A Keyboard Story – Part I – Of Luck and Lead Times

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Well heck, that didn’t last long did it? 2021 decided it was going to begin by asking 2020 to hold its beer and then kicking it square in the nuts after the hand-off. Unfortunately it does not appear to be over even after its over. So far the prevailing mood has been, “AAaarrrrgggghhhhh”.

But that isn’t why you’re here, is it? Or maybe it is. I have no idea. The most difficult thing about producing content is producing content, and the hardest thing about consistently producing content it being consistent about it. I any case, I sincerely apricate all the people who read and engage with my posts, so thanks goes to both of you.

Let me place a big astirick next to everythng that I’m writing below. This is topic is entirely new to me, and I’m basing everything on what limited research I’ve done and my experiences as I dabble in the hobby. Im not an expert, and depending on who you ask, I’m a complete idiot. This is all perfunctory. I am prefunct.

In my last entry I mentioned the niche world of custom built keyboards. Because it is relatively obscure activity, issues include scarcity, cost, and extended lead times. From what I can gather the situation is much better than it used to be insofar as now there are items that actually being produced whereas previously, there weren’t. The advances in boutique manufacturing have been amazing. Hell, the advances in 3D printing have been staggering. When you realize the number of things you can produce at home, the mind truly boggles. I digress…

Just before the New Year I started down the path of “building” my own keyboard. It feels a bit disingenuous to say that, as it is more assembly than actually building. I’m not laying out a PCB, working out the circuit for a keyboard matrix or soldering any components to anything. In truth all the hard work has really been done, I won’t turn a single screw for my first build. What I will be doing is making something at least a bit unique, tailored more to my own preferences than I would be able to buy “off the shelf”.

I mentioned some of the pitfalls. The first is the cost. This goes hand in hand with the second pitfall I mentioned, which is scarcity. Most of the people/companies that produce the components (cases, keycaps, switches, etc), are on the smaller side and don’t maintain large inventories. From what I can gather, items are made in limited quantity, and most in batches done on a pre-order basis. You can find some things on major sites like Amazon, but you’ll find a more interesting assortment of offerings on smaller sites such as KBDFans and NovelKeys. How likely something will be available is a different story. If you are fortunate to find something that strikes your fancy, such as a case with a distinctive style for example, there is a real possibility you will wait months for it to ship. Just as likely you may find the pre-order has closed and you missed your opportunity. This is an endeavor of luck and lead times so if instant gratification is your thing, you may wish to look elsewhere.

As it stands, I’ve been fortunate that everything that I’ve ordered has had quick turnarounds. Ironically the one thing that I’ve had to wait an extended amount of time for is from Amazon, some Kailh Creme switches which despite being listed as available, aren’t scheduled to ship for another month. Throwing caution to the wind, and knowing I’d need more of them anyway, I went to NovelKeys a few days later, ordered a batch of 110 and and they should have arrived by the time this is posted.

I’m planning on doing a more thorough post on the build process, so stay tuned for that. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll catch ya later.

-Stu

Of Keyboards and Dumpster Fires

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Happy New Year! Now with 2020, the historical equivalent of dousing a dumpster in gasoline then lighting the whole thing on fire with an ignited fart, we can get back to what really matters, and that is calling the fire department, dousing the flames, and sifting through the cinders of our dreams which are now charred reminders that yes, in fact it can happen here.

But I digress. 2021 is upon us, a new year with new hopes, new opportunities, and a refreshed sense of purpose. For example, I have discovered that you can build your own mechanical keyboard. Like virtually any hobby, once you dive into the rabbit hole you discover that the investment can well exceed the realm of good sense and fiscal responsibility. Why spend $15 on a plain, boring keyboard when you can spend upwards of $600 to get in on the entry level of building your own bespoke keyboard? Why spend time learning to program, to play the guitar, or learning carpentry when you can toil for hours over which switch to buy and how to best secure and lube your keyboard stabilizers? It seems like a no brainer to me.

The pandemic is still raging and while there are viable vaccines now coming available, it will still be quite a while before things start returning to anything even resembling the Before Times. My employer (hey, a marmot needs to eat too) has already informed us that when normal operations resume, a large part of our staff will continue to work remotely. A lot of places are embracing remote work arrangements in part because the technology now exists for it to be truly viable. I’ll be very interested to see how far this shift in our work environments will go, and if it will be truly lasting.

For all the tragedy and trauma Coronavirus has caused, there have been some lasting impacts that are not bad. One of the most beneficial things that has happened is that it gave us all an opportunity to pause and reflect on the things and people that truly matter. My fear is that we as a society will forget everything as soon as we’re given the all-clear to go outside without a mask. It seems that for every painful lesson that is learned, there is a far greater, far more concerted effort to forget the lesson and pretend the pain was never experienced. We don’t actually learn anything other than how to embrace denial. We should probably see to that going forward.

Well, I know this has been a random post. This doesn’t seem very technical or engaging. What it is is the random musings of some dude floating out there with the rest of you, trying to sort out the day to day while needing to actually do the day to day. I have no idea if I’ll be posting more regularly in 2021, though I hope to do so. I’ve got a couple other things I’d like to dive into, but I always have about 10 things I’d like to get to before sighing to myself, launching Netflix and proceeding to squander my time left here on Earth.

I don’t make resolutions anymore. Resolutions mean endings, and life isn’t over until it’s over.

Happy New Year everyone. Let’s all try to kick some proverbial ass.

-Stu