend reading https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_theory and https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_status, and of course the scholarship they link to.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_theory :

> In biology, signals are traits, including structures and behaviours, that have evolved specifically because they change the behaviour of receivers in ways that benefit the signaller.

In other words, they are communication.

> When an alert bird deliberately gives a warning call to a stalking predator and the predator gives up the hunt, the sound is a signal.

Because warning calls are costly and difficult to fake? No, warning calls are faked all the time, to frighten other animals.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_status :

> Social status defines being liked. Some writers have also referred to a socially valued role or category a person occupies as a "status" (e.g., gender, race, having a criminal conviction, etc.). Status is based in beliefs about who members of a society believe holds comparatively more or less social value.

> In a society, the relative honor and prestige accorded to individuals depends on how well an individual is perceived to match a society's goals and ideals (e.g., being pious in a religious society).

> a teacher may have a positive societal image (respect, prestige) which increases their status but may earn little money, which simultaneously decreases their status.

This all amounts to... strong support for exactly what I already said. Did you read these articles before citing them?

I think the author underestimates how amateurish many people selling keyboard parts are (i.e. rarely fully or never committed to the work as their employment, and without any experience in sales, manufacturing, marketing, distribution). Optimizing pricing or marketing strategies is not, afaict, deeply considered. Money is consistently left on the table. Look into the madness of first-party 'artisan' keycap sales, for example.

To be fair, there's nothing really wrong with this, since it is just a hobby for most people involved, and these sorts of products really often are just making something you want to exist and selling a few more to meet minimum order quantity.

As you say, this is not a massive commodity market. A lot of the folks, if they've been involved for a while, know each other. People gift each other things all the time.

It is a market, but a lot of the participants have motivations other than profit-maximization.

There's even Keycon https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=98877.0

If you want to see the full range and get a sense of what this is about: https://old.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/ https://old.reddit.com/r/ErgoMechKeyboards/

1.6K seems a bit steep. You can find most kits in the low 00s However mechanical keyboards are popular with gamers and more about collectibles / art than anything, so price becomes less relevant.

If you're after ergonomics and efficiency Keyboard.io and Ergodox offer decently priced pre built split keyboards.

I personally find the keyboard.io camera mount genius - take a look at a few setups here https://community.keyboard.io/t/what-does-your-rsi-helping-s...

More resources: https://unikeyboard.io https://clueboard.co/ https://www.dygma.com/raise/

My Keyboard.io Model 1s are still my two favorite keyboards. I backed them on KickStarter and I'm glad I did. I'll still point out this article to Jesse and Kaia to make sure they're mindful of the option for future models.

The example on https://keyboard.io using RGB looks so tacky. Why mix light coloured wood with a rainbow RGB look? A simple vintage or black keyset would be more than sufficient.

A big part of mech keyboards are they designs and sadly both keyboard.io and Ergodox aren't the prettiest.

I'm curious why there's no companies producing economic split keyboards at scale and with a clean look.

Edit: the link above to https://www.dygma.com looks nice and simple, closer to what I'm looking for. Although it's still bought into the annoying RGB-everything trend.

The lights have several preset modes. That picture is just one of them. Some of them are single color. Some "breathe".

The board is also microcontroller powered and runs an open source OS that takes modular plugins. You could set your own static or dynamic lighting pattern. I goes you could also paint or stain the case if you wanted.

I ordered a keyboard.io and ended up returning it because it felt so cheap.

A lot of the switches are angled poorly and they key caps are too large for the switches. This results in your finger not pressing the switch straight down or directly in the center. This made every key press need a different amount of force to actuate.

The keycaps were custom made for the layout. They felt like they picked the cheapest possible plastic which resulted in them having a lot of play. But since they were custom there was no hope of replacing them.

The board was also very "hollow" so it the keys just drummed, rattled and echoed about when typing instead of just resounding a punctual click.

Also, the thing is so massive. It takes up sooo much space.

They have their own firmware instead of just leveraging something that already exists like QMK. Which is fine for the most part, but I prefer to have all my keyboards running the same firmware.

TL;DR It's a $400 keyboard that feels worse than a $60 keyboard.

I have a $600+ keyboard so I'm a part of this hobby. However, only a part of this can be explained by the expense of manufacturing at a small scale. The hobby fully embraces the drawbacks of the small scale and intentionally does nothing to try to improve it because the exclusivity drives prices up to an insane point.

A typical group buy for a popular case sells out in minutes or days time after time. Clearly some of the exclusivity is artificial.

An aluminum case that costs $300 is often 99% as nice as one for $1000.

There are designers lauded as geniuses that make cases that are almost identical to generic ones. It might have some kind of logo or inlay or a different color of anodized aluminum. Aftermarket they'll be worth insane amounts of money.

And with keycaps pretty much the entire thing is artificial exclusivity. $300-400 aftermarket for a set of keycaps is not unheard of.

There's nothing wrong with any of this, but as a happy participant I have to say the diminishing returns show up hard and fast in this hobby. Its all about fashion.

My $60 GMMK, with 20 minutes of easy modifications, a $30 set of keycaps, and a $90 set of healios switches was the smoothest linear keyboard I've ever used.

If you want clicky, the same setup with a $30 set of Box Jade switches will get most people the best keyboard they've ever used. Mx blues feel like rubber domes afterwards.

Interesfing article that talks about some of this. I recommend reading it.

Why did I pay $600+? I wanted an Ergodox split keyboard with helios switches + backlighting, to see if my wrists would feel better, and I didn't think I was ready to build a kit that required soldering.

My Keycaps cost 170 of that. They are modelled after the Space Cadet keyboard from an old LISP Machine. This was uneccessary obviously but I liked them.

>the diminishing returns show up hard and fast in this hobby.

Of course that's true with lots of things. Cameras, audio equipment, video gear. Whenever I go into B&H Photo in NYC I'm always struck by how quickly the prices go up as you transition from pretty serviceable amateur gear to the pro stuff.

Well, the pro stuff is a little different because on one hand it's being purchased by people as part of a business... I never wanted a high-end video camera, for instance, because I've never wanted to keep that capital equipment working as often as it takes to pay for it. But if you can keep the equipment busy then spending $2K/channel for wireless audio transmitters or something makes more sense.

On the other hand, the farther you get up into production trades the more money is riding not just on your performance but on the performance of the people that are relying on you.

If I'm making a short film with my buddies for fun and I get a technical problem that prevents to director from monitoring the shot on a screen, oh well... if there are 30 people in the production and everyone is held up for 5min, that gets really expensive fast.

Depending on what you do with the camera, it's actually worth it though - at least for the initial amateur->pro jump.

Better/faster autofocus (usually), fully weather-sealed body (!), larger sensor (depending on what you need), dual-native ISO, etc etc

Plus other features that are technically still convenience, but can matter a great deal to a pro.

- Example1: Panasonic G85 has a couple reconfigurable buttons, but on the GH5 nearly every physical button can be configured to whatever setting you want.

- Example2: Dual memory-card slots for instant backups (some prosumer cameras only have 1 slot)

However, I agree that many salespeople will try to sell pro gear to a hobbyist when they really don't need it.

Seems less like diminishing returns and more like mass hysteria at this point. The only people I personally know of who are as detached from the rest of the market are those guys who collect Telecasters.

Also vintage synthesizer collectors - although that market tops out around $150k, which is cheap compared to the most expensive one-off Steinway Grand piano models, which go for between $1m and $2m.

And high end audio - turntables for $650k, etc.

I think there's a difference between "enthusiast market segment" and "investment commidities". Also even Yamaha grand pianos aren't typically purchased by individuals. More like venues, etc. AFAIK most of those prestigious Steinway models wind up in the lobbies of luxury hotels. Point is those things justify their prices in a way that $1500 keyboards don't.

But honestly I'm being cynical for no reason here. Those guy can spend money on whatever makes them happy. I am in no place to judge.

Yea, not a photography guy but I have friends that are and its a bottomless rabbit hole of cool shit to spend money on.

I'm on the hobby as well and I agree that the article reflects what we're seeing as of today, and even though I don't agree with the Vickrey auction from a buyer perspective, I do agree it's amazing for sellers since what they found is that a few people are really willing to go above and beyond in terms of money for a kit.

Shameless plug: I have a YouTube channel exclusively for the hobby - https://www.youtube.com/MrKeebs

> My Keycaps cost 170 of that. They are modelled after the Space Cadet keyboard from an old LISP Machine. This was uneccessary obviously but I liked them.

and now provide a link, please :)

My setup is the white version of this with the tenting kit but no wrist-guards (don't need them when its tented).


Here's the link to the keycaps alone with better pics. Unfortunately only available aftermarket now.


And here's the original:


There's a bunch of extra function keys that extend the modern standard of CTRL-ALT-DELETE and supposedly enabled 8k command combinations that were useful for lisp machines. However, the later versions of them didn't have the same color scheme and dropped many of the additional keys for simplicity.

excellent, thanks. I have a deep affection for the buckyboard, so i might have a look to see if can score a set to further annoy my labmates.

there will probably be another edition eventually but as someone still somewhat noobish to this hobby i've heard lots of people are ok waiting a year or two for a new group buy to start for a specific set. If you want one now keep searching /r/mechmarket for "space cadet" and make sure you look into the different kinds of sets. Mine was $170 with shipping from europe, but there are less keys on my ergodox keyboard and the set was made specifically for them. A full set is probably somewhere between $200-300. I think I've seen them for the low end of that but I'm not sure. If you don't have to have something identical, there's an SA profile set for $100 that's just blue/gray without the special characters you see in the photos. You'd have to do some googling to make sure the sa profile fits on your keyboard though. Usually they will but sometimes people have issues so I'd research:

This is a chinese site, but very reputable. There are other places that stock the same set:


i'm not in a rush by any means, but i have been liking the split keys so far.

> My $60 GMMK, with 20 minutes of easy modifications, a $30 set of keycaps, and a $90 set of healios switches was the smoothest linear keyboard I've ever used.

Wow. Thank you.

I flirted with the "mech" community for a while a couple of years ago, and ended up with two boards:

A KBParadise V60 with Gateron Browns that I use as my primary keyboard for my desktop. That's mostly a gaming machine for me, but I do code on it quite a bit.

A bluetooth keyboard with low-profile Gateron Blues that I used with my iPad 6th Gen for coding (I use Blink to SSH/MOSH into a VM). That was a good keyboard but the feet broke off, then I upgraded to an iPad Pro and the Apple keyboard cover. It was collecting dust, so I gave it to my 11-year-old.

The GMMK looks like exactly what I was really looking for, for desktop use. I've got some research to do :)

By way of warning, GMMK uses a proprietary keyboard layout editor that only works on Windows (I tried running it in WINE and got nowhere). If editing your keyboard layout in firmware is important to you, I would recommend the Massdrop CTRL (TKL size) or ALT (67-key), which are similar keyboards with hot-swappable switches that run QMK firmware. (In addition to changing the backlighting colors and basic remappings like capslock to escape, QMK lets you do interesting things like add layers, or have a key behave one way when tapped and another way when held down and used as a modifier.) But if you can take care of all your layout needs in software, the GMMK is a great keyboard.

Ah, then I'm glad I didn't order yet!

I run Windows 10 on my desktop at home when it's in "gaming rig" mode, but ArchLinux when I'm hacking on something. I have Manjaro on my personal laptop and macOS on my work laptop. Firmware mapping is definitely a requirement for me.

In fact, my experience is that what firmware a keyboard uses isn't always clear. My KBParadise V60 is almost perfect for me. I'd like a numpad sometimes, but I can always get an external one. The bigger problem is that keymapping can only be done through some DIP switches on the bottom or via flashing the firmware. The firmware isn't open source and is fairly obfuscated from what digging around I've done on it. the arrow keys are mapped to a cross arrangement on the right side of the keyboard, and I'd much prefer to use hjkl. I've not found a reasonable way to do it on that keyboard that doesn't require configuring it on every device I use.

Am not in that league, my main board is a Ducky Shine 3 TKL, but even dabbling into that world, I bought the Cities collection of spacebars for $50.

I find the niche fascinating, and regularly think about selling keycaps as a sideline - definitely agree with the notion that a lot of the designs people crave are rather quite simple. Or very similar to off the shelf ones.

Fashion is the interesting one, since the keyboard is one of the main interaction points for pretty much all knowledge workers today, it'll only continue to grow as a market (which might lead to more downmarket options?)

I think we'll see it grow. I started collecting old and new fountain pens a long time ago before it started to become a thing again. I've slowly watched that turn into a decently sized niche hobby. There are thousands of quality modern options available immediately. Its in a far more advanced state than the keyboard community, but I'm sure we'll get there.

What keycaps do you recommend, generally?

Have you ever tried the "Falcon" Z-77 keyboard? It's been rebranded/knocked off by several Chinese manufacturers (different brands all have the same distinct falcon logo in the top middle of the keyboard) and is available on Amazon for around $30.

I bought one (the HUO JI version) after encountering several reviews from folks saying it compared favorably with their $100+ boards. I'm quite happy with it, and it's hard to have any idea if I'm missing out on anything and, if so, what I'm missing out on.

There are different shaped keycaps, like different profiles. I don't really understand that yet, I have some made specifically for an ergodox style layout, so they probably have slight differences.

I'll give a few recommendations, cheap and expensive.

First thing you should know is most of the expensive sets are abs, but abs eventually gets shiny and PBT does not. The material itself doesn't really dictate the quality beyond that. Some people prefer the naturally more textured feel of PBT and some people love the smoothness of ABS. I can tell my GMK abs keycaps that I spent $170 for are more lovingly crafted than my $30 PBT pudding caps or my other set of white backlit caps that cost around $40, but when typing on them I honestly couldn't say I have a preference.

Some people find no-name chinese sets that are made of good, thick plastic that are almost comparable to more expensive sets. Generally thicker keycaps are better made.

In general though, for the real high end stuff, a company called signature plastics and another one called GMK make most of the sets. They are about $100-200 in group buys. They sell small run sets on a bunch of different websites. The way you buy them is basically keep watching /r/mechanicalkeyboards or /r/mechmarket for a while until there's a group buy for one you like, then you put up money. There are some of these sets readily available on a bunch of different vendor sites, but they change all the time because of the limited nature.

Basically what you are paying for is double-shot abs or whatever other plastic they use, basically there's an inner layer and outer-layer melted together in a way where for the inner color only the character shows through to the top. It makes the keys last pretty much forever without the character wearing off (contrast this with my 2016 alienware where the WASD started wearing off in 2 weeks).

There are cheaper sets that are double shot, but there are less options for color and there's a small difference in the fit and finish. You can get a decent set of backlit keys for about $30. You can get a slightly better set for $40-60, and then there's the $100-200 sets that while, aren't a life changing experience to type on, have more options for how they look and they do have a high level of craftmanship that you can really only notice when you are inspecting the inside/outside of the key before you install it.

Some people obsess about the perfect accuracy and design of the individual characters on the keys, but I don't find that to be a big deal, but the more expensive sets do a better job of this.

As to what you are missing out on? Well, my first kit was a solid aluminum case and I filled it with a layer of some rubbery heavy stuff that I can't recall the name of, but the end result was a keyboard that's like 5-6 LB and it feels absolutely solid and absolutely amazing to type on. It was about $300 with a cheap set of keycaps. My newer more expensive one has a plastic case but I bought it for ergonomic reasons. Plastic cases can be very high quality though (this one is) and feel very good. However, if they made a version of this out of a solid block of aluminum like they do with more traditional keyboards, I would like to get one because there's still a noticeable difference in solidity and quality.

This is one of the cheap sets I liked. Its sold through but it pops up every once in a while, if you don't want to wait I think amazon has an almost identical set that could very well have even been made in the same factory for a different brand:


Here's another set I got that I really liked. The bottom edges felt a little rough, but once they were on the keyboard they were amazing:


I encourage you to check out the mechanical keyboards subreddit's sidebar, there's a ton of information for helping people pick stuff out, that's how I got into it.

As a complement to phaus's excellent comment, I'd like to talk a bit about keycap profiles. The two main categories are cylindrical and spherical profiles. Almost all off-the-shelf keyboards have cylindrical profile keycaps on them by default -- essentially, it's as if a cylindrical chunk has been removed from the top of a flat keycap. OEM profile and Cherry profile are the two most common cylindrical profiles (the keycaps that come with most off-the-shelf keyboards are OEM profile). A spherical-profile keycap has more of a fingertip-shaped divot in the top (SA, MT3, DSA, and XDA are the most common spherical profiles). I personally find spherical profiles more comfortable than cylindrical profiles, so you may want to give them a try, but if you're happy with your current keycaps then you're probably not missing much.

The other major factors that describe profiles are height (hi-profile keycaps are taller than low-profile keycaps) and sculpting. With a sculpted profile, the keycaps on the top rows of your keyboard will be tilted towards you, the keycaps in the middle will be flatter, and the keycaps in the bottom row will be tilted away. Many people find this more comfortable than a flat profile (keycaps from any row of the keyboard are shaped the same), but others find flat profiles feel equally nice, and if you're using a layout like Dvorak or Colemak it's easier to switch your keycaps around to match (with a sculpted profile you'd have to buy an entirely separate kit with the alpha keys in the correct location). Hi-profile keycaps will be taller and, if they're sculpted, are generally sculpted more dramatically sculpted than low-profile keycaps. Sculpted keycap shapes are generally described by row number, with Row 0 or 1 used for the F-row and Row 4 or 5 used for the spacebar and modifier key row. (Numbering systems are not standardized, but R3 should always refer to the home row.)

Of the spherical profiles, SA and MT3 are hi-profile and sculpted (except for a few SA sets, which use all-row-3 keycaps and are therefore flat), and DSA and XDA are low-profile and flat. Low-profile sculpted spherical sets are rarer -- MDA profile was recently developed to help fill this niche, but you will have trouble finding an MDA set outside of group buys.

In terms of actual recommendations? Budget-priced spherical sets are unfortunately thin on the ground; they haven't really left the high-end group-buy-only enthusiast market, whereas there's a lot of cheap OEM profile sets with a variety of aesthetics. I own and like the Matt3o Nerd DSA set [1], which is currently in stock and costs $50. (Signature Plastics keeps some DSA sets in stock on pimpmykeyboard.com, but they're all $80-$100.) For a sculpted set, look at Maxkey SA sets on kbdfans.com (also priced at around $100, but it's a slightly better price than Signature Plastics' SA sets).

[1] https://drop.com/buy/matt3o-nerd-dsa-keycap-set-massdrop-exc...

the boards and caps are nothing compared to artisan keycaps.

i have traded countless things to acquire keycaps that would sell for $250+ each. one keycap! brobot caps are especially rare and i frequently see people buying them for $500 each

i actually think artisans make sense to be so expensive since there is a level of artistry and rarity that most boards do not have. some of the rare korean boards are super rare too though and easily sell for $1000.

(sent from a Lyn Whale with GMK Olivia!)

You've got me curious, what makes a particular keycap sell the prices you quote?

I can understand how valuation tied to rarity, but people paying ~$500 for a single cap implies that there's significantly more to it than scarcity. I know that if I try to search for an answer I'll get a bunch of cruft given my lack of knowledge of what question to even ask, so I'm hoping you can provide some background for a n00b :)

Thank you in advance!

Artisan caps are a whole different thing. Basically the idea is that you get a fancy looking keycap that might be a little sculpture cast in a clear resin or even something 3d like a metal fist of thanos, and you replace 1 or 2 keys on your keyboard with it like an accent decoration.

Frequently people do it with the escape key and the space bar. They sell out fast and for certain designers I've seen the prices go up from $70 during the group buy to hundreds.

Here's one I wish I got so I could keep and use it. I missed out though and I refuse to pay $400 for a space bar.

They are legitimately a work of art though.



It’s basically a piece of art. If you want to sell it to a private equity banker you put it in a gilt frame. If you want to sell it to a Facebook machine learning engineer you put it in a space bar form factor.

It's totally reasonable and possible to get a beautiful aluminum case for well under $200. I was able to get a "b-stock" Tofu HHKB[1] from KBDFans for less than $100. My very plain GMK White-on-Black keycaps cost more than that.

1: https://jagger.co/downloads/tofu-hhkb.jpeg

This sounds a bit like the custom bicycle frame builder phenomenon as well. Well-known builders/shops can have years-long wait lists and their builds will go for 2x, 5x or 10x the cost of a top of the line mainstream model - 10s of thousands of $$.

Granted each one is built by hand so the artisanal craft is easy to appreciate.

But exclusivity is there, because these shops are building less than a dozen bikes per year. If you got your hands on one, wow it will turn heads when you roll up to the bier garden at the CX race.

@phaus any improvement to your wrists with the Ergodox?

yes but its only been a couple months with that setup, I think having the ability to tilt each half so the inner side is higher than the outer side has helped my right wrist's tendonitis, but it could be because the tilting forces me to keep my hands off the desk to reach the keys, which is the supposedly "right" way to type, wrist rests help some people but you're still supposedly putting stress on your joints when rested.

If I had the discipline to keep my hands up with a regular keyboard I might have the same results.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it will take longer to tell for sure my wrist pain comes and goes.

> outer side has helped my right wrist's tendonitis,

I don't have tendonitis, however last week I was typing with the top of the keyboard much lower than the bottom and there was a feeling of relief in my hands. Just putting this out there.

> to see if my wrists would feel better

Does it work?

On a side note, I wish I could buy a split keyboard for $30. Are they much harder to produce?

I believe some of Microsoft's Ergonomic keyboards are highly regarded. I didn't try any of them. Not mechanical but I hear good things. Some of them seem to have a similar tilt to mine. Its not adjustable though and the ergodox folks say you should adjust regularly (I really don't though and I imagine most people don't).

The other big difference is that while the keyboard is split, it is still one piece whereas mine is actually split.

And finally, the ergodox-ez is ortholinear, so instead of key rows that are staggered, the rows of keys are mostly straight vertically, which is supposedly more natural.

At $40ish dollars, it might be worth trying one of the microsoft options.

My keyboard could have been purchased for about $300 without backlighting. It comes with a bunch of different options for the switch, I just swapped mine out (the sockets are hot-swappable so no soldering). I paid more for backlighting because its also got up to 32 programmable layers and you can assign a different color so you know what layer you're on.

There are some slightly cheaper mechanical options. There's a recommendation threat / question thread in /r/mechanicalkeyboards on alternating days where people might be able to help you find something cheaper. I don't know everything so I might be missing a great option for you that doesn't cost a fortune.

One last note, they are not much harder to produce, its just that no one is doing it at scale yet. They are still trying to find the perfect design. Ergodox is one version, there are lots of other split keyboards like iris, artreus62, etc. I think the ergodox is pretty good, but people with small hands might not be able to hit all of the buttons. There are 6 buttons per thumb. Honestly, if I try to use any but the bottom 3 per thumb I have to move my hands significantly, but I assign those to stuff I don't do often. There are other people making smaller keysets, or changing the position/layout to optimize for their use case. If anything ever definitively catches on we might see a mass produced version.

I use split keyboards, and for me I can't go back.

I'm able to reposition them so that I sit up straight and no longer have my wrists cocked at a weird angle. The ability to move them throughout the day means I can change where each half is and how angled they are depending on how i'm sitting (leaning back i'll move them more parallel, sitting forward i'll angle them more "outward", etc...) I also "tent" my split keyboards, so they are at like a 15 degree angle with the inside being the "tallest".

That alone have stopped the carpel tunnel pain I was starting to get while using "traditional keyboards".

But aside from that, the crazier "custom built" keyboards tend to run firmware that allows pretty insane customization to the keyboards which I genuinely can't see myself ever going back. Things like being able to make a dedicated key to commit my work in my editor, what I call "physical bookmarks" which are keybindings that will open websites or apps on my PC, and being able to move around the keys and add layers for various things (my left-alt key acts as left-alt when held down, but presses escape when tapped).

It does come with it's drawbacks though. I have a hard time transitioning back to a normal qwerty keyboard now, and that means I take my split keyboard with me when I travel if I'm expecting to use the laptop significantly. It's not that I can't, but that my muscle memory is really ingrained now and I end up making a lot of mistakes.

$30 is going to be really hard to find a split keyboard for, but if you are willing to get your hands dirty and do some soldering and flashing of components, you can pickup the parts for a "DIY" keyboard kit for probably around $100 if you do your homework. Something like [1] is about $20 for the PCBs and diodes, $20 for the mounting plates, and then you'd need to find some cheap-er switches and keycaps as well as 2 ~$9 controller chips. It's not off-the-shelf for that cheap, but it's doable.

[1] https://keeb.io/products/iris-keyboard-split-ergonomic-keybo...

Are those box jade switches some kind of special version? I can't find them here:


These I find humorous.


If only they had "RUB" or "RUBOUT" written on them like the old timey keyboards did.

amazon has them too but I don't want to keep posting links to stores like I have been because I don't know if it violates the rules and I'm certainly not trying to sell anything.

search box jade switches and you should get something.

Whereas I own a £1 keyboard and I prefer it vastly more than any mechanical KB I had before.

At my first job I spent two years coding on a Hello Kitty keyboard. First meant as a joke for newcomers, I got so used to it that I didn't want to change it. I finally gave it up when I switched from a desktop workstation to a laptop.

Haha, that's a nice story :D

Not using a Hello Kitty keyboard at work, but a pretty old IBM one that came with the hand-me-down workstation. I think it has to be at least 20 years old and I would be surprised if it cost more than $20 when new. I've went through 4 computer upgrades that came with new keyboards since, but I hated all of them. This one works and doesn't give me RSI, so any change is a risk as far as I'm concerned ;-)

Just in case this strikes anyone as dismissive, I too sincerely miss the old, beige keyboards that used to come with things like the old IBM, Tiny, MiTac, and Amiga brands I scavenged as a teenager. And those things were _robust_ - you could strip them down, soak them in detergent overnight, and have them good as new the next day without key caps falling off or the space bar sticking.

Those keyboard enthusiasts are in fact obsessing about the very same keyboards you mention, like the IBM Model M. One of those in good condition can be sold for quite a bit of money.

I had no idea :D I just thought they were exceptionally robust, and - ironically - cheap as chips at the time. Now that I think about it, yes, the term "chiclet" clearly contrasts with those older models. I have quite a few buried somewhere, might be time to break out the detergent again ;)

IIRC - the Model F keyboard of the old XT was one beast. I used have an XT I rescued from the trash; that thing had a solid aluminum case and weighed a ton. I love my Model M keyboards and my Unicomp - but I would love one of those older keyboards.

The feel of the model F keyboard (at the XT we both have) is unbeaten to me. Just wish I could get it in a _normal_ layout. I looked at the new model F F77 / F63 stuff just today sorrowing that I could not buy a 101 key layout at all.

Unicomp keyboards are great, they get too much flack IMO. Yes, they seem to be coasting at times, but I'd rather them coast than be gone.

Those old keyboards were mechanical though weren't they? Lots of people love the old IBM ones, and they can't be found for just one euro online.

Yes. They used buckling spring switches. Different from Cherry MX's. I think there are modern versions but IMO the way to go is what you suggested, keeping an eye out for a good deal on a real vintage one.

There are lots of non-model-M IBM keyboards that aren't in any demand while still being great to type on.

They're still made... Unicomp ( https://www.pckeyboard.com/ ) bought the equipment ( from IBM?) and makes 'original' buckling spring keyboards now. They also have some nice 'upgrades' for them like USB connectors (ps/2 connectors can be hard to find now... )

You don't have to miss them, go on ebay, there's an entire hobby around vintage keyboards too. You can get adapters that enable you to use them on a modern system. Those things were built like tanks and sometimes you can get them for a good price.

Some of them are worth hundreds, but people still find them all the time at flea markets and yard sales for a few dollars.

If you dig around on Ebay, you'll find a ton of various kinds of Model M buckling spring keyboards for fairly decent prices; usually starting at around $50 USD. You might have to do some cleaning, but that's fairly easy.

You'll also find a ton of "specialized" Model M and other IBM keyboards that were designed for certain tasks - tons of extra function keys and strange layouts.

What you have to avoid (or look for) is to make sure they aren't the "silent rubber dome" kind - there were many Model M keyboards that used cheaper (but quieter) switches. Or that might be what you want. They are still (usually) good keyboards with a lot of life left in 'em - but if you want the real sound and experience, then buckling springs are where it's at. I haven't been able to find another kind of mechanical keyboard outside the Unicomp that comes close (and the Unicomp is a identical beast - I own one and two other original Model M keyboards - they all feel the same).

There are also a lot of different kinds and makes/models of the Model M - and then you have the whole Lexmark series of Model M (and the various different IBM logo labeling).

One of my Model M keyboards is a bit unique from what I understand: It's a Lexmark, with the blue tilted IBM logo in the corner, but it has the flow-thru slots and tray under the keys. From what I understand, Lexmark supposedly didn't make the flow-thru model. I don't know if mine is a unicorn, or if the collector market is confused or what; I suspect the latter.

Oh - one other thing: Connectors. The Model M was made with a variety of cable end connectors, and is another thing you have to look out for. You may have to rewire or buy/build an adapter (and it wouldn't surprise me to find that there were also different controllers in the keyboard itself, not all being able to communicate with a regular PC).

Unicomp still makes Model M style buckling spring keyboards. They're good and reasonably priced. https://www.pckeyboard.com/

Which Healios switches did you get? I see Halo Clear 70, Halo clear 90, Halo True 70, Halo True 90, etc.. on Massdrop.

that's different. Those are nice but there's a company called ZealPC that makes a few different models of switches. They don't have to be purchased from his site directly, there are a few other places that have them.

Healios is the name for their silenced linear switch. Its the quietest and smoothest linear switch I've ever tried. They are about $1.50 a switch though, mx's are like a quarter and Box Jades are about 35 cents. IMO they are worth it but some people try MX silenced reds and like them better at a fraction of the cost.

I bought a switch tester with 25 different switches that I thought I might like and then used it to decide what to get.

Healios is sold out on the company site right now but the 67g version of these (roselios) is identical IIRC. I have a mix of both on my keyboard. These were just done with a different color plastic stem for a charity event: https://zealpc.net/collections/switches/products/roselios_sa...

There are other places that likely have healios in stock.

I thought I was a keyboard buff with my Cherry Reds and Browns. I'd never even heard of Healios or Box Jade.

Some people still prefer blues, I might be slightly exaggerating. Not everyone wants a key as hard to press as a box jade but I love them.

When they did a survey of /r/mechanicalkeyboards the most common favorite is Brown, Blue was up there too.

/r/mechanicalkeyboards and /r/mechmarket area great place to go to further investigate the hobby. Be warned I can't be held responsible for anyone's wallet.

Are there any switches that come close to the feel and sound of buckling spring (aka Model M) switches?

I haven't been able to find anything like that; even the stiffest and clickiest and tactilest cherry key switches I've played with don't come close to the feel.

I'm not sure where Unicomp gets theirs - likely make them in-house would be my guess.

I currently own two original Model M keyboards, and one Unicomp Classic USB (it was given to me as part of my severance package from a former employer because nobody else wanted it after they downsized me - so they stuck it in the box of my things they shipped back to me).

But I can't find keycaps for any of those that are "all black" (which I'd like for my Unicomp - which is a black case design - but greyish keycaps).

So a "standard" switch, with keycaps - but with the same feel, etc as an original buckling spring switch - that's what I'm looking for (under-key blue glow to match my case effects would also be a nice thing - but baby steps).

I think there may be modern buckling spring key switches.

Most modern mechanical switches have their own sound. MX Blues and knockoffs sound like MX Blues, the Box Jades I described have a really really nice clicky noise and IMO the best tactile clicking feeling. You could try them next to a buckling spring keyboard and you may or may not like the buckling spring feeling and sound better.

I've used both vintage buckling springs and box jades and I like Box Jades better.

They sell switch testers with lots of different switches on them, if you want something really obscure like a modern buckling spring you might have to buy a few of the switches separately, but then you could test them alongside the others.

I learned to type on manual typewriters, so I like a _heavy_ switch... Box Navy Blue, Box jade, or sages are my current favorite. Cherry Green just wasn't tactile or clicky enough for me.

If you like MX Browns, give T1s a shot. They're a cheaper clone of the holiest of tactile switches: the Holy Panda.

God, and here I was, thinking my Azio Mk Retro was extravagant :)

Details on the 20 minutes of easy mods?

I'm guessing by the '20 minutes' part they're referring to moding the stabilizers: https://youtu.be/cD5Zj-ZgMLA

Not hard to do, and it changes the sound/feel of them in a way a lot of people appreciate.

P.S. I second the GMMK ( https://www.pcgamingrace.com/products/gmmk-full-brown-switch ) as a good way to try out switches and keycaps. The board is fairly cheap, nicely built, and has hot-swap switches that allow you to try various switches without soldering...

Thank you!

Sure, I'll explain and link.

It sounds like a lot but I am not a particularly handy person and I did it right the first try. I just had to use a brush to remove a little excess lubricant on one of the stabilizers because it was sticky. On my GMMK keyboard where I was going for silence, the different before and after the stabilizer mods were incredible. It sounded cheap and rattled a lot, even though the keys still felt good. Afterwards it was near-perfect.

There are two primary things that make noise. Some noises are good and some are bad. If your keyboard makes rattling noises when you type, that's considered a bad noise and likely caused by stabilizers. Stabilizers the the extra things you see under the larger keys on a keyboard like the spacebar and shift. Different keyboards have different numbers of them.

The other thing that makes the noises are the switches. Some people want clicky noises, some people want silence. The case and the keycaps can alter the way your switches sound too. If you want it quieter there's some rubbery sound-dampening material you can buy to line your case with, some people use other materials. Basically the more empty space there is in your case the more potential for noise.

So if you want a silent keyboard, you use that lining material, you use linear switches that are designed to be silent, or you buy regular linear switches and silence them yourself using little rubber rings. Definitely mod the stabiliizers by taking them apart, cutting these extra little plastic feet off like the linked article, optionally placing a small piece of cloth bandaid under it, and relubricating it after wiping the original lubricant off. Some people go so far as to open and lube the switches, but that's not a 20 minute job. Everything else I described is fairly quick, but it will probably take more like an hour the first time you do it. Its easy though. As a further step, some people buy better stabilizers, authentic GMK stabilizers that screw into the circuit board. However, when I modded my GMMK I used the stock ones. Some people don't like them but it seemed decent. My space bar was kind of noisy but I skipped the bandaid mod for this which would have likely helped, otherwise it was super quiet.

If you want a clicky keyboard, you buy clicky switches. You still want to get rid of the rattle noises so you will still need to clip, lube, and optionally do the bandaid mod for your stabilizers, upgrading to better stabilizers if you want to do it. Lining the case is more optional. If you do want to line the case, its always a good idea to research whether there's even enough room in your specific case to do it. I did not try it with my GMMK.

Link to stabilizer and band-aid mods.


There are some people that get into extreme keyboard modding. Some people try to stick little pieces of foam in the hollow parts under-neath the keycaps to minimize noise, I haven't gone that far.

Here's an example of what's possible to with a little bit of learning. Note that this guy is one of the best and he may have also used other techniques, there's probably a full stream of him making this keyboard or one similar somewhere online.


Here's another one that ended up pretty good. I think he describes his process.


Wow, thank you very much for your extremely detailed answer. I'm looking to invest a little bit in things that I use every day (keyboard, chair) and your original post stuck out because you acknowledged it's possible to have a nice mechanical keyboard without breaking the bank.

That reminds me I must get the adaptor for my vintage type M (IBM XT) brought /built.

I do have a soft spot for the Vt100

> There's nothing wrong with any of this

There isn't? Deliberately understocking so that some of your users miss out and the rest have to pay more seems like it's all bad for the users, even if it's making money for somebody.

I can't see how there's anything wrong with deliberately doing a small production run of something, because if it undersells you're going to lose a lot of money.

Fundamentally these aren't utilitarian items, they're luxuries, and the market behaves as such. Limited editions are totally normal in the art world.

This problem has been thoroughly solved in the mechanical keyboard community with group buys. Take pre-order payment in advance over several weeks and Bob's your uncle, no underselling.

A vendor doesn’t have to offer the socially optimal package. Other vendors can fill in other gaps.

The GP said:

> The hobby intentionally does nothing to try to improve [the drawbacks of the small scale] because the exclusivity drives prices up to an insane point. [...] There is nothing wrong with any of this.

If it's still worth it for you, that's fine. Or if you figure that selling a few blinged-out "designer" models at ultra-premium prices helps support the main product, or if you don't care either way because you don't buy the top models, or you admire the designer's business savvy, or any other thoughtful reason that hasn't occurred to me, that's all fine.

But describing that situation I quoted above, and saying "there is nothing wrong with this," is pretty debatable! And I'm getting downvote-bombed for politely debating it. Hacker News is weird sometimes.

Maybe downvotes cause the MK group thinks it's fine. Then you, with a cursory look at the group, state their happy place is "all bad" - and demonstrate a mis-understanding of the MK market forces - which had already been described.

It's the same thing as limited edition prints. The exclusivity is the point. Though it's not my cup of tea.

> But describing that situation I quoted above, and saying "there is nothing wrong with this," is pretty debatable!

"There is nothing wrong with this" in contexts like these usually means "nothing morally wrong".

Seems there's a pretty obvious argument why artificial scarcity purely for financial gain is wrong, assuming the goods provide a benefit of some kind (and if they don't then there are ready arguments not to sell them at all).

It seems pretty obvious why it isn’t wrong in this case and that is that there is no general shortage of keyboards. Someone buying one of these isn’t going to deprive anybody else from buying a keyboard for their computer.

I upvoted because I did poorly word what I meant by the latter part of that statement, see above.

Thanks for clarifying!

I spoke poorly, I meant there's nothing wrong with people spending money on expensive things simply because they like the way they look/sound. I don't like predatory pricing. Limited Editions are OK, but when every single product is a limited edition designed to milk every last cent out of people I have an issue with it.

Although, if its gonna happen, I am very happy that its happening to a luxury product and not something my friends and relatives that make less than a 3rd of my annual income desperately need to survive.

It's disappointing how so much money is being poured into "mechanical keyboard kits" that simply re-create the old ANSI/ISO layouts that are rooted in old limitations from the days of the typewriter. Alternate layouts & ortholinear/ergonomic designs should be the forefront of the movement. All this focus on outdated designs makes the community "accessible" but also holds people back.

The emergence of row-staggered 40% boards is a particular disappointing anachronism. Don't think ortholinear boards can compete? OLKB boards usually sell several thousand every time a group buy runs, and the OLKB main store has a several-month long wait list. People who buy keycaps for these can end up spending $140 for 140 keycaps, 48 of which they'll ever even use... $200 minimum if they don't want Qwerty. The demand is there.

People dream about that old GITS typing scene, but we'll never achieve it when our instagram influencers are always hyping this kind of stuff. Japan at least has the right focus - Corne, Helidox, Lily58, Biacco42, and NumAtreus were all created in the past couple of years, with countless more coming.

>Alternate layouts & ortholinear/ergonimic designs should be the forefront of the movement.

Ehh. There are a lot of good reasons to have layouts that are fairly common across all the equipment you'll use. From what I've seen, while there may be some advantages to different layouts and configurations, very few things are so compelling as to warrant a wholesale change outside of some niches like court stenographers for which specialized training is justified.

I don't think consistency is an issue unless other people need to use the unusual equipment. For example I think most people who use dvorak on their personal system have no trouble at all switching back to qwerty as needed, at least that has been my experience.

I'm a 15 year dvorak user, and I can no longer type on qwerty keyboards at all — it's just hunt and peck really. But qwerty keyboards on the phone are just fine.

Anecdotally, I tried an orthogonal layout and loved it, but after a few weeks my productivity when using coworkers' computers and the keyboard built into my laptop dropped so far because I started to lose the ability to type on QWERTY. I guess I could carry around a keyboard and cable everywhere but that seems suboptimal.

Agreed. Modeling your own keyboard chassis is possible, and there's plenty of open source models to start from. If you have access to a 3d printer you get down to normal mechanical keyboard price range.

My own attempt is at https://github.com/dancek/dactyl-keyboard/tree/less-aggressi... . While I only have the left half built, I'd say that measuring fingers and tuning an ergonomic layout to your preferences works well. I don't expect to see a production keyboard as ergonomic. Ever.

N.b. the amount of work needed for this build is pretty ridiculous. There's a reason that keyboards are usually flat.

It's disappointing how a $100,000 watch still has a big and little hand going around a conventional 12 hour dial ...

That would be disappointing! If you're charging $100,000 for a damn watch, it had better beam the time directly into my brain at all times.

That's not accurate.

There are ergonomic variants of keyboards on the market. There is no viable alternative to the way how we measure time.

There are digital and 24 hour variants that are not only viable, but common.

I think they are posting about how time is displayed, not measured. Digital watches seem fairly viable.

There's an entire sub-space of the mechanical keyboard hobby dedicated to custom DIY keyboards.

From what I have seen lately, the focus has been on eliminating the "stagger" of the keys and going more in a grid (but still keeping the mostly QWERTY layout - though some are experimenting with other layouts, too).

You have a few brave souls doing split and ergonomic styles, too. Then you have others who build specialty "keyboards" that are closer in scope to a 10-key with additional do-dads, mostly meant for games or other "macro" tasks (Photoshop and DAWs for instance).

Of course, there's also the people playing with chorded keyboards and such - but they've always have been fairly fringe (seeing as most of the time the purpose of such "keyboards" are for custom AR rigs and other wearable systems).

> It's disappointing how so much money is being poured into "mechanical keyboard kits" that simply re-create the old ANSI/ISO layouts that are rooted in old limitations from the days of the typewriter. Alternate layouts & ortholinear/ergonomic designs should be the forefront of the movement. All this focus on outdated designs makes the community "accessible" but also holds people back.

I mean most of the enthusiast keyboards allow you to program the keyboard so you can make the layout whatever you want.

Personally I won't buy any keyboard that isn't just a standard ten keyless because I

1) Don't want to have to remap my vim keys

2) Want other people to be able to use my keyboard

3) Want to be able to use other people's keyboards

OP has different meaning of layout on their mind. You can put keys in different spots than a typewriter. Examples:

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLUM_keyboard#/media/File:PLUM... - Ortholinear keyboard (notice that key columns are aligned, unlike your normal Qwerty keyboard)

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltron#/media/File:Maltron_Du... - Ergonomic keyboard, much more funky layout

Have you ever thought about how reasons 2 and 3 can be chalked up (or down) to other people holding you back?

As for Vim, I won't lie and say that adapting to it with Dvorak has been easy, but it's more doable than Colemak/Workman/Norman/CarpalX.

The problem is you get to choose either a better layout or better keycaps.

My Mitosis has a really great layout but I paid more for non-legended caps so I could get the profile I wanted.

Other people with unusual ergo layouts go with non-sculpted profiles like DSA or SA R3 which I cannot stand.

Or you can go ANSI and get wonderful profiles like MT3 and DSS.

The compromise is to go with a standardized ergo layout like the Ergodox, which I regard as very suboptimal… its popularity stems from its availability and its availability stems from its popularity.

>The problem is you get to choose either a better layout or better keycaps.

Very much this. I'm very fond of Kailh Chocs and use them in many of my designs [1], while an excellent switch you have exactly two colour options White Blanks and Black Blanks. If that wasn't bad enough they're different sizes then regular MX so if you don't have a board _specfically_ designed for them you end up with gaps in the caps. It sucks because there is only so far you can go with low travel MX and good luck convincing someone to switch that's using 150$ of the latest GMK.

[1] https://www.gboards.ca/

Neat! I actually got to lay hands on a Georgi yesterday because one of my online friends I met up with (for non-keyboard-purposes) brought one. Very solid-feeling.

Awesome! The switches are the best part 12g is insane for the first time. I feel like a drug dealer with those bags of springs :)

Been wanting to try one of these. Usually I have good fortune with s/h, but unfortunately my Georgi order is the one thing that in two years somehow never made it to my mailbox.

Oh no! Send me a email and let's sort this out :(

I can definitely see the 12g springs being great for a chording board, but I usually favor heavy springs, with 55g Topre and Box Navy in my two daily drivers.

Take a look at ergodox, keyboardio, dactyl, etc. and you'll see more innovation than in the MacBooks.

I'm someone who really wants to try one of these newer split keyboards, but absolutely does not want to solder the damn thing together myself. I not only wish there were more of these keyboards, but I wish it were easy to just buy one all put-together.

Wouold you be willing to pay someone to assemble it for you? It might be cheaper than you think.

I've assembled an Iris 2.1 for someone before. Can do.

The layouts can be whatever you want. The keycaps are interchangeable and the layout is dictated by the firmware flashed to an Arduino.

This sounds interesting, but I don't know what most of that means. Can you elaborate?

I am the owner of several keyboards whose total price is a few thousand. Most of that comes from one rare board which can fetch $3k+ in the aftermarket (TGR Jane V2 CE).

I really have a hard time explaining to people my purchases because it is just something I like for some reason. I love the customization and I liken it to having a project car... something I am saving up for right now.

I have also attended meetups and met a ton of great people through the hobby, so it is not just all throwing money around there is a social component.

Happy to answer any keyboard related questions!

I'm in the $600+ club too (Kepler that has a full brass bottom weight 6+kg, Kepler 65 with it's forged carbon top etc.)

It's a really strange hobby. A bunch of people who really value and love keyboards, the thing that sits between a human and a computer, a tool that many (developers, writers, gamers) use every day for hours on end.

Similar to how someone might invest in a nice knife if they love cooking, luxury-priced tools are quite a common category you see in hobbies.

The community is nice, and the pursuit of "endgame" continually drives supply, demand and the prices that go along with it up consistently. Next year, I wouldn't be surprised if we see several new $1000+ keyboards playing around with new finishes, materials and designs that cater to the high end of the hobby.

> forged carbon top

You can't forge carbon. It's not malleable. It shatters if you try to forge it. Are you making a joke about people being gullible, or are there some exotic solid-state physics involved here that I don't know about?

Oh, apparently you mean molded plastic with a chopped carbon-fiber filler? Heh.

This is what I'm referring to! Commonly used in luxury cars, I think it looks great!


And this is the keyboard!


It's not forged in a forge, it's just called that. It's just molded carbon fiber in resin.


I would be concerned about that. Carbon fiber isn't much better than asbestos, and while both are fine if sealed in a wall, we're talking about a keyboard taking daily wear and tear with the fibers sealed under a thin layer of glue.

A keyboard cannot possibly need the tensile strength, so why not just use plastic?

In this case it's all about the look! Keyboards can also be made with a solid brass/stainless steel base, in which case it's about the weight which often affects feel, acoustics and overall "heft" of it as an object. Past a certain point, people make things out of cool materials/heavy just cause they can.

People break keyboards all the time. Reinforcing them with carbon fiber seems reasonable to me. You seem to be confusing carbon fiber, which is a mild irritant like fiberglass, with carbon nanotubes. It's goofy that the keyboard enthusiasts got taken in by the marketroid term “forged carbon”, though.

I have never once broken a keyboard. I can't imagine how I would -- sit on it? It's fixed on my desk.

If I did need a stronger keyboard, I'd rather have it reinforced with steel. That would have the extra benefit of keeping it in place.

Steel is a lot heavier and a lot weaker than carbon fiber. For you that's an advantage, but not for those of us who use our keyboards on trains, in cafés, in hostels, and in tents. The comforting weight of an IBM Type M keyboard gets old fast when it's stuffed in your backpack on a bike.

That probably also helps explain how we break keyboards.

Ah, okay. To me that's what my laptop keyboard is for, but I think I understand better now.

I used to travel with my mechanical keyboard a lot and the keyboard breaking while in a heavily stuffed backpack was definitely a big concern of mine.

HN lambasts audiophiles every time stupid expensive audio gear comes up, yet here we are paying $hundreds for gimmick keyboard stuff.

SF developers making $100k or two a year just aren't in the same money league of the audiophiles spending $thousands on speaker wire.

EDIT: I'm not mad at any of the above groups I've mentioned; everybody gets their kicks from something, as well they should. I'm just mentioning what I see.

The key difference being audiophiles often fail A/B tests comparing audio quality. You would definitely notice how nice an expensive mechanical keyboard feels. Whether you think that is worth luxury pricing is another story, but the quality is at least more immediately appreciable.

I would be interested in seeing an AB test of keyboard enthusiast between say a 200$ keyboard and one that is 5x as expensive. Audiophiles also claimed that they would definitely notice a difference.

I can't speak for him and I'm not saying I agree with this, but I believe what he means is that what they buy it for is actually what they get.

Audiophile are buying it for better audio, but the quality isn't actually better.

Keyboard enthusiast buy it for different materials, finishes, color scheme, sets of switches, sets of keycaps, etc... They all can be done in a better or inferior quality.

I wouldn't agree with it because it's mostly defining the object by its aesthetics features.

Yes, this is what I'm saying. I'm not suggesting that the margins of quality are worth a 5x price point (it's not), but it's not quite the same as some of the voodoo beliefs among audiophiles that a 20k tube amp makes an appreciable difference.

As a disclosure, I own expensive audiophile gear, but, again, for the aesthetics primarily. I would be much happier with audiophiles if they just said they like the aesthetics.

You would have to be careful. Most people buying cheap kits get the same stabilizers that everyone uses in every high end build, its like a $20 upgrade. They also clip the stabilizers, make sure they are lubed properly, and some people put pieces of cloth band-aids under them to soften impacts and make it more quiet. Some people also lube switches which is a little harder to do right and takes some tools.

If you wanted to test, it should be on equal footing. A $200 keyboard with the same switches and modifications as a $2000 keyboard. Same keycaps as well.

If we're talking kits, honestly you might even want to use the same board and just have the case be different.

Even with all that, there's a good chance they will be able to tell that the keyboards are different, simply because the acoustics of the cases are going to be different. They just won't be able to subjectively measure the quality.

$200 might be too low though, I think the realm of it not being noticeable is probably closer to $300-400+.

The main factors that affect keyboard feel are

1. Switches (can be lubed or spring swapped to customise feel) 2. Plate (holds switches together, can be aluminium, carbon fiber, brass, polycarbonate and more) 3. Case (heavily affects acoustics) 4. Foam (put in case to affect acoustics)

And you can definitely notice how nice an expensive pair of headphones sound compared to cheap models. If you meant stuff like buying expensive cables for no measurable benefits mechanical keyboard enthusiasts often spend hundreds on keycaps which won't provide any benefit beyond looking good compared to cheaper sets. Mechanical keyboard enthusiasts and audiophiles are very much alike.

When I think audiophile, I think beyond high end, like Sennheiser's $59,000 headphones.

Of course even a non-audiophile can notice the difference between $30 and $200 headphones, but I wonder how many people could tell the difference between $2000 and $60k headphones.

I'm curious how many could distinguish a $400 keyboard from a $1200 keyboard. Once you get into a certain price point, the returns diminish so quickly that I figure most would be unable to tell a difference.

There are switches that cost several dollars each that feel distinctly different. In general though I agree, with a specific set of switches, there is likely not a quantifiable improvement to be had by spending $800 more.

However, each keyboard case + switch + keycap setup is going to feel and sound slightly different. So it isn't really an objective improvement but they will likely be distinguishable from one another. Some people are into it for the way it sounds.

Its not necessarily that more expensive switches = better experience, its more about getting exactly the type of switch you want. IMO the best switches I've ever used were $30 for a 61 key compact keyboard's worth.

> However, each keyboard case + switch + keycap setup is going to feel and sound slightly different. So it isn't really an objective improvement but they will likely be distinguishable from one another. Some people are into it for the way it sounds.

This sounds pretty much like what headphone audiophiles say.

> However, each driver + housing + amp setup is going to feel and sound slightly different. So it isn't really an objective improvement but they will likely be distinguishable from one another.

Brands like Sennheiser have a very different sound from Audio-Technica which have different sound than Campfire Audio etc etc. Which is "better" is very subjective but there is a difference between say a pair of Sennheiser HD650 and Beyerdynamic DT1990

For headphones, the audiophiles are right. They are even right about quality for a $2000 set of headphones, if its the right model vs a fashion brand. Each price tier tends to have a certain level of quality, and within that tier you can expect different sounds still. Some of the super high end stuff has noticeable amounts of detail over a wider range, so it can be actually "better" than a specific $500 set of headphones. Some people still might like the cheaper one though. However, when it comes to the $2000 cables they are full of shit. People have hooked super high end audio equipment to spectrum analyzers and other instruments and audiophiles are objectively getting taken for a ride when it comes to really expensive cables.

IMO, people that spend $2000 on a keyboard are overspending, but they are also aware that its a fashion accessory.

Oh yes, I 100% agree with you on that. $2000 cables are just stupid. However, you can spend around $100 or so on really nice handmade cables that look and feel better than the stock cables, which seems comparable to spending lots of money on artisinal keycaps, no?

Its more comparable than you think. Those artisan cables with fancy bnc connectors and pretty colors are also available for keyboards. Some are like $40-50 but some are into the hundreds. They are sold for aesthetic reasons. I myself have some decent quality, but still pretty average cables because I think my white plastic cables look good with my white plastic $600 keyboard. My cables were probably $10-12 from amazon.

I think it really isn't comparable, because the audiophiles--certain of them anyway--are totally mired in defending that their expensive aesthetic changes make a difference. They'll even try to wrap themselves in science and argue that "hospital grade" electrical outlets, fancy plugs, or whatever, make a discernible difference in the "air" or "pace" of the music. Nevermind that these are mostly old guys with tin ears, obsessing over Yes or Steely Dan. Ready to defend to the very end that a $500 toslink (or ethernet!) cable is worse than a $1000 one and so much better than the $10 version. But don't you dare trot out the nasty words "double blind test" unless you'd like to hear semi-religious rants on how they're both useless but also easily passed by the golden ears who know every nuance of Fleetwood Mac's oeuvre.

On the other hand, nobody is claiming that a fancy keyboard makes for a better typist or a finer writer. The aesthetics are what they are.

we were only talking about spending a hundred or so for aesthetic and perceptible quality reasons, not advocating $2000 cables for objective reasons of sound quality.

Differences in headphones are real. Spending 20k on a custom tube amp is not.

I wouldn't really consider nice headphones to be a prime example of audiophile gear, tbh.

Putting definitely in italics dosent make it true. I would be curious about A/B/C test for different prices such as 600/300/100

Play the same source back to back between A and B, and it's incredibly easy to tell the difference between two different amps, speakers, CD players, record decks and even cartridges at various price bands. Frequently it was far from subtle, but quite extreme, particularly at the cheaper end, but still quite easy between £2,500 components (or cartridges in the hundreds).

The question as to which was more accurate, or which you prefer is an entirely different one.

Now I could never tell any difference between £5 standard interconnect and £100+ directional silliness, or beyond QED standard £1/m speaker cable. Needless to say I never bought any of that. So I've never understood the appeal of lunatic territory with £5k mains cables that look more suitable for mooring a ship.

Reasonable people can tell the difference between 600/300/100 speakers or amplifiers. Up in the audiophile range, the difference between a $20000 amp and a $2000 amp is mostly placebo effect.

I don’t think it’s different actually. Sure, jumping from a 20$ keyboard to a 200$ one makes a massive difference, but from 200$ to 2000$, the benefits are marginal, (outside of aesthetics). Similar comparisons can be made to any category of audio equipment.

I'm not saying it's not marginal, but if you spend time around audiophiles, they make lots of claims that aren't just "marginal" but simply not based in reality. I would not spend $2000 on a keyboard, but I believe people who do are doing it largely based on aesthetics, not the kind of imaginary science that audiophiles do.

I've never seen a keyboard enthusiast claim that the results of their typing are superior to the results of typing on a cheap keyboard. They prefer the experience, or the aesthetics, but don't generally make falsifiable claims about objective facts.

If you want to spend money on speaker wire because it looks good, and fits your room decor, or glows, fine. If you think the results sound better, you deserve all the mockery you get.

For what it's worth, the first keyboard enthusiast I met in college claimed that their code was better as a result of all the clicky noises it made.

I guess it is possible if the thing is making him happier while developing.

most people who are keyboard enthusiasts justify their enthusiasm because it is faster and more ergonomic, sure they don't say they get better code (although maybe if you're wrists aren't killing you, you do) but they do say they get the code quicker without debilitating physics effects which seems to me to claims that could be falsifiable (given big enough studies) about objective facts.


The one set of dirt-cheap headphones everyone seems to agree on is the KOSS KSC75[0]. What is the KSC75 of the keyboard world? Is there such a thing? There was a story on HN[1] a month or so ago about the Amazon Basics keyboard that everyone ate alive for being so... cheap?



Since you pointed out, I was lambasting everyone in this thread in my own mind.

Your parent comments need lambasting too, computer-nerdity isn't supposed to be this super bougie luxury hobby

I'm OK with people making fun of my nerd hobby. I have also spent $800 on a 100 year-old fountain pen so I can do some spencerian copperplate calligraphy. I got functional utility out of that purchase, but most of fountain pen collecting is about nerds spending craploads of money on things that look nice.

Perhaps people shouldn't have started paying nerds a good amount of money to do super nerdy things. I don't know what to tell you.

I'm under no illusion that I needed $170 colored pieces of plastic on my keyboard when the keyboard came with a perfectly good set that wasn't as pretty.

I'm really cheap in most aspects of my life though. I know people that buy new motorcycles every year or so or put a bunch of time and money into customizing a car. Lots of people that make a third of what I do think nothing of spending $300 in drinks at a club on the weekend a couple times a month. Computer bougieness seems like a bargain. And I'm even a cheap bastard about that most of the time. I refused to upgrade this GPU generation because the prices almost doubled.

>Perhaps people shouldn't have started paying nerds a good amount of money to do super nerdy things.

I've got discount pitchforks. Get your pitchforks. 3 for $5.

You would think (rationally at least) that people obsessed with the optimal interface between user and computer would focus on non-QWERTY layouts instead of dropping dough on intricate mechanical keyboards

(yeah, cue "por que no los dos?" but still!)

Honestly, they sort of do. I would definitely call any 60% with custom QMK firmware with function keys and layers a non-standard layout. For the alpha keys, the benefits to switching from QWERTY to say DVORAK or something are largely still theoretical. No one to my knowledge has proven definitively that it's actually superior. And it's a common myth that QWERTY was designed to slow typists down. It was designed to place the frequently used keys further apart from each other, which is not the same thing as trying to slow down typists. If that were the objective, you'd find yourself doing awkward pinkie reaches for 'T' and 'E' and the like.

But even if DVORAK was superior, mastering it comes at significant costs. Chiefly, switching to a custom layout with function keys and stuff doesn't reprogram most basic typing, so you can jump on someone else's conventional keyboard pretty easily. If you reprogram yourself to be a DVORAK master, you are looking at some serious potential hindrance in flexibility since we live in a qwerty world.

There's a lot of people in this hobby that use Dvorak, and the other obscure layout that I don't even remember the name of. Some even design and sell PCBs/entire kits for them. Most of the keyboards seem to use QMK, an open source, programmable firmware so you can do whatever you want.

There's a lot of debate on those layouts and their usefulness. There's people that swear it saved them from RSI and there's people that say nothing can be proven about the health benefits of any alternative layout. There are a lot of people that switched to an alternative for a few weeks, months, or even a year and then went back to qwerty. I've stuck with qwerty so I don't have a lot of knowledge on the subject.

COLEMAK? is that the "other obscure layout"?

That's one of them. Not sure how obscure it actually is. I'm not very knowledgable about alternative layouts, I just see the names come up frequently.

Great professionals (cooks, photographers) will definitely benefit from high-end tools because you get higher control (over craftsmanship), improved productivity etc.

For a keyboard, the signal delivered to the computer (the thing that really matters) is the same. It's the same freaking 'A' that gets delivered whether you type in a $1 keyboard or the $2000 keyboard. Most prolific writers or software programmers (for whom the keyboard really matters) produce amazing and impactful artifacts with regular keyboards.

It is the same signal, I'm not sure but potentially drivers, microcontrollers, and other things may impact latency though. Not that mechanical keyboard enthusiasts seem to be focused on that.

However, the type of switch you use can have an impact on all kinds of things, the speed at which you can type, the accuracy of your typing, your long term health, etc.

Certain types of switches are also better suited to specific activities. For example, linear switches can usually be pressed faster, which makes them very slightly better for gaming. There are even gaming oriented linear switches that have reduced key travel to further increase speed. The speed impact is going to be near non-noticeable in its impact on game performance for everyone but elite gamers, but anyone is going to be able to tell that certain switches fatigue their hands less than others.

I don't have crazy expensive keyboards, but I think your assessment is overly reductive. Good keyboards feel better (and are more comfortable for days on end) and reduce typos over bad ones.

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