In the realm of the writer’s toolbox, one of the MOST important pieces of gear, and yet overlooked by many, is the keyboard. There are about as many types of keyboards as there are people who use keyboards. Gamers, artists, workers and writers all have different needs. It is kinda’ sad that most just grab whatever comes with the box they bought…or think the laptop keyboard is the only thing there is.

There are a zillion sites on the web that go into grand detail about all of the differences, mechanical vs. membrane, switches, key play, key click (or not) and on and on and on.

Here are a couple pictures of standard “dome membranes” that are the norm for regular keyboards:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A problem with the standard keyboards (and some  badly designed mechanical units) is that they can be outpaced, lock up or otherwise not register multiple presses at the same time.. In the gaming world this is referred to as “n-key rollover”, and what it means is that many standard keyboards can’t keep up with the user. In the gaming world more than the writing one, this can be the difference between a tournament win or utter crushing defeat, as the keys need to be able to effectively respond to the user slamming them. Even some of the most expensive standard keyboards don’t have good rollover.

Enter the mechanical keyboards which factor this into the electronics from the get-go as all keys need to register, or why bother?

A mechanical keyboard with switches exposed.

In the writing world, comfort and feedback are also important, but not to the extremes that gamers demand. Ergonomics is the most important factor. This includes audible and physical feedback from the keys (and this doesn’t happen much with membrane keys as they don’t use mechanical switching).

Gif of how a mechanical switch works.

For me a keyboard with good feedback from each press and a good clicking sound (more psychological than needed if I am being honest) gets me in the groove, and with a key switch that is built for typing, the groove is a good thing. I’ve also discovered over the years that a good mechanical board is less tiresome to use once you get used to how the keypresses work best for your habits. (The standard keyboards are ‘all-or-nothing’ and after using a ‘mech-board’ feel like mush to type on.)

Prices for these mechanicals range from really cheap to eye-poppingly expensive, but beyond the marketing and hype, the most important part of the keyboard is the switch. Getting that right means you can have a 30$ cheapo that works far better than a 250$+ name brand if you have the key switches that suit you the best.

Another consideration for me (and why I’m getting a new board) is space. Some writing areas allow for just about any physical size of board, while others are more space constrained. Also lugging around a full size keyboard with a laptop isn’t at all optimal.

My own desk area is excellent with three different surface areas, but the keyboard tray is not good. If I have to move my hands up or down to use a mouse because there is no room on the tray, then things aren’t at all optimal. This is a picture of the Daskeyboard I first purchased a few years back. It is an outstanding (if a bit pricey) unit, but as you can see it is huge:

After using this for quite awhile, the crampage became a bit much, so I went hunting for something bit more compact, and found a Chinese vendor that sold the “E-Blue Cobra”. While still a bit crunched for space, it did allow for a mouse to occupy the same tray:

(Shown here on a portable desk that I used for awhile.)

But after awhile on the main desk, I grew weary of bumping the mouse, or having the mouse bump the keyboard unless things were situated at an angle, so enter the new kid on the block at Casa du Casey: I purchased an Aukey G9. I call it the ’87’. That number refers to the number of keys, and this case it means no 10-key. The smaller form factor, coupled with a good typing switch means less stress on my mild carpel-tunnel afflicted wrists and fingers. This means longer writing sessions and the ability to be more comfortable when it comes time to grab the mouse.

The new board will be here on Saturday, and THIS writer-geek is counting the days. 😀

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