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Posts Tagged ‘cherry mx blue

On Keyboards, the Writer’s Brush

Yes indeed, writers paint with words, and the keyboard is the brush upon a word-processor canvas.

The most writing I’ve ever accomplished (consistently) was on a domed membrane-switch keyboard manufactured by HP, when I was a student at Central Florida (2002-2006).  By keyboard-aficionado standards, that device wasn’t even all that great, but it was far better than anything I’ve had since.  So, what happened in those intervening years?

In 2006, I switched to a MacBook, which was the first notebook Apple produced that employed chiclet keys (over membrane switches).  Over time, I graduated from that original MacBook to a MacBook Pro, which sported a nearly identical keyboard, except that it was backlit.  And sometime after that, I traded computers with my brother, and I’ve been using this iMac ever since.  But once again, that keyboard was fashioned to be identical to Apple’s notebooks.  And from a build-quality standpoint, all of these keyboards were very nice.  In fact, I appreciated the aluminum construction of the Apple Wireless Keyboard I was using until recently.

But chiclet keys have very little travel to them, unlike larger keycap varieties.  That is to say, they don’t take much to depress, which sounds like it would be an advantage, but it’s not.  It encourages poor typing mechanics, has very little tactile response, and the result is poor accuracy, and thus poor speed. And while I felt plenty fast enough on that Apple Wireless Keyboard (or any of its predecessors), I found myself making mistakes all the time.  Since 2006! — some nine years.  Crazy as this might sound, this frustration led to a decreased desire to write (among other factors, admittedly).  Sadly, I didn’t put this together until I discovered a product called Das Keyboard.

The gold standard of key switches, at least to aficionados, is mechanical — like a throwback to another era.  Most keyboards these days are membrane-based, just like that HP keyboard and all the Apple-designed keyboards I’ve used.  (At least that HP one had good travel.)  But mechanical-switch keyboards ruled the day before the 2000s.

Thanks to the beauty of eBay, I picked up a Mac-layout Das Keyboard for less than half the cost of a new one.  Now, I know what you must be thinking: a second-hand keyboard?  That sounds disgusting.  And sure enough, you’re right.  Keyboards are filthy, filthy things.  So you can imagine that one of the first things I did after receiving my new friend here was use a keycap remover on it and wash every single key in warm, soapy water.  I then painstakingly cleaned all the channels around the switches with Qtips until it looked almost new.

I’m so happy I did this.  Not only does this keyboard look (and sound) great, it feels great.  I recommend any serious typist give a serous look at a mechanical keyboard.  This particular model of the Das Keyboard uses something called Cherry MX Blue switches, which are quite loud.  (But as I keep saying parenthetically, they sound great.)  But Das also produces a variant of this keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches, which feel similar but have a muted noise to them; these are still noisy, to be sure, but at a lower pitch than the Blues.  If you co-habitate with another person, you might want to consider that alternative.

So just as a paintbrush is to an artist, an instrument to a musician, or a knife to a chef, a keyboard is a very specific and personal thing to a writer.  Yes, all these artists can use a different implement to accomplish similar things, but it’s very much like being in the wrong skin.  I literally do not think I could ever comfortably use a lesser-quality keyboard again and be happy.

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Written by Michael

30 June 2015 at 12:44 am