Rise of the Mechanical Keyboard

The 11ty logo

Adventures in keyboarding.

I spend most of my work time typing, and I guess mousing. But mostly typing. When I started developing my keyboard of choice was the apple bluetooth as it was less wires and cool looking. The more I typed though the more I started to not like the super low profile keys. Also, I broke a lot of keyboards. They would just fail to connect one day, for no reason. It was maddening.

After slaying many boards trying to find an alternative I happened upon my first mechanical keyboard. This had cherry keycaps, and was super loud. I loved it. This began the descent into madness that is the world of mechanical keyboards.

This year I decided to put together my own setup. This isn’t as easy as it might seem. Firstly there are a lot of variables. Switches, caps, the size of the keyboard. All sorts. What I wanted was a smaller keyboard, no need for a keypad, I wanted it to be hot swappable. This means that the switches can be replaced. I didn’t really have a switch preference, so making that changeable sounded like a good idea.

A friend recommended checking out the NK65 entry level. This looked good to me, it was 65% and hot swappable. The bonus of the NK65 is that it comes ready to use with VIA. This is a software package that allows you to map the keys, and also program the leds of your keyboard. Being able to map your keyboard is especially useful for a non standard keyboard. For example the n65 doesn’t have function keys, so to provide a way to use them you need to take advantage of layers. The functionality of keys can change based on their layer, you just need to have a dedicated key for switching to that layer. Finally caps lock has a use. Stupid caps lock.

Once I bought the base board, I needed to find both switches and keycaps. This is actually a lot harder that you might think. Firstly there are options: linear, tactile and clicky. Then there are keycap profile options. Then there is availability. Buying keyboard parts is not easy because there is an endless shortage.

What I ended up with was more a question of availability vs specific choice. I wanted either tactile or linear switches, and I found tactile ones first and liked the write up. Key caps are kind of a nightmare to find. Here my only deciding factor was I wanted cherry profile. I was able to find some Dolch keycaps. Then came the wait. I think it took a month for the switches, and two for the keycaps. From what I read this is a short time in the world of keyboards.

I am really happy with how it turned out. Typing is really a pleasure. I look forward to being able to try out some different keycaps in the future.

Full Keyboard