Starting Towards A Custom Built Keyboard

As someone who works with computers and uses a keyboard, on a near daily basis, and for 10-12+ hours in most cases, having a great keyboard that fits you is right up there with a great bed, really nice monitor, and good desk environment.

Distant Early Warning

My fascination with keyboards go back a number of years, in that whenever I would go into Best Buy, CompUSA, or some other computer sales related stores, I would make sure to try out the keyboards they had on display.

Given all that I am about to lay out, in retrospect, I knew there was something about the importance of a good keyboard, but wasn’t yet cognizant of what a good keyboard even was, settling on nice rubber-dome Logitect keyboards usually.

Enter Das Keyboard

This all started to change about the end of 2009, when Das Keyboards Ultimate Model S was announced.

I was a touch typist, mostly, and I specify mostly, as that I would touch type, but then start letting my eyes wander from the screen where they would eventually wind up looking at the keyboard and my typing pace would slow to a crawl.

Seeing that there was a supposedly really nice keyboard at a reasonable price, given the expected lifetime of a good keyboard, I cashed in my “Christmas Credit”, and asked for only one present, a Das Keyboard Ultimate Model S.

After some selling on the idea, in that professionals invest in professional grade tools; that I wanted the blank keycaps to force myself to not let my eyes wander, because there would be nothing to watch; and that this should last me years of use, if not decades, on Christmas Morning I opened up and started click-clacking away.

Jeff Attwood, Steve Losh, and a co-worker named Pete Young

Then 4 years ago happened, I was following Jeff Atwood’s (a.k.a. CodingHorror) blog posts and he announced the Code Keyboard.

After hearing about how nice the Cherry MX Clears are if you like the Blues (which were the key switches in the Das Model S that I had), and catching the first glimpse of customizability with the Code having dip-switches to change between Mac/Windows Mode, QWERTY/Dvorak/Colemak options, and others, I was able to get an order in on the second round to get a clears.

While we were waiting, my co-worker Pete, who was also excited about keyboards, and further down the path than I, started bringing in his various keyboards, and we would exchange and see how different keyboards felt after a day of usage, getting an initial feel of what we like.

And I believe it was Pete, (and if it wasn’t him that shared it with me and I shared it with him instead, he will still get the credit), showed me Steve Losh’s A Modern Space Cadet post, and I started the path down to using some customization of my keyboard layout as outlined in the post.

Pining over the ErgoDox

At some point I came across the ErgoDox online. I don’t remember where it was originally, but that put the Atreus on my radar and a few other variants of “travel” keyboards.

Somewhere in this time range as well, I heard someone refer to building and customizing your own keyboard as a software developer was akin to a Jedi building their own lightsaber.

Truth be told, I was intimidated. The cost for the parts, and me having to do it myself, made it both a dream, and also very intimidating.

Intimidating as my knowledge of soldering was:
– that there was an soldering iron (which wasn’t spelled how it sounded to my ears),
– flux (not to be confused with the capacitor),
– the solder itself,
– used for connecting electrical “stuff” together,
– and that a soldering iron could easily be confused with a very badly operating wood burner.

But the ErgoDox still remains the dream, and that dream is getting closer to being reality.

In the next few posts, I will outline how I have since started making faster progress to the dream of a fully custom built keyboard and having my own perfect keyboard.

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  1. Pingback: Deeper Down the Custom Built Keyboard Rabbit HoleProctor It | Proctor It

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