Like some on this board, I’ve been into computers for many, many years. I started programming whe the Atari 400 was a thing, with its membrane keyboard. As such, I never really paid that much attention to keyboard ‘feel’, as I had to work with really bad at times due to necessity. I will say though that keyboard layout is something that I have taken issue with.
As a transplant from the U.S. to Japan, swapping to Japanese keyboards can be quite frustrating, with their extra keys, variable sized space bar (to fit extra keys), different shift layouts/etc. I’ve been quite frustrated with bad layouts, but often just remapped the layout to the standard US layout, ignoring other keys.
Some years ago I came across the textblade. This was when I was enamored with the idea of the Optimus Maximus and the beeraider keyboards, for their gimmicks, strange layouts, and promises of better efficiency. Fortunately, I never bought in to their claims or promises. Instead, I simply stuck with the normal keyboards that came with my office PCs (I was in the practice of building all of my home PCs, other than my Macs, and went with bargain-basement keyboards for those).
I’d end up using something like this:
Or on my Mac, I’d use:
In addition to programming, I (gasp) game a bit. Over time I became convinced that I was in need of a better keyboard for gaming, thinking that was the extent of why I’d need a better keyboard.
I picked up a Razer Orbweaver (no pic as I gave it away last night), but quickly realized it did not really enhance my gaming sessions in any way, so I left it on the shelf for years.
Moving on, I picked up a mechanical gaming keyboard… all the buzz words:
For a time it was good… but it lacked something… Though it had profiles and things, it wasn’t exactly what I was after… I realized that after over 40 years of computer use, I really wanted more from my keyboard.
I re-visited the alternative keyboard styles I looked at a couple of years ago and realized that the thing I was after was the flexibility that the textblade offered, so I ordered after realizing that the wait might be a bit before it would come. The problem was that I now had the bug. The itch. The desire for that flexibility.
I poured over websites, forums and the like to try to find what I could fill the void with. It looked like programmable mechanical keyboards were the answer. The only problem was that I have have keyboards, and didn’t want to get another, expensive one, just to add programmability. Enter this device:
I built a couple myself, but also picked up a pre-made one. It was QMK on a stick. This converts almost any keyboard into a programmable one. Stuck it on my mechanical keyboard and it worked… somewhat. Wait, what’s that? NKRO? Something my nice mechanical keyboard doesn’t have. The ability to press any/all keys and have them all register (useful for stenography and plover). So out comes:
That is a super cheap NKRO compatible keyboard I happened to have lying around. It works for stenography… but that keyboard feel! Yes, I did start with membrane keyboards and never really had a problem, but after a stint with a mechanical keyboard… that mushy feeling was absolutely terrible. So what to do? The only thing one can do…
Going back to the layout of the TextBlade, I really wanted to reduce finger travel time, add in nice keyboard feel, and maintain the programmability. So I searched for what was available, and found this:
Compact, really nice feeling, programmable. ALMOST everything I could look for in a filler keyboard until the TextBlade. But there was that one more thing.
Notice how the TextBlade’s keys are angled. When getting used to the ortholinear layout, I really felt that the lack of angle was something I wanted to address… So back to the search. I looked around, trying to find something that would hit many of the ideals of what I wanted. I found this beauty:
Not in production right now, and in a bit of demand, so I had to buy it second-hand. It arrived with the switch on one of the keys broken, so I had to order and replace that switch.
Was this the be-all and end all of filler keyboards till the TextBlade. In a word: No.
Though you do get the ability to angle to how you’d like, the fixed key spacing on the staggered rows is not quite right for my finger lengths (TextBlade allows for adjustment in the setup software). Also, there are reach issues with the key distances. As such my daily driver is the little Planck I picked up before that one. With it, I’ve gotten faster at typing than I ever was on a conventional keyboard, and have no issues making use of layers instead of dedicated keys.
So, my hunt has taken me places. Many places. In fact to these places:
There is one place I am still waiting for it to take me:
Oh, sorry… that place hasn’t arrived yet.