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Open Source Hardware

A Warm-Feeling Wooden Keyboard (Video) 82

Posted by Roblimo
from the keyboard-as-cool-as-a-woodie-station-wagon dept.
Plastic, plastic everywhere! Except on most surfaces of the Keyboardio ergonomic keyboard, which started as a 'scratch his itch' project by Jesse Vincent. According to his blurb on the Keyboardio site, Jesse 'has spent the last 20 years writing software like Request Tracker, K-9 Mail, and Perl. He types... a lot. He tried all the keyboards before finally making his own.'

His objective was to make a keyboard he really liked. And he apparently has. This video was shot in June, and Jesse already has a new model prototype under way that Tim Lord says is a notable improvement on the June version he already liked. || Note that the Keyboardio is hackable and open source, so if you think you can improve it, go right ahead. (Alternate Video Link)

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A Warm-Feeling Wooden Keyboard (Video)

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  • is it made from quality rainforest hardwoods?, because the governments of those places just slash and burn those trees anyway

    • Monty Python [youtube.com] gave the answer ages ago.

    • Re:good wood? (Score:5, Informative)

      by jesse (306) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:11PM (#47526093) Homepage

      God no. Someone actually offered to sell us some endangered hardwood for the keyboards the other day. The plan is for something reasonably, pretty, reasonably hard, reasonably sustainable and reasonably inexpensive. N

      • by mikecase (1991782)
        Mod this guy up -^ He's the keyboard maker (and has an impressively low Slashdot user#)
        • Mod this guy up -^ He's the keyboard maker (and has an impressively low Slashdot user#)

          Three digit ID or not, it's still yet another silly keyboard for niche users. And it's certainly a "Slashvert", cute, pretty, but revolutionary?

          • by jesse (306)

            I probably wouldn't call it 'silly', though I have no problem with you doing so. I agree 100% that this is a niche product. I made one because I wanted one. We wouldn't be having a go of making a full production run if people didn't keep trying to buy our personal test units.

            If you catch me calling it revolutionary, please make fun of me.

            • by Fnord666 (889225)

              I probably wouldn't call it 'silly', though I have no problem with you doing so. I agree 100% that this is a niche product. I made one because I wanted one. We wouldn't be having a go of making a full production run if people didn't keep trying to buy our personal test units.

              A couple of questions if you don't mind please. First, when will they become available for purchase? Second, will they be available at all in a kit form?
              Thanks.

              • by jesse (306)

                We're planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign this fall. But we'd rather delay the campaign than launch something that we're not confident we can deliver and be proud of.

                Initially, we intend to ship fully assembled & working keyboards. We believe pretty strongly that open hardware shouldn't require users to pick up a soldering iron. But we know that some folks _want_ a kit and we hope to get there eventually. If you're looking for something sort of like a Keyboardio keyboard in kit form, check out th

      • You could do a lot worse than using Australian Jarrah wood. It's lovely looking, hard, and can be brought to a smooth finish. My speaker cabinets use this wood for their veneer.

        https://www.google.com.au/sear... [google.com.au]

      • Re:good wood? (Score:4, Informative)

        by B5_geek (638928) on Friday July 25, 2014 @09:18AM (#47530403)

        Bamboo.

        Hard - check
        Pretty - check (beauty..eye..beholder..blah)
        sustainable - check
        inexpensive - check

        • by jesse (306)

          Bamboo is certainly on the list of wood-like things we're considering.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    One prototype, shown in the video, was made of wood. But from the website it is clear that the keyboard will be made primarily of aluminum. Once again, slashdot editors FTW!

    • Re:Not wooden (Score:5, Informative)

      by jesse (306) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @06:17PM (#47526135) Homepage

      Hi, jesse of keyboardio here.

      As of this week, the editors actually have it more correct than our website. We'd been prototyping in wood. In between when the video was shot last month and when this got posted, we finally got our first "finalish" aluminum prototype made. The aluminum prototype was what we talked about publicly on Highway1 (highway1.io) demo day and what we hoped to launch publicly. Once we had it in hand, we discovered a bunch of reasons we're not going to go with aluminum for production. (Mostly, cost, Weight, looking too much like an Apple product, weight, and weight.) We went back to the drawing board and believe we've got techniques, technologies and costs for commercial manufacture of a milled wood enclosure. We've been at OSCON this week, but should get the website updated soonish.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        I don't get the bit about weight. Aluminum has a very high strength-to-weight ratio; you're not going to get a product with the same weight and durability with wood (e.g. you could use balsa, which is extremely lightweight, but it also have low strength and absolutely terrible hardness).

        In high quantities, aluminum should be pretty economical; you can just use a big press to stamp it. The big cost here is the tooling, but after that the per-unit cost is cheap. Milling is far, far more expensive than pres

        • by jesse (306)

          The durability we're looking for is somewhere between aluminum and balsa.

          For the contours we're going for, the mechanical engineers and product folks we've been working with have assured us that we couldn't get away with stamping. It's pretty much die casting or milling. The numbers we've been getting for die-cast tooling just don't work out for the scale of production run we're expecting. I'd love to be wrong about all this.

          The interior "key plate" and the bottom plate of the enclosure will, of course, be

        • >

          To keep it from looking like an Apple product, there's something really cool you can do with aluminum called anodizing.

          Also, hydrographics [wikipedia.org]

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @05:10PM (#47525615) Homepage Journal

    From TFA:

    Heirloom-grade craftsmanship

    From the best mechanical keyswitches to aircraft-grade aluminum construction, this is a keyboard that will last.

    If that's "wooden," I must ask: What kind of tree do you get aircraft-grade aluminum and/or mechanical keyswitches from?

    • His is wooden. The ones for sale are all-u-min-nium.

      I just wonder if they come with a cord. I'm not a big 'wireless keyboard' fan.

      • But Keyboardio, the product that is being Slashvertised, is not, save (maybe) those two little panels on the corner. Although were I a betting man, my money would be on veneer rather than actual wood panels.

        I just wonder if they come with a cord.

        TFA doesn't mention one (just Bluetooth), but in one of the pictures you can clearly see part of a cord poking out from between the two sections...

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jesse (306)

          When the production keyboards ship, they'll ship with a cord. (The same MicroUSB port charges the battery for the bluetooth controller, programs the keyboard and lets the keyboard be a regular USB keyboard)

          They'll also ship with firmware source code and a screwdriver ;)

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            Is this the wisest choice? In my opinion, MicroUSB is actually a pretty crappy connector, and doesn't have very good retention. MiniUSB and regular USB-B ports are far better and sturdier choices for a corded item on my desk which gets bumped around a lot. The only really good thing about MicroUSB is the thinness, but that's only important on mobile phones, not large items like keyboards.

          • by Fnord666 (889225)

            When the production keyboards ship, they'll ship with a cord. (The same MicroUSB port charges the battery for the bluetooth controller, programs the keyboard and lets the keyboard be a regular USB keyboard)

            Take a look at the first generation Kindle Fire Tablets for an example of how badly a microUSB port can be for something. Now if the microUSB port on the keyboard were user swappable that would be very handy. Then again, there is a nice cottage industry out there replacing Kindle Fire microUSB ports.

            • by jesse (306)

              There are definitely many awful MicroUSB ports out there, but there are also high-quality MicroUSB ports out there. The price difference between a cheap MicroUSB port and a high-end one is several orders of magnitude. As _specced_ they're supposed to be rated for more insertion cycles than MiniUSB.

              We haven't made final component choices yet and this is something we're keenly aware of (and have debated internally). I'd be pissed if my keyboard's USB port failed. I'd be even more pissed if my customers' USB p

              • by Fnord666 (889225)

                There are definitely many awful MicroUSB ports out there, but there are also high-quality MicroUSB ports out there. The price difference between a cheap MicroUSB port and a high-end one is several orders of magnitude. As _specced_ they're supposed to be rated for more insertion cycles than MiniUSB.

                I guess the trick is finding a reliable source for high quality ports at a not unreasonable price. I am looking forward to seeing your crowdfunding campaign. How was the trip to Shenzen? I would think it would have been eye opening.

                • by jesse (306)

                  Shenzhen was amazing. I need to spend more time there. But we need to get a little bit further with product design before I have a legitimate reason to go back.

          • Hi Jesse. I don't see mention of which switches are in the buttonplank. I'm rather partial to the Cherry Blues, will there be an option for them? I see mention of "switches quiet enough to use in a meeting" but an option for "switches which give terrific feedback" would be most welcome!

            If you have no need for the uTron (can't type a mu in ASCII) in the pile then I would love to adopt it! Considering the price I think that the folks at Geekhack [1] would be most interested in comparing your keyboard to the u

            • by jesse (306)

              Hi @dotdancohen, We're using Matias Quiet Click switches. We're definitely aware that different folks have different preferences and assuming we can make the numbers and logistics go, we hope to offer several other Matias Alps options including their louder variant.

              The ÂTron isn't for sale. (Nor is the Fingerworks or any of the other weirder stuff.)

              I'd love to hear/read more about the leather keycaps.

              And yep, I've actually been documenting my prototypes on GH :)

              • Thanks, Jesse. I posted a review of the Leather Ducky on GH, but the images are gone due to their famous crash some time back:
                http://geekhack.org/index.php?... [geekhack.org]

                I'll fix those images sometime.

                If you ever do want to sell or otherwise be rid of some of the hardware in those pictures, please do get in contact with me! My Gmail username is the same as my Slashdot username. Thanks!

          • They'll also ship with firmware source code and a screwdriver ;)

            Lol, I saw that, clever hook! Just don't send one of those tiny, el-cheapo drivers that's more likely to strip a screw than unscrew it.

    • by Nethead (1563) <joe@nethead.com> on Thursday July 24, 2014 @05:42PM (#47525901) Homepage Journal

      Aluminum Christmas trees. We grow them here in the Pacific Northwest. Why do you think we make so many airplanes?

    • by jesse (306)

      See http://hardware.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=5449405&cid=47526135, but, uh. I never even vaguely meant to imply we'd be crazy enough to build keyswitches out of wood.

  • Remember old black and white detective movies where a IBM model M was used as a murder weapon?

    neither do I.
    Must've been somebody else.
    • by PPH (736903)

      The best keyboard is sturdy enough to kill a man with. And then use to write his obituary afterwards.

  • Good god, he needs to learn a bit about concise speaking. That being said, I'll probably still buy one when it comes out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jesse (306)

      I do a bit better when I've had a decent night's sleep and haven't spent the day on a trade-show floor. This was "Timothy finds Jesse standing around and asks him stuff" and not "interview with an agenda."

      That being said, I totally need to learn a bit about concise speaking. Also, thanks :)

  • by zephvark (1812804) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @05:25PM (#47525747)

    I like the ergonomic style, pioneered by Apple (AFAIK), who abandoned it, then taken up by Microsoft, which has made ever cheaper and more bloated versions of an originally nice product.

    The bottom arced keys on this thing are a complete horror-show, though. And all of the keys are the same size?

    I've seen a lot of alternative keyboard designs come and go. I'm not sure this one will come before it goes. /cue Blazing Saddles sketch

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      I tried ergonomic keyboards but found that because I never learned to type formally, using the right fingers for each key, I was constantly reaching over to the other side because that's just how I normally type.

      It's the sort of thing where you really want to get a cheap one and try it before spending serious money on something like this. In the end I found that just getting a laptop style keyboard (and MS one as it happens, but Lenovo ones are good too) made far more difference. Clicky keys are really nice

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The point is, the better and more regular tactile and auditive feedback are supposed to help you not press the keys all the way, once you get used to them. You have to use switches which do not require too much force to activate though (e.g., MX Blue, not MX Black), otherwise not only will you have pressure/knocking problems when pushing the keys, but it will also be more difficult to stop before reaching the bottom, and either will you knock your fingers a second time, or contract your muscles more to refr

    • by guises (2423402) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @07:29PM (#47526637)

      pioneered by Apple (AFAIK)

      I says to myself, "That doesn't sound right, Apple doesn't really pioneer anything..." After a little searching: looks like Maltron made the first one in 1978. [maltron.com] However, apparently a guy named K.H. Eberhard Kroemer published a paper describing a split keyboard in the journal Human Factors in 1972.

      So there you are. History!

      • by Lemming Mark (849014) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @08:03PM (#47526889) Homepage

        Maltron keyboards are kind of crazy - they're still made using very low volume manufacturing techniques. The keyboard shells, AFAIK are vacuum formed and (unless things have changed recently) I think they do manual point-to-point wiring on the switches. But if you look at the sculpted shape of a Maltron, they don't lend themselves to conventional PCBs.

        I'm typing on one now - I think it's quite an old one but it looks as though the design changes are mostly smallish refinements and updates to the controller / electronics. I got mine from an office clearer on eBay, otherwise they've very expensive and I probably wouldn't have got it.

        I've also got a Kinesis, an ergo board which came later (and with a strikingly similar design). It feels a bit more like a slick, mass-manufactured product but I've known people insist that the Maltron is ergonomically better overall. I'm not so fussy, I'm just glad I got two cool keyboards for prices I felt I could afford!

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          >I think they do manual point-to-point wiring on the switches. But if you look at the sculpted shape of a Maltron, they don't lend themselves to conventional PCBs.

          This sounds like an application for flexible circuits boards. Point-to-point wiring is far too labor- and time-consuming.

        • by jesse (306)

          That's correct. If you pop open a Maltron, there's a gorgeous web of fine copper wire. :)

          https://www.flickr.com/photos/eichin/8413586842 [flickr.com] is a photo my friend Mark took of my Maltron and Kinesis with the bottoms off.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As someone who still uses a IBM Model M 1391401 everyday. The nicest keyboard I have used recently, other than my old faithful, was a Bloomberg Starboard. Anyone know if they use someone else's keys or are the Bloomberg custom hardware? I would love one.

    • by jesse (306)

      ...as it happens, I got to play around with a current model Bloomberg keyboard the other day. It's a scissor-switch keyboard assembled in Mexico.

  • by glitch! (57276) on Thursday July 24, 2014 @05:47PM (#47525925)

    It's nice that they are providing the source code for the keyboard. If I program the controller myself, I could be pretty sure that there is no keylogger there... Unless I put one in.

    • by jesse (306)

      Yup. You'll also want to make sure to check the firmware for the bootloader on the microcontroller. But you'll be able to get to the ICSP header to do that.

  • Plastic, plastic everywhere! Except on most surfaces of the Keyboardio ergonomic keyboard

    The key caps are still plastic, so depending how you count the surfaces that's 94-99% plastic. Maybe if you calculate it by area but exclude the sides of the keys and ignore that you'll almost never need to touch the aluminum portions, it might drop below 50%.

  • As I have used the original XT keyboards (and some good ones from before the IBM PC existed), modern ones look "low quality" to me. I'm typing now on an excellent one, but in reality it doesn't even come close to what once existed. When typing was an important occupation, machines like the IBM Selectric had a very nice feeling.

    These days, I'd like just to have a key click as an audio feedback. This could be done at the X Window System keyboard driver level, I think. One could adapt the already existing stru

  • I'm against it. Sign the petition "No more Vashta Nerada at home."
  • 1. "All the Keyboards" didn't apparently include a Kinesis. At least there isn't one visible amongst the few photos linked.

    2. The new keyboard looks an awful lot like a Kinesis.

    3. I stopped watching the video after the first 10 seconds because it was too awful.

    4. The web site shows a keyboard with what appears to be a metal case, and the text references aluminum, as does the blog. Wood isn't part of the equation here. Maybe in the early prototypes, but not in the production models, apparently.

    5. Any dece

  • by Anonymous Coward

    For anyone who wants a keyboard like this right now, there is the Kinesis Advantage. [kinesis-ergo.com]

    If one is interested in the "Easy access to arrow keys without position change?! Mind blown." aspect mentioned on the page, this can be easily done on your current keyboard. You can use xmodmap on Linux or AutoHotKey on Windows to make Caps Lock a modifier key that you press down with your left pinky to make all navigational keys appear under your fingers. I couldn't live without it anymore. Here [sprunge.us] is a AutoHotKey (Windows) ve

  • Massdrop [massdrop.com] just started another run on the ergodox that will be ending in about a week, anyone interested in this keyboard would probably want to check that out.
    I've never used anything but standard cheap keyboards but I'll be trying the ergodox on this latest run. At a glance they appear very similar. I like this guy's thumb layout better, though I'd prefer the board was split into two pieces one for each hand.

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