My Mechanical Friend

Around a year ago (?) one of my daughters bought a mechanical keyboard. I’d never given much thought to keyboards but had gone through a few over the years. The first computer I used that wasn’t a dumb terminal hanging off a mainframe was an IBM XT. It came with the very solid keyboard complete with key clicks. You knew when a key had been pressed.

My early home computers (mid 1990s through to early 2000s) were also desktops with, presumably, sturdy keyboards, but I can’t remember what they were like.

As we progress through the years I’ve owned or had use of a raft of notebooks - and these have all had a “hit and miss” sort of experience with key pressing. Apparently these are membrane style keyboards.

But back to mechanical keyboards. I never gave it any thought but the shift from early desktop to notepad also meant a shift from mechanical to membrane keys.

A mechanical keyboard is simply a keyboard that uses mechanical switches to activate a key press rather than a membrane. Mechanical keyboards and switches are more solid, more reliable, and more expensive than their membrane cousins.

Another interesting side to this is that these mechanical switches come on a variety of mechanisms that provide different feedback to the key presser. These are broadly classed into tactile (where the presser feel a slight bump when the key reaches its actuation point); a click which is heard at that actuation point; or linear where the actuation point is reached at a set point in the keys downward travel. There can also be combinations of these (well, tactile and clicky), and the switches can require different pressures to activate them.

So what does have to do with anything? I’ve bought a mechanical keyboard. After some umming and ahing I’ve chosen a Ducky One 2 Ten Key-less, Blue LED keyboard with the Cherry MX Brown switches. That will mean little to most people (unless you own or have researched mechanical keyboards). Ducky One is the brand (and one with an unfortunate name at that). 2 is the model name/number. Ten Key-less means there is no numeric keypad involved. This is for pragmatic reasons that the desk I use is fairly narrow and has limited room for a full size keyboard and trackball! Blue LED means the keyboard is backlit, and the backlight colour is blue (which can be switched off during daylight hours). Cherry MX Brown switches means the keyboard has switches that are fairly light to activate and provide tactile feedback.

It should arrive early next week and means my notebook can be placed on a stand to elevate the screen and take the notebook keyboard out of the practical equation. It provides both ergonomic advantages as well as avoiding a keyboard that seems to miss occasional key presses.

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