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I am a Linux enthusiast, a multi-engine instrument-rated pilot, and a traveller. I am interested in all aspects of computing and technology in general, especially Linux and Free Software. As an avid pilot I can be found somewhere over the skies of the southwestern US most weekends.  As a traveller I have been to many interesting places. Check out my photo gallery. Want to get me something cool? Check out my Amazon.com wish list!

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Mechanical Keyboards

by Tracy R Reed — last modified Jun 26, 2013 08:08 PM
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You owe it to yourself to try one...

When you are a professional or use a particular tool constantly every day you inevitably become somewhat of an afficionado or at least rather particular about the sort of tools and equipment you use. Mechanics have their Snap-On tools, electrical engineers have Weller soldering irons, professional cooks have All-Clads pots and pans and Dexter-Russel knives, electricians have Square D, hospitals have Hill-Rom beds and other equipment, the examples are endless.

When it comes to computer equipment I've become rather discerning too. Especially when it comes to keyboards. For years, those of us who really know how to type and spend all day doing it had to put up with cheapo $19 squishy hurt-your-fingers RSI inducing keyboards. I'm not talking only about computer programmers and sysadmins here. I'm talking typists of all kinds including writers, data entry, secretaries, bloggers, journalists, IRC addicts, instant messaging junkies, etc. Fortunately, the humble computer keyboard has experienced somewhat of a renaissance these past few years.

Once you've used a mechanical keyboard and become accustomed to the feel you find yourself exerting a lot less pressure on your fingers and can intuit exactly how much or little pressure is needed to activate the key. This takes less time and you actually type faster and more comfortably.

There are several different mechanical key switch designs in use, all nice to type on. The IBM model M is the canonical quality keyboard. It uses a buckling-spring key design: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckling_spring IBM quit making them ages ago but Unicomp bought the design. This is the only buckling spring keyboard being made as far as I know. http://www.pckeyboard.com/

The next best IMHO and certainly most widepread are Cherry MX switches. It turns out that Cherry MX switches and keyboards have been around for many years going back to the early 80's! http://www.keyboardco.com/blog/index.php/2012/12/an-introduction-to-cherry-mx-mechanical-switches/ The next best are Topre switches. These can be found in the Happy Hacking Professional Keyboard: http://elitekeyboards.com/products.php?sub=pfu_keyboards,hhkbpro2&pid=pdkb400wns and http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Hacking-Keyboard-Professional2-Black/dp/B000EXZ0VC and http://www.pfusystems.com/embedded-keyboard/hhkb/index.html. Note that the basic Happy Hacking Keyboard (non-professional) is much cheaper but does NOT have the Topre keyswitches. You want the Topre.

These keyboards range from $75-$300. Some might consider $300 a bit much to spend on a keyboard. But I make my living with my keyboard. Anything which can stave off fatigue, RSI, or just make my day a little brighter is worth every penny. And when you type for a living it's a tax deduction!

There are lots of mechanical keyboard resources out there:

More IBM model M info: http://www.clickykeyboards.com/

Inexpensive but nice Rosewill keyboard with Cherry MX keys: http://techreport.com/review/23405/rosewill-rk-9000-series-mechanical-keyboards-reviewed/4

Most Cherry MX based keyboards use one of several different Cherry MX switches to suit your typing preference: http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/12/08/14/1326208/cherry-mx-mechanical-keyboard-switches-compared

Active sub-reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards

Nice breakdown on key/switch technology: http://www.daskeyboard.com/blog/?page_id=1458

Eric S Raymond, of Open Source Software fame, has a "tactile keyboard FAQ" http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/tactile-keyboard-faq.html and he has founded a Google mechanical keyboard community: https://plus.google.com/communities/107279217898209966798

For typing I like the Cherry MX Blue although I have Red in some of my keyboards.

I own:

  • Rosewill Mechanical Keyboard RK-9000RE
  • Happy Hacking Keyboard
  • Model M clone from clickkeyboards.com
  • KB Talking Race

Wishlist:

  • WASD V1 104-Key Semi-Custom Mechanical Keyboard
  • Happy Hacking Professional
  • USA Filco Ninja Majestouch-2, Tenkeyless, NKR, Linear Action, Keyboard FKBN87ML/EFB2
  • Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional2 (Black No Keytop Print/blank)
  • KBC Poker</ul>

http://stores.ebay.com/somefenggeeky Counter Strike keys! And blank keycap tops! I love blank keycap tops. I have a couple sets. They just look cool. Plus they keep people who don't know how to type from screwing with my stuff. The keycaps are easily removed from Cherry MX switches and all of these replacement keycaps are for Cherry MX keys.

http://www.wasdkeyboards.com/index.php/os-mx-keycap-set.html Tux Penguin keys!

If you type a lot you owe it to yourself to try out a mechanical keyboard.

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