A communicator and an interface to the digital world. The keyboard, arguably our most used device today, is an invaluable, yet often neglected, piece of technology. While handwriting and the pen was the essential skill and tool of yesterday, the modern digital age calls for typing and the keyboard. Just like how the fountain pen is the refined form of the pen, the mechanical keyboard is the elevated version of the everyday typing tool.
In eighth grade, I went on the hunt for a keyboard to accompany my computer. But I was not one to settle for any basic item; I wanted something better, I wanted something unique to me. Scouring the web, I landed on a typing test: a simple video of someone typing on a keyboard. There was nothing particularly notable about the video, yet there was some mystical allure to the crisp, clean keystrokes and the “clicks” and the “clacks” they emitted. As I watched more videos, I realized that no two keyboards were the same — one had bright lime green keys, one was made of red anodized aluminum and one had a curved ergonomic layout.
Diving deeper down the rabbit hole, I slowly uncovered a deep history and passionate community behind these mechanical keyboards. Scouring forums and wikis, I learned of the vintage Apple and International Business Machines (IBM) keyboards made in the 1980s, an era where keyboards were durable and high quality. I found people who obsessed over the finest details — keyboard feel, shape, layout and more — but all for good reason. Seeking the best they could find, many of these people shared the same uncompromising attitude that I had towards quality.
Mechanical keyboards are a revival of this craftsmanship.
I wouldn’t call myself an artist, but keyboards gave me a canvas for me to express myself. Individualization was a new freedom granted to me. With my keyboard (photographed above), I sought to create a clean, modern look, so I chose a black aluminum case and keycaps whose colors were inspired by city lights.So what makes a mechanical keyboard different? As tech companies looked for ways to produce products more cheaply over the past couple decades, keyboards have lost the quality and robustness they once had. Mechanical keyboards are a revival of this craftsmanship. From the overall shape and layout of the board to how much force is required to press a switch, every part of a mechanical keyboard can be customized. As such, they can be faster and more comfortable to type on.
In 2020, the mechanical keyboard hobby exploded. With the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world shifted to working and learning from home. Logically, many sought to upgrade their equipment — including keyboards. Nowadays, mechanical keyboards are widely available and publicized. It’s no longer a niche. No longer just a hobby. The community is still open and growing.
We customize phone cases, we buy nice office chairs and we look for the newest MacBooks. But we never look down at the keys we constantly tap. Perhaps it’s time to consider the keyboard — our fingers deserve it.