Okay, it has been a bit more than two years (Two?! I thought it was only one and a bit but I guess I was wrong…) since I got my hands on TextBlade, and actually, I think I’ve had this particular one for less than that because I managed to break one and had to send it in to WayTools for another.
Anyway, thought I would share some pictures about how this thing fares. I actually kept quiet for a while, not wanting to delay general release any further. I realized though that WayTools is going to ship when they think it’s ready, and us TREG folk don’t really influence that either way. I still feel obligated to say: WayTools, ship the version one. Any fixes still in the pipeline, you can move into the TextBlade Cooler-Name-Than-Just-2. I am getting so tired of having people come up to me and go “Oh my gosh that’s such a cool keyboard!” That part is fine actually, but it’s the next part where they ask “where do I get one?” and I have to tell them the website but also mention that it’s not general release yet–that is getting very, very tiring. The world is aching for something better to type on. Give it to them already
As a sort of disclaimer, I will say that I put this thing through a lot. It has been with me through two National Novel Writing Months, blasting through more than 550,000 words just in those two months (Not counting emails, instant messaging, classwork, and so forth in that time!). I carry TextBlade with me every day, everywhere I go, and given a spare minute I’ll pull it out and start writing. The power to do that is awesome and I love it, and it also makes for a pretty good real-world stress test for TextBlade, or any other bit of technology that comes in contact with me.
So, with that said, let’s start looking at some pictures of my TextBlade; I apologize that some of them came out blurry, I was doing the best I could while fighting a lack of nice studio lighting, and also a phone camera that didn’t always want to cooperate.
These first two show the rubber foot pads; the keyblades have a bit of lint around their edges, a bit of gunk, a bit of the inner workings (green) showing where the rubber has slid out of the way just a little. The spaceblade, though, looks hideous–those two smaller feet slide around and get gunk on the outer surface, which then attracts all manner of grunge and just ends up looking icky.
Moving on, we get to the key tops and wear patterns there, which make it abundantly clear that I’m a Colemak typist–everything on home row is severely faded or outright gone. Hard to really show that in the pics–the green ink just doesn’t show at all, even where it’s still there, and so I played around with lighting and angles to try and get it just right so you can really see. For clarity, I’m going to explain the state of each key, working the left key blade top left to bottom right, then right keyblade same thing. Letters given are based on the QWERTY labels.
Top row: Silver is fine, green slightly faded but all still visible.
Home row: Home, part faded but all visible. A-D, worn blank except for a few tenacious bits of green. F, silver and green is faded but fully visible. G, silver is fine, green is slightly faded.
Bottom row: shift is almost gone. Z silver is faded but visible, green is heavily faded but visible. X-V, silver is fine, green is faded pretty heavily. B, silver is fine, green is faded.
Right blade, Top: Y, silver is fine, green faded but visible. U-P, silver is fine, green is slightly faded. Backspace, faded but fully visible
Right home row: H, silver is fine, green is faded but fully visible. J, silver is faded fully visible, green is gone. K-’ is gone like blank keycaps (I had to look up pics of a standard layout TextBlade to remember what those qwerty labels even ARE, since I think of it in Colemak). Enter is faded, fully visible
Right bottom row: N, silver is fine, green slightly faded. M, Silver is faded, fully visible, green is gone. ,-/ silver fine, green is faded. Right shift is slightly faded.
For the cutouts, media is fine, select is slightly faded, edit is faded. Cut, copy, paste, all faded and a little gunky. All the arrows and undo/redo are faded and gunked.
So that’s all mostly cosmetic damage. I don’t need the inks on my keys at this point unless I’m showing it off to someone else. But the TextBlade has also shown a bit of functional wear, as follows:
Hard to see, but the bottom keyblade in these pics has completely lost its shiny coating on the large magnet.
This charging connector is gross with rust, metal flakes, and other grunge. I tried cleaning it with a toothpick but had limited success.
The charging contacts and other connectors are showing corrosion, gunking, and places where the shiny metal coating has flaked off the magnets. This makes it harder to get the charger connected, because it has to touch both of those remaining silver bits to start charging; I think the chipped blade-to-blade connections are starting to give me weird repeat characters, too intermittent for me to replicate in a log, but sometimes I’ll be blazing along through a story and I’ll get twenty E’s in a row or something like that. I’ve also seen the occasional problem where I’ll put this thing together and get the error saying one of the blades isn’t connected, usually quick fixed by disassembly, cleaning the contacts with a fingertip, and putting the TextBlade back together.
This gives a closer look at the nanocharger and slot; note the green tinged corrosion on the charger, and the small plastic piece that broke off from under the nanocharger slot, along the bottom front edge. That’s the result of an accidental drop test onto hard linoleum flooring at work; the TextBlade landed on its corner. The SpaceBlade partly popped off its hinges, but that was easy to put back in place. The thin plastic piece that took the full impact though, cracked at one end and eventually broke off.
Finally, we get back to those rubber pads on the keyblades:
This shows how, on both keyblades, I can flip the rubber back and expose the inner workings. The adhesive isn’t sticky enough to hold anymore, although it is a lint magnet as you can see from the black smear in the upper picture. (The green band isn’t corrosion here, at least I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to look like that, just, y’know, hidden under the rubber)
That’s not the furthest back the rubber pulls either
This is how the TextBlade came out of my pants pocket one night at work when I pulled it out during my break. My pocket was a little sticky, and it took me about a minute to coax this back into place, pushing, stretching, and sliding it back onto the keyblade.
But why, you ask, don’t I just protect it with a nanostand? Wouldn’t that also protect the contacts from some of the wear and tear, and keep the rubber from sliding as much?
It probably would! But the rubber is so loose that I can’t push the TextBlade stack into the stand without dislodging the rubber into a snarled, sticky mess. Pushing it in and pulling it out of there seems to have contributed to the degradation of the adhesive in the first place. So, I haven’t been using my nanostands lately. Revision for the TextBlade Cooler Than 2: a way to open up the nanostand and clamp it on, rather than having to slide it on and off. Also for the TB 2Cool: Nanostands that fit a wider range of devices; not all of us have some skinny Apple thing, sans case. My current pocket computer is a thick slab of aluminum and glass and case, feels like a nice reassuring brick. Very much doesn’t fit even in an XL nanostand, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a phone that did.
Anyway, that’s my report on the wear and tear I’ve piled on my TextBlade; the glue seems like a quick fix (superglue instead of whatever this always-wet adhesive goo is), I think the magnets and flakiness were already fixed in a later hardware revision than the one I have, and the inks were revised as well if I remember correctly. That means that for all the mess I’ve made of this thing, hard on tech as I am, there aren’t any gating issues. Ship it to the masses, they’re waiting!
Seriously, everywhere I go this thing gets loads of attention, I’ve had my writing interrupted when I’m out and about because so many people want to crowd around and talk about what the magical tiny keyboard under my hands is. Once it ships, it will catch on everywhere like notches at the top of phone screens only people will actually want TextBlade rather than putting up with it for sake of a squit more screen estate. But if it’s always “being perfected”, then someone else will hit on the idea for a perfect input device, run it through KickStarter, and ship a mediocre version 1 and a better version 2 before most of the world ever hears about TextBlade. I don’t want that to happen–I want TextBlade in every pocket, I want every pair of hands to fly across keys like this, I want everyone to be able to blaze through a novel in a month and go “wrist pain? What wrist pain?”
And that is something that I think can only truly be achieved by TextBlade shipping.