Sometimes there is a lot of keyboard news in the week. This is a feature that should detail as much keyboard news that happened in the past week as possible. Depending on the frequency this might not turn out weekly. News tends to be around big events such as Computex or not at all.

Sonder E-ink keyboard

I will have to preface this by saying it is not mechanical. But it is certainly an interesting idea, but I can’t quite think why it would be used. It is advertised as having ‘work’ and ‘play’ applications, however I can’t see it being used beyond learning a layout.

While this may be interesting I do not know if it will come to fruition. This is certainly not the first of its kind, and at this point there are only renders. But if the reviews are to be believed “This is the best keyboard.”.
The features of the ‘Sonder’ are:

  • Backlighting
  • Macros
  • Patented crisp, responsive key mechanism
  • E-ink

The E-ink display is obviously the most interesting feature despite whether it has a use. Whatever the mechanism feels like is currently unknown. The current renders show a keyboard with similar design to the Apple aluminium keyboards, whether feels similar is unknown. The lack of information and a prototype is the main issue. Recently the company has been active on reddit and are available for questions at /u/SonderDesign. The most interesting piece of information is how they say it feels. If it truly does feel like Topre then I imagine people will be happy. I am very interested in trying one out.

It is currently on preorder sale for $199

https://www.sonderdesign.com/

Atomic PCB’s Incoming

Jack Humbert is continuing to lead the rise of ortholinear keyboards. If you don’t know an ortholinear layout may also be called a matrix layout. It has no staggering. Jack’s products keep getting better and the inclusion of PCB’s make the custom keyboards much more accessible to less experienced makers. The Atomic is a 60% ortholinear keyboard with support for these layouts. From my perspective more 60% PCB’s are a good thing and especially different 60% designs such as an ortholinear layout. It seems to be a nice PCB, with all components pre-soldered (sans switches) and support for LED’s. There is nothing left to be desired in this PCB’s design. From the planck PCB to the atomic PCB, you will find the only difference to be the size.

They aren’t quite yet available but prototypes are being made and prototypes should be on hand soon.

Alongside the PCB’s milled cases similar to the Planck milled cases will be available.

Visit the ortholinear shop at https://ortholinearkeyboards.com/

Keyboardio Kickstarter Launched and Exceeded

it For those who don’t know the keyboardio is a new ergonomic keyboard that has been around in designs for a long time. It is getting a bit closer now with a fully funded kickstarter. Similar to the ErgoDox, it is split-hand (or can, depending on your fancy) backlit and supports many different configurations. The configurations are how you are able to set down the keyboard. You are able to have it flat, like a traditional keyboard, tented for extra comfort, on a tripod for some reason, and you also have the ability to split it exactly like the ErgoDox. Unlike the Infinity ErgoDox this seems to improve upon what the ErgoDox started. The main complaints ErgoDox complaints were on the ergonomics. The thumb cluster can be awkward for those with smaller hands and the staggering may not be optimum. Keyboardio is designed with ergonomics in mind. Staggering on the keyboardio is much more natural and the thumb cluster is utilised for Fn keys. Of course this is only until you change the layout yourself as it is fully programmable.

In a bold move it is only available in Matias quiet click switches. It is unusual for a keyboard in production to stray from the more standard cherry switches, but this may mark a turn in the popularity for Matias switches.

The keyboardio is RGB backlit and features NKRO rollover over usb. This is said to work on all platforms without any program running on connected devices. Macros run on the keyboard but where I was confused is the application awareness that runs separately on your OS. What this does is tell the keyboard what application you are in. This then enables you to have your layer automatically change when you are using a specific application. I think this could be a potentially useful feature. I am thinking more for gaming, but I am sure there are better uses.

All this indicates custom firmware which is not surprising, but you will likely be able to run TMK at some point. Keycaps for the keyboardio also seem like an issue. Not only are they alps but they are oddly shaped with some rounded keycaps. You are also restricted by the bulky wooden casing. So getting keycaps might be tricky.

I was surprised at how fast this kickstarter was funded as it seems somewhat niche. But what this does demonstrate, is people are willing to buy expensive mechanical keyboards who might not be into making their own. But even the EZ Ergodox took longer to reach their goal. I will be interested to see who is buying these and what for.

It is an interesting keyboard but I am still not convinced. It does however seem to be leading the Ergonomic keyboard charge alongside major companies like Kinesis.

Check out the kickstarter if you want https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/keyboardio/the-model-01-an-heirloom-grade-keyboard-for-seriou

Custom 60% Plates by LeandreN

Leandren figure This is groupbuy territory but it is being orchestrated with unexpected proficiency. LeandreN started with simple ISO and ANSI 60% mountplates. A product which is always in short supply and more quality plates are only a good thing. The first groupbuy is over and everything seemingly went smoothly.

LeandreN’s latest venture is custom plate designing. The idea is you pitch your plate design and see if people like it. If enough do LeandreN, will get it made. This is the simple interest check the keyboard community loves so much. I also think this is a ‘service’ that was missing from the current community offering. Hopefully this will pave the way for some interesting designs to be made.

Use this to submit your design for round 2.

60% Leftovers ISO 60% and misc grab bags.

Leopold FC660M Aluminium Case

I was surprised to see this put on massdrop as it seems like a product that might be long sought after. It is only compatible with the FC660M not the FC660C. If I were to own a FC660M I would gladly purchase this. However, the main reason for my surprise was because it is a little bit closer to an aluminium HHKB case. Whilst they are being developed, none of the projects seem to be moving very fast.

I was also interested in the fact massdrop is running this. It seems lately massdrop is becoming more and more a groupbuy platform for keyboard products. But as seen with the Gateron and Gateron keycaps massdrops there is a notable price difference with the runs from massdrop and the community run drops. This may indicate that a HHKB aluminium case could be on the horizon.

https://www.massdrop.com/buy/aluminum-case-for-leopold-fc660m?mode=guest_open

HHKB Aluminium Case By infiniti

TSD Labs Aluminium HHKB Case

#JT Keycaps Surprise Revealed For those who purchased Topre sliders in the recent JTK Debut groupbuy were teased earlier in the proceedings with receiving something special with their order. It has revealed to be a Topre spacebar in cherry profile to match the colour and height of the JTK Debut set. While this is interesting this is a Topre spacebar for a cherry set on Topre to MX sliders. So the spacebar should be the only slider to remain Topre in order to complete the set.

prototype topre spacebar Prototype Pictured

Of course this is also indication of JT Keycaps ability to produce Topre keycaps as was mentioned earlier in the announcement. Although they aren’t PBT like matt3o’s they will hopefully be of high quality.

Click the images to be taken to the relevant page for the maker

Brocaps

The Karma Sale

A small sale took place on the 10th of May. This was a ‘missed out sale’ but done differently. Everyone was eligible to enter however, those who did not win anything in the previous two sales had twice the chance of winning.
The sale included:

Nuclear KushLimeadeKushy PurpGrape ApePlush Purple
Brobot V2x
Esc/Fn Setxx
F&J Setxx
Escxxx
Fn Singlex
Stumpx

Upcoming

Some major brocaps updates have been teased in the recent months. Most recently is the upcoming ‘Cosmos Sale’. I believe it to be coming quite soon. poster Currently the sale looks like it will include most of the staple brocaps with glitter throughout the cap. As well as the normal line-up, this sale will include a mystery cap. This sale could also be the return of the ribbit or expect that in a following sale. This sale also marks the return of bronin and the reaper V1 which have not been seen in a while.
The next piece of news is this is the end of the Reaper V1. However, with this sad news the Reaper V2 was announced. Reaper V2 Before the final image (shown above) there was a teaser image. And I’m not sure if they are meant to be the same cap. You can tell they both have the reaper theme but they do not appear similar in shape. Whether this is a different cap I don’t know, but when I first saw it I thought of the light pipe mod performed by ripster. Teaser reaper

My favourite announcement is the Miami colourway Brobot. I think this colourway works well with anything, and with the brobot it works perfectly. Bro donated a Miami V2 to the destiny giveaway.
The hapster is also a strangely nice looking keycap not just in this colourway but in general. This is odd as it was designed as a comment on the artisan keycap market. Nevertheless, I really like it. Miama colourway Bro

HiddenPower

The innovative “War of Betrayal” sale began on the 18th. Although you might not agree that it is innovative, the maker has gone with a different aesthetic that is at least not that common. The sale on a whole however is very interesting. Keycaps are produced in series; artist series, design series and painted caps. Not only are there 3 distinct tiers there is also a back story centred around 12 characters.
The artist series is for the main characters. They are all individually hand painted with what appears to be distinct weathering. They will be the unique and limited in their numbers. The second series is the design series which are less intricate characters from the Artist series, instead of individual hand painting they are just blanks of the characters but in solid colour. Painted caps are as they sound. But there is very clear effort that has gone into them. The painting is as high quality as seen on the Artist series and it is very impressive. From this standpoint, I don’t think painted caps have been done in this way before. work done This image is quite indicative of the effort that is being put in. Although it is packaging, everyone likes some nice packaging.

ImpendingxDoom

Another maker who has seemingly come out of nowhere. The theme for their current run is not surprisingly Doom. doom I am not huge fan of the doom cap design but there is promise in what they have posted. I expect good things from this maker. My current favourite is their Fn blanks. Although, they are not explicitly a new design, the colours are nice. Even with the recent increase of Topre artisans, they are still scarce. There is promise here and I look forward to the future.
btcorpre

In the theme of doing things differently, I believe ImpendingxDoom ships resin space invaders with their caps, this is a nice touch.

Flehrad

Another new maker. The caps are OK. For a beginning attempt they look good. te Not a lot to say about these, but it shows a clear start. The only caps shown are see-through blanks, but a custom design is being worked on. Good luck!

KappaKapps

The KappaKapps store is live with 3d printed caps for sale. Currently the only artisan available is the UnDead Clackin’. Other designs have been shown but are not currently available. It’s a nice design and one of the more complicated 3d printed designs that are available.

igke

The previously mentioned Polaroid keycap is in prototyping stages. he The file is also publicly available so if you want one all you need is access to a 3d printer. https://www.shapeways.com/shops/IgKe

Lootkeys by whizzard

Lootkeys is a new keycap project started by whizzard (not completley new). As of now there is only a single completed design which is called the “Abductor”. However, there are many other designs in their progress thread. My current favourite is the flux capacitor and the campfire key. From the designs shown I could say this is the most creative offering in the current artisan market.

Defect/WinterWinds

winder Still no sale but just another showcase of their ability. It is unlikely this particular design will be sold because of its resemblance to the “Oktoberfest” cap. Nevertheless these look really well made. Hopefully they continue and sell some in the future, whatever the design.

K3KC

The controversial cap maker is back and not avoiding the controversy. They have come out with a “Red Vander” and another Clack skull clone. c Whilst this keycap got a lot of flak on reddit I think this is a nice colour combination. However, I don’t want to support the direct ripoff of Clack.

Clack Watch

This was an interesting month for clacks many were sold and many were outraged. But a record was set for the highest clack sold. This OG Tricolor sold for $852 a 5225% increase of its retail price. Shortly after a Translucent Glow-in-the-dark Clack sold for $810.
Although, I haven’t purchased art for this much myself. I’m not sure that when I received it, I would be satisfied. For those who want to buy a clack this is not that good news as prices have continued to increase and nothing can be done. On the other hand this is the nature of art. It is extremely hard to put a price on specific work and understand why people pay what they do for specific pieces.

This thread is interesting in questioning the nature of the market. And I think from inside the community it is often seen as a bad thing that they are being sold for this much. But another way to look at it is comparing it to more traditional artwork. There has been artwork that has sold for much more and much less than what these Clack’s go for. They are now being treated as pieces of art which they are. Again this will only matter depending on how you view the sale of other art. But I don’t think the issue is quite as clear as it is made out to be. The main argument is the creator is not making any of this profit, which I do believe to be the strongest argument.

Not So Artisan News

The Matt3o spacebars are now on sale through massdrop. This has been a long time coming and a lot of work has been put in to make them work and fit in with your other Topre keycaps. Buy as many as you can, as this opportunity might not come back for a long time. Or it might, depending on what Matt3o does as well as JT Keycaps. I believe some distributers are also in talks to carry the spacebars. Specifically https://mechanicalkeyboards.com.

The JT Debut GB is almost over. If you want Topre to MX sliders, don’t miss out.
https://ctrlalt.io/buys/jtk-debut

MeowCaps

If anyone is wondering what has happened they are facing ‘personal issues’ and there status is unknown. I hope they are OK and return soon.
https://redd.it/35jwdr

Late Addition

Kill4Caps

Kill4Caps contacted me to say that I had made a mistake and they have no affiliation with whizzard. Nevertheless they are a cap maker, and they are the person behind the excellent darkside copies. For obvious reasons they are not going to sell the copies they are just for personal use. However they have been working on their own design. t The HGF: the This is just a prototype and it is not quite ready for production. I am told other designs will follow.
The main reason I grew interested in this maker was the copies they produced. Although these are copies this is a demonstration of ability.

ctrlaltlogo I have wanted to talk to BunnyLake for a while since the announcement of the JT Keycaps GB. I have always found [CTRL]ALT to be one of the more reliable stable platforms in the community. So it’s no secret I’m kind of a fan of their entire ethos. You will probably be able to tell by some questions I asked. But the main reason for this interview was the JT Keycaps announcement. It a new step in the community as this is a community group, who have managed to get some form of keycap production service that it suited to how the community consumes these types of keycaps.

I did not get to talk to Bunny in the end so this was all done through text. Hopefully in the future I will be able to do a voice interview but he is very busy.

If you were unaware of what is going on, BunnyLake is a member of [CTRL]ALT who have recently announced they are getting keycaps made with JT Keycaps. I wrote a little about the announcement nearer the time of release. [CTRL]ALT have been responsible for a couple of successful groupbuys in the past and have made this interesting move to become more involved in the production process.

toxic

Relating to JT Keycaps:

What is the relationship between [CTRL]ALT and JT Keycaps? By this I mean who initiated the ‘partnership’ and what kind of relationship do you have. Who approached who?

JT Keycaps is a good friend of mine who I have worked with on several keyboard and ctrl alt related projects in the past, as we already had an established relationship, it was less about who approached who, and more a natural evolution to work on this together

Did you propose the idea of making keycaps, and were you instrumental in the inception of JT Keycaps?

I was around for its inception, but can’t take any credit, it was a passion project for JT that I worked on in an advisory capacity along the way

How long has this been in the works?

As for how long its been in the works, I guess its been an idea for 2 or 3 years, and a physical working reality for 12 – 18 months in the prototyping and testing stage

Is [CTRL]ALT the storefront for JT Keycaps? Will others be able to initiate group buys or will this have to go through you first? Or are you simple starting things off? If others are allowed to submit designs in any way, is there a MOQ?

Anything is possible in the future, right now, it’s a semi closed environment, whilst more research and development occurs, however once the range of keys and materials builds up, and the mass production process is refined, those are certainly options for the future

What colour options do you have available?

Anything and everything

Are there any plans to use different materials, such as PBT or POM?

We have already used such materials, and certainly have plans to work with them in the future

Already you have started off with something quite ambitious. The announcement of Topre to MX sliders is quite an interesting one. In the past this has been thought of but no one has been able to make it happen due to the costs. How have you done things differently? Due to the fast turnover time does this mean you are able to support some more unusual layouts in kits? Do you have the means to make custom doubleshot keycaps? Would this just mean a price increase?

We can indeed make custom doubleshot caps, and in a way every cap in the set is a custom doubleshot, but in the sense you mean, yes we can do custom keys, there obviously is a cost to this, but not an unmanageable one. As for the more unusual layouts, the short lead time works against us in a way on this, each key takes time, and lots of testing, but over time the range of keys and options will grow

Do you see yourself doing other products like Topre to MX sliders in the future? Or will it be mainly keycaps?

No idea, we shall see where these things take us

Do you see yourself and JT Keycaps as a rival to the other big companies, namely Signature Plastics and GMK?

Not a rival, but an alternative, I think there is a big gap in the market for what we are offering, the goal really being GMK quality with signature plastics flexibility

What are you doing or going to do differently to those other companies? Are there any particular mistakes they make that you see yourself avoiding?

I think really this is a question for the future more so than now, these are big established companies with a lot of money behind them, there are of course things I can see other companies do that I don’t agree with, or things I would like to see that I’m not seeing with other companies, but this really is a start-up, and right now we are just concentrating of making the best product we can

What do you think the reaction will be to you or JT Keycaps as a new entry into the market? Do you see this pushing other companies to lower prices and maybe innovate a bit more?

I think it would be naïve to think we would have much of an impact right now, realistically I don’t think even the buying power of our enthusiast communities have much of an impact on these companies, I think they make the majority of their money through more commercial sources. The way I think of what we are doing is this, trying to offer something to the community, from within the community, I’m not focused on the other companies so much as I am on helping get a service out there more catered to our enthusiast needs (more flexibility, lower costs, shorter lead times)

From the currently available information you seem to be a cut above the rest, do you already see yourself as outperforming the competition? What times can be expected for groupbuys to complete?

This first buy will have a slightly longer lead time that future ones, most like about 3 – 4 weeks, with it being a first run, we expect some issues we will have to overcome in the process, and will have very strict quality control, but once we have production dialed in, the lead times will be considerable reduced from that

Earlier on in the announcement you suggested it might be possible to create Topre keycaps. Does the announcement of Topre to MX sliders mean this is no longer necessary? Would you produce Alps keycaps? Or is this just down to the demand?

Its down to a few things, cost, time and demand, but anything is possible, right now we are concentrating on getting this first set right, but we will have some big announcements regarding Topre shortly

Could you possible create something a bit more complicated such as buckling spring keycaps (one piece or two piece construction)?

The answer is the same as above, however we don’t have any plans in that regard right now

Have you collaborated with Matt3o with their recent Topre spacebar GB? It seems they have found a manufacturer for Topre keycaps. Is this related to JT Keycaps?

It isn’t, we did discuss this and I am currently working with matteo on both current and future projects, but they had found a manufacturer for that before we had made any announcements

The introduction GB is for cherry profile keycaps, are you going to offer other profiles in the future?

Highly possible but nothing confirmed as of yet, as with many of the above questions, it really comes down to how successful this becomes

Do you have anything else planned for the future which you might be able to tease?

soon

Has this signalled a change in how [CTRL]ALT is perceived? By this I mean do you think you will be seen as more of a company or corporation in the community?

We are not a company or a business, just a bunch of community members who want to see new things

More General on [CTRL]ALT:

Is there anything else currently planned for [CTRL]ALT? I am particularly interested in your keyboards such as the [CTRL]ALT 60.

We have tons plans, and some big announcements coming soon, I’m going to be a bit MIA around September and October, with my baby being born, so right now it’s planning what can be started and completed before then, and what should wait until after then when ill have the time to commit to it 100%

I believe it was in the [CTRL]ALT ama on your blog that you suggested you were trying to make [CTRL]ALT more standalone with its own community. Is this still the planned evolution of [CTRL]ALT.

Not necessarily with its own community, but we are certainly working on the site right now to make it a more standalone effort, right now its so intrinsically linked with gh, that is how we announce everything and provide updates, and as ctrl alt has grown, so to does the way we both promote and communicate, we are working on ctrl alt v2 right now, and it’ll be both more user friendly, and able to stand on its own 2 feet than it is in its current state

[CTRL]ALT seems to be quite successful in creating its own independent shop is there a long term plan and do you see yourself and the [CTRL]ALT team expanding?

Really we are just a group of friends, I don’t know where it’ll go, but I’ve had problems before with letting people in and being let down, whereas now its really just a group of people I consider friends, and trust completely, who are as passionate about what we are doing as I am, so we may expand, but it would be a very organic thing

[CTRL]ALT is a platform for Brocaps sales, would you be open to allowing other artisans to sell their caps through [CTRL]ALT. If so this would have to be curated carefully to ensure it is just not another marketplace, but [CTRL]ALT is in a position to give a boost to some artisans. Has this been considered, or is there just not a call for it?

I would not be against the idea, but I am very picky who I work with, bro is a long time friend of mine, and it was a relationship that happened naturally, the only other artisan right now I would go out of my way to work with is kult worship kaps, and that is because I’m both friends with him, and stand behind the aesthetic and quality of what he is producing, that isn’t a knock against other cap makers at all, there are others I respect, but they have their own outlets, as well as some I just wouldn’t want to have anything to do with

Are you proud and impressed with what you have created with [CTRL]ALT? From my point of view it seems like one of the best sites in terms of design and products.

I am very proud of what we have achieved in the time period we have, there are certainly things I wish went down differently, but as an overall body of work, I’m very happy, I just wish I had more time

Are there any more planned ‘podcasts’ for the [CTRL]ALT blog? Although, I am not sure if this is your area.

There are indeed, I worked very closely with sent on that side of the site, however due to some personal reasons he has had to step back for a bit, so it’ll either return when he does, or if he is not in a position to continue, we will certainly find someone or several people to continue it

End

Although this was a short interview, I did find it maintained my excitement for JT Keycaps and the future. From what I heard it does seem like this is going to be an exciting thing for the community. If you own a Topre board and haven’t already participated I highly recommend it. The Sliders by themselves are worth the price.

Join the GB Here https://ctrlalt.io/buys/jtk-debut

Giveaway

This is all through Bunny. He has kindly said I can do a small gift bag giveaway. It will most likely include a [CTRL]ALT T-Shirt and a keyring. But you are at the mercy of Bunny. All you have to do is follow my twitter. I haven’t done anything with it yet but I am hoping to in the future. I’ll pick a random winner on Friday.

ctrlaltshell