Sometimes you get the feeling that something you’re researching is going to turn into a rabbit hole of deep ‘internet research’ and could potentially become the kind of thing that ends up as an all-encompassing hobby. In the past few years I’ve had that experience when I began to dive into the world of fountain pens. Over the Christmas break I started to run into this again with the world of mechanical keyboards.
I’ve been an avid user of the MS 4000 Ergonomic keyboard for well over a decade. I’ve used it pretty much since it was first released, and have now seen it progress to the world of ebay resale with prices for used keyboards well over $100. Mine was starting to give up a bit — some keys starting to get a little stuck, keycaps smoothed off and the letters rubbed off, and most distressing was the state of the built-in palm rest which was starting to tear and deteriorate.
Calling this a process is really kind of generous. I did the default thing that many people do which is start searching the Internet. From my time getting overly invested in fountain pens I was aware of the MechanicalHeadPens subreddit and shortly afterwards the MechanicalKeyboards and those both helped point me in the direction of a number of different sources aside from the helpful redditors themselves.
Next up was the YouTube channel Switch and Click which is dedicated pretty much exclusively to keyboards. I was able to find a number of videos that provided lots of in-depth reviews and prep for what I thought I wanted: a custom mechanical keyboard. I had done my research and discovered the nuances of switches, boards, keycaps, lubing, ‘stabs’ and so many more things. There are a couple of decent terminology guides I found that were written for us mere mortals to understand.
As I was trying to finalize a parts list for all the pieces I was going to buy and looking at my calendar to see when I could find myself a full Saturday afternoon to do the build I came across one other video from Switch and Click that changed the course of my thinking. Betty did a review of the Logitech MX Mechanical Mini and the very first few seconds caught my attention. She hypothesized that Logitech’s entry into the mechanical keyboard space was an attempt to capture a different segment of the market. “What if the new era of keyboards is for the everyday office worker and not gamers?”
I stopped what I was doing and gave the rest of that video my full attention.
Those of you who know me are well aware that my experience in games in the last 10 years has consisted of playing a few rounds of Portal and discovering Minecraft in 2019. I’m definitely not a gamer — certainly not in the traditional sense of the word. But I do appreciate good tech, and I like to have good tools to work on when I’m sitting in front of a computer for 8-12 hours a day 6-7 days a week. That’s a lot of hours.
I’ve linked the video above if you want to watch the whole thing, but suffice to say I was intrigued. I was able to check out the keyboard at a local shop and actually get my hands on it. The basics were there of course, good keys that felt nice to type on and it sounded good. (Side note — I didn’t realize the sound of mechanical keyboards was such a huge feature and goal for many builders. I always thought of it as a side effect, but in many cases how the board sounds seemed more important than how it performed as a keyboard.) I think what held my attention the most other than the feel of the typing experience was the overall durability of the board and just how solid it felt. There’s no flex in the board at all and it feels durable and well-built. Something I can appreciate after having two pairs of Sony Bluetooth headphones break in the headband.
At that point I knew I didn’t want this to become another hobby. I neither need, nor particularly want to get into another deep dark rabbit hole of special custom products that only a niche audience even cares about. I’ve got a couple of those already. While wonderful, I’d rather spend more time in those than divert my attention further.
So I picked up the keyboard — I decided to go with the mini version to help free up some desk space (and I rarely use the number pad on my home machine.) The biggest challenge has been getting used to typing on a straight keyboard again. Having used curved ‘ergonomic’ boards since about 2003 there are going to be some habits to break. The number of typos has drastically increased, and the backspace key is far and away the most used key on my new keyboard. But that will change over time as I get used to it.
The next task is to put this board to use and start getting more writing done.