As a writer, I spend an incredible amount of time poised over my computer keyboard. I’d been using the standard membrane keyboard that came included with my PC desktop for many years. The keyboard was silent, it worked smoothly and I did not give it a second thought. One day, I was browsing the writing forums at Nanowrimo and came across a thread about mechanical keyboards. The writers raved how their typing speed improved and how much they enjoyed the loud clicky sound when they were typing on mechanical keyboards. They likened the new mechanical keyboards to the sound and feel of the old IBM Model M keyboards of the 1990s or even the older Selectric typewriters of the 1980s.
I confess that I first started typing on a Selectric typewriter and I used the IBM Model M keyboards during college. It had been ages since I had used either, but I remembered the tactile feel of these keyboards and the pleasant sound that my old typewriter made as I churned out my first novels in my youth. Would a mechanical keyboard turn back the clock in a positive way for me? I was intrigued.
There are four different types of cherry switches on a mechanical keyboard, the most popular are blue cherry and brown cherry. The blue are louder when you use them and have the greater tactile feel. Many writers consider the blue cherry to be the best for writing. The brown switches still have click, but are somewhat quieter. Since I was used to a silent keyboard and tend to write at night, I thought that the quieter switches would be a better fit for me.
With the old flexible membrane keyboard, I had to completely depress each key to make it function. There was little tactile feedback and it was virtually silent. Also, the keyboard is designed to prevent “ghosting” which means that the most keys I can depress at nearly the same time is two. This caused typos as I wrote since the keyboard could not react fast enough for my typing speed.
The mechanical keyboard uses a cherry switch underneath each key. There is no need to depress the key completely to make it work and due to the N-key rollover, up to six keys can be pressed and register without fail. Not only does this mean that the response time of the keyboard is faster, but typos are fewer because the “ghosting” has been removed. When each key is depressed, there is a click that sounds like an old-fashioned typewriter.
The quality of workmanship in the mechanical keyboard is higher. A membrane keyboard works until 5 to 10 million keystrokes have been performed. The mechanical keyboard will continue to perform for 50 million keystrokes. So while they are more expensive to purchase, they do last much longer.
When my husband asked me what I might like as a Christmas present, I mentioned to him that one possibility would be a mechanical keyboard for my computer. Much to my surprise, Santa delivered a handsome DasKeyboard with German made brown cherry switches under my Christmas tree. I was able to test drive the keyboard at last.
The keyboard was solid and heavy, at least three times heavier than my old membrane keyboard. It needed two USB connections, with a PS/2 adapter, to allow for N-key rollover, and much to my delight it had volume and playback controls for my media player along with the standard keys. The design of the keyboard was minimal with a classy ebony finish and an understated blue light to show that it is on and functioning. A grown ups keyboard.
When I first started to use the DasKeyboard, I found it uncomfortable. The noise was much louder than I expected and I had trouble concentrating on writing due to this. The feel of the keys was different than the membrane keyboard and I wondered if I would adjust to it. The only initial positive aspect of the keyboard was that I liked the heaviness of the unit and found that it stayed put on my keyboard tray where my old membrane keyboard used to slide around a bit due to its light weight. I wondered if I had made a mistake in switching to this new keyboard.
It was the second day after I had hooked up the DasKeyboard that I noticed that I was starting to feel more comfortable on it. My fingers began to reach the new distance between the keys and my touch became lighter on the keyboard. My fingers started to fly and my typing speed soared. What I found astounding is that while my speed was increasing, my typos were decreasing. It was as if I had a thought and it instantly transferred to the computer screen via magic. I felt a sense of excitement when I realized this. There was a true positive difference in using this keyboard after all.
The typewriter sound was the final adjustment. It took longer to grow used to the clack of the keys, but now that I’ve been using the DasKeyboard for a month I realize that I rather like the noise. It says “writing” to me. There is a zen quality to the sound, a rhythm that enhances my writing experience. I find that I enjoy creating on the DasKeyboard more than on the silent, flat keys of my laptop. I wonder no longer. The DasKeyboard was no mistake, it is a true aid to my writing comfort and I consider it an asset in my writing tool box. I will never go back to the silent membrane keyboard again.