Keyboard is the Medium of the Developer 2 - a Switch Statement!
Mar 29, 2018, 2:33 PM
Keyboards sporting mechanical switches are common tools among our digital engineers. Besides the precise tactile input, they offer a satisfying soundscape with a chance to show individual preference or even act as a fashion statement. Here’s a look at three different options spotted at our office.
The first keyboard is a das Keyboard Ultimate 4. It comes with the Cherry MX Blue aka “clicky” mechanical switches common in many keyboards and seen in multiple variants. The finish is completely blank matte of the learned typist but one that has become glossy from repeated pounding! This keyboard is a very close cousin to the Filco Majestouch 2 as seen in the previous article of this series that also sported Cherry MX switches and a similar layout.
Das Keyboard Ultimate 4
The switches of the keyboard have a pretty high-pitched click and a sharp tactile response that builds up right until the actuation happens. Also hitting the keys forcefully makes for a loud thudding noise, which happens with the brown variant as well. This keyboard also includes a two-port USB 3.0 hub, as well as separate suspicious-looking but useful media keys and a volume wheel. A special feature is also the integrated ruler that doubles as a footbar to raise the keyboard to an appropriate angle.
Topre Realforce 88UB Tenkeyless 45g
While the various Cherry MX switches and their clones are the most popular choice in mechanical keyboards, this specimen is a Topre Realforce 88UB Tenkeyless 45g and comes in a muted gray look. This keyboard is in the popular tenkeyless configuration that offers a shorter distance to a mouse on the right side, if a numpad is not required.
Topre makes their own electrostatic capacitive switches. These keys have a soft silent feel and are rather quiet also when they hit the bottom unlike the das Keyboard. When a key is pressed and it registers, the bump feels round. Silence is the killer feature for the dreaded open plan office.
Unicomp Custom Model M Pearl / Pearl Blank Classic 105 USB
Last but not least we have the Unicomp Custom Model M Pearl / Pearl Blank Classic 105 USB, a modernized continuation of perhaps the definite keyboard of all time - the IBM Model M. In its classic case with the original buckling-spring switches, it offers a recognizable soundscape of an era of keyboards built for professionals. The classic layout and coloring comes from that time and evokes a kind of special nostalgia in our engineers whose first personal computers had such keyboards.
There is a definite and sharp click when pressing the keys that somewhat depends on the shape of the key. The feel of the buckling-spring switches is bouncy, like a spring mattress, but with a sharp edge at the bottom where the actuation happens. The sound of typing echoes from the massive case. A very satisfying sound, if you like it.
The blank keycaps as well as the completely blank case are a fashion choice, but the USB connectivity and the extra keys come in handy for the modern day user, especially if he or she is Emacs inclined.
Tell me what is your favourite keyboard? Coming up in the next part: the weird and wonderful ergonomic options.
Markku Rontu is a is a full-stack digital engineer capable of shipping solutions all the way from initial concept creation to continuous deployment. In his free time he dances salsa or swings a longsword, while trying to bring about a sustainable digital future.