Once upon a time, keyboards were something that you took with you from computer to computer, because most of them were built quite nicely. After a few dark decades of membrane keyboards being the norm, the rise of the mechanical keyboard community has shined a light on what is possible with open source designs. Anyone can join in, because quality clackers now exist on every level, whether you want to design the perfect split ortho with OLEDs, rotary encoders, and rear view mirrors, or just want to fork over some money and get to punching switches.
Building your own keyboard doesn’t have to be daunting. It can be as easy or as involved as you want. There’s still a fair amount of soldering simply because it’s a keyboard. But there are plenty of options if you don’t want to do a whole lot beyond soldering switches (or hot swap sockets!) and putting a case together.
The interesting thing about the JNAO is the breakaway row of keys on the bottom. The standard grid is 12×5, but if you don’t need the dedicated number row along the top like [Jared], you’re not stuck with it. And you’re not stuck with the default layout, either. Flashing to a standard Planck layout didn’t go as easily as [Jared] might have liked, but we think he was wise to get the firmware squared away before ever turning on the soldering iron.
They say you should never cheap out on anything that comes between you and the ground, like tires, shoes, and mattresses. We would take that a little further into the 21st century and extend it to anything between you and work. In our case, ‘buy nice or buy twice’ includes keyboards and mice.
That’s not all [Marcus] did to make the dactyl his own — it also has a modified full-fat base that gives him all the room in the world to wire up the keyswitch matrix compared to the original streamlined design.
Instead of the usual Teensy, Pro Micro, or Proton-C, the pterodactyl has a Feather 32u4 in its belly. [Marcus] is clacking on Holy Panda switches which we’ve been meaning to try, and individual PCBs for each switch, which seems like it might negate gluing the switches in place so they survive through keycap changes. Check out [Marcus]’ write-up to see what he learned during this build.
This isn’t the first modified dactyl we’ve seen flying around here, and it won’t be the last. Here’s one with a dual personality — both halves can work together or alone.
I’ve been using my Kinesis Advantage keyboard for two months, and I love it. I’ll never go back to a regular keyboard again if I can help it.
There are a few downsides to it, however. The biggest one is that split distance between the two sides is fixed. It doesn’t have Cherry MX blues (although the browns plus the firmware beeps is pretty nice). It doesn’t have layers, really — just a ten-key under the right hand. And honestly, it’s not very portable.
I took the Kinesis out to a coffee shop a few times before they all dried up into drive-thrus, and plunking it down on a four-top out in public made me realize just how large and loud it really is.
And so I’m building an ErgoDox keyboard. What I really want to build is a Dactyl — a curved variation on the ErgoDox — but I can’t just go whole-hog into that without building some type of keyboard first. That’s just my practical nature, I guess. I realize that the comparison is weak, because I’ll have to hand-wire the keyboard matrix when I make the dactyl. Assembling an ErgoDox is child’s play, comparatively. Our goal today is to lay out just what I’m getting myself into with a build like this one.
Ever since my RSI surgery, I’ve had to resort to using what I call my compromise keyboard — a wireless rubber dome affair with a gentle curvature to the keys. It’s far from perfect, but it has allowed me to continue to type when I thought I wouldn’t be able to anymore.
This keyboard has served me well, but it’s been nearly three years since the surgery, and I wanted to go back to a nice, clicky keyboard. So a few weeks ago, I dusted off my 1991 IBM Model M. Heck, I did more than that — I ordered a semi-weird hex socket (7/32″) so I could open it up and clean it properly.
And then I used it for half a day or so. It was glorious to hear the buckling springs singing again, but I couldn’t ignore the strain I felt in my pinkies and ring fingers after just a few hours. I knew I had to stop and retire it for good if I wanted to keep being able to type.