Hello, Colby here! I’m a computer keyboard collector and enthusiast. I mostly collect mechanical keyboards, but I have a few non-mechanical ones as well. A friend of mine introduced me to mechanical keyboards in college, sometime around 2012 I believe. I typed a little bit on his Razer BlackWidow with Cherry MX Blue switches and I was hooked. I immediately bought a BlackWidow of my own. Over the next few years, I bought a couple more keyboards mostly to try out different switches. In this post, I’m going to discuss three of my six favorite keyboard picks and why. Who knows…maybe after reading this post you’ll start collecting keyboards too.
In early 2017 I had been working here at PDQ.com for a few months when I realized most of my keyboards were just sitting around collecting dust. I decided to bring them in and set them up on a table so my coworkers could try them out. Then I decided to buy a couple more to round out my switch selection. Then I bought a few more. And a couple more.
I guess I never really stopped. Around November 2017 I started collecting vintage keyboards. I love vintage keyboards because many of them have really fascinating switches, keycaps, layouts, and cases. In fact, I wrote most of this blog on my IBM 6580 Display Writer keyboard that was built in 1982. I’ll cover it in more detail in Part 2, My Favorite Vintage Keyboards.
Once I started getting into collecting I joined a few different communities. The Mechanical Keyboards subreddit and Deskthority are great places. I also highly recommend checking out Deskthority’s wiki, it is chock full of excellent information. UTMK is a local group that occasionally hosts meetups and is just an amazing group of people. I’m really happy that I get to hang out with them.
This is currently my daily driver at work. I bought this keyboard because of its nice heavy aluminum case. That’s actually what the M in MF108 stands for, metal. It came with Cherry MX Red switches, but I desoldered those and soldered in Kailh BOX Navy switches. The Navies are probably my current favorite MX compatible switch because of their click bar. This mechanism produces their clicky noise and gives them their tactility. They’re kind of heavy, but it’s worth it. They are extremely satisfying to type on and I love the noise they make, even if it’s a little loud. Thankfully I am far enough away from everyone else that it doesn’t bother them.
It comes with some nice PBT double-shot keycaps, but they’re kind of bland so I replaced them with a Ducky Horizon PBT set. They aren’t shine-through, but they fit in nicely with the black case. Also, I don’t care much about RGB lighting anymore. By the way, this is also Brigg’s favorite keyboard. He tried it for a few seconds one day and loved it so much he immediately asked me to build him one just like it with the BOX Navy switches.
The Happy Hacking Keyboard by PFU is a popular Topre keyboard with a unique layout. The most prominent feature of this layout is the lack of keys in the bottom corners. CTRL has been moved to where CAPSLOCK usually resides, BACKSPACE trades places with BACKSLASH, and the right SHIFT has been split to add an FN key to access the keys on the FUNCTION layer. Topre switches are an interesting version of rubber domes. There is a conical spring sitting under the dome that makes contact with an electro-capacitive pad on the circuit board when the switch is pressed. This gives Topre switches the unusual ability to change their actuation point, if the keyboard’s controller supports it (I don’t think the HHKB does).
The thing that makes my particular HHKB special is I replaced the stock rubber domes with BKE Redux Heavy domes. These are quite a bit more tactile than the stock domes and really take this board to the next level. Noise increases quite a bit because of how snappy the domes are, but I don’t mind. I love these domes, but they live up to their name of Heavy. I think if I was going to use this board longterm I would go with the Light domes. Those aren’t quite as tactile as the Heavies, but should be less fatiguing.
The Model 01 is probably one of the most unique keyboards in my collection. It is a split ergonomic keyboard with unique stands that allow for fine control over the tenting angle. Those stands use a standard tripod mount, so you can attach it many different things if you’re feeling adventurous. I preordered this keyboard back in October of 2016. The project ran into many severe delays, but they were great at communicating. About every month or two they would write an extremely detailed report of exactly what happened. I’m fine with the delays because they delivered an amazing product.
One of the best features of this keyboard is that it’s completely programmable. It’s not too difficult to build your own layout file and flash it with the Arduino IDE. The firmware is open source so you can get really crazy with it if you want to. The Matias Click switches aren’t my favorite, but they’re OK. They’re based on Alps’ simplified designs. I believe the complicated designs were much better, such as SKCM Blue. In fact, if I can get my hands on some decently clean SKCM Blues I’ll probably swap them in there. I’ll probably lose the backlighting, but oh well.
Thank you for checking out this brief foray into my keyboard collection. If you have any comments or corrections please leave them below. Although my collection started out as just an interest back in college… 100+ keyboards later it’s turned into a cool fascination I get to share with friends and coworkers. Make sure to check back if you want to learn more and to find out what my other top three favorite keyboards are. Thanks for reading guys, we’ll catch ya later.