Boards and Switches

20150929_223430~2Words, hundreds of thousands of words. I was down on my writing a few months ago. Frustrated with the fact that I had not published yet, despite the fact I am still perfecting my voice and have not submitted in a while. During my frustration I decided to give myself a small reality check. I went to each book I have written and tallied up the word count. What I found was invigorating and a little scary. Since I started writing in 2004, I have written 2,730,141 words, not counting the words in this new book so far. They do not count until the book is finished. This total I found amazing. It made me realize I am on the right track. It also made me feel sorry for my keyboard.

I work on an iMac. Not something I want to get into right now. PC people are gearing up in opposition and Apple people are gloating. We will talk about all of that another time. I want to talk about the keyboards. Apple keyboards disappoint me. They are too streamlined, too quiet and too sleek. I need something a little more chunky, a little more brutal.

For a long time I was using Microsoft’s Comfort Curve 2000. It had a slight bend to it and I thought I needed that. As I typed, the letters started wearing off the keys. Since I don’t really know how to type without looking at the keys, I needed to replace it often. During the book Eastgate I replaced it after two weeks. A month later, I needed to replace it again. I then realized I had to replace it quite often. I counted it all up and I had bought a new board seven times. At $20 each, I had spent $140 on keyboards. I found this unacceptable. I did a little research.

I started looking into how a board was designed and found out some alarming things. The average keyboard is designed to withstand between 30,000 to 50,000 words. At a writing pace of 15,000 a week, that is a new keyboard every two weeks to a month. Eastgate was 259,610 words. At best, that is five keyboards. The boards are this way is because under each key is a bubble. When a key is depressed, the bubble flattens and the key registers. After the bubble has been depressed a few thousand times, the bubble stops working. This is fine for most people, but gamers and writers often have trouble with doubling letters or non-registering letters due to this design.

So I looked for a keyboard that would be able to withstand more abuse than these, and I gave up on the Comfort Curve 2000. I still have one in my office closet. The A, D, S, T, M, N and E keys are gone and the board doesn’t work worth a crap. I keep it for reasons unknown to me, sentimental I guess, but the thing is useless.

I went searching for a gamer’s keyboard. These boards are designed quite differently. They have no bubble. They possess a spring under each key that never gets worn out or fatigued. Gamers need these boards because, most of the time, there are about seven keys they depend on. They will hit these keys hundreds and thousands of times a night. Bubbles tend to wear out.

The board I bought was a Deck, http://www.deckkeyboards.com/ . It was billed as the last keyboard I would ever need. Each key had an LED light underneath. The letters were carved from the inside of the key so they would never wear off. The light shined through, lighting the board up. The board had what was called Red Cherry Switches. I had no inkling what that meant, but the board itself seduced me and I went for it. It cost me 200 bucks. But it was supposed to last forever, so I gladly paid it.

When it arrived, it was like having the holy grail delivered right to my door. I tossed my Comfort Curve in to storage and plugged in my Deck, breathless. It lit up like Christmas and I gasped in joy. With the board came a skull and crossbones key that you could swap out for any other key on the board. I stuck it on my esc key. When I typed on it, I learned a great deal about this type of keyboard. It is called a mechanical board, and one of its qualities is an immense sound. Each key hits like a sledge. The clacking of that board is louder than an old fashioned typewriter. It was a racket I quickly got used to, and soon found I could not live without.

My artist friend, Chris Mostyn, said to me once that with every art there is a tell, one sense that tells the artist the time for that art has begun. He says that when he hears the scratch of the pen on the page, he is mesmerized by it and that sound tells his brain the time to create has come. It places him in a trance that brings him into the moment and facilitates his work. The sound of my loud keyboard hits my ears and my brain says, “Oh, we are doing that now.” The trance descends upon me and I sink in.

The Deck was a champ. I named it Hector and together we wrote about 1,400,000 words. The letters began to double. If memory serves it was the E, O and S keys. T, too, I think. When I hit them, two would register and that made for a lot of frustration and editing. I quickly decided something needed to be done. I called the company and they agreed to fix it for free. I sent it away and it was sent back to me. It did about another 100,000 words and the problem came back.

I read reviews on Hector and his siblings and found out this was a common problem. The boards tended to double letters. I also found out that the company knew, but to this date was denying the fact. When I received the paperwork on the repair, it said the damage was due to a liquid spill, which was nonsense. I decided I was done with the Deck company and I went looking elsewhere.

I did more research. I found out what a Red Cherry switch was and it brought a new element to the table that I had not considered. Each board had a different kind of switch that worked a different way. There were Red, Black, Yellow, Green, Blue, and White. They had even made a Clear. Each switch worked differently. Each had a different amount of pressure that was needed to register the key. Each had a different level of depression that was needed to get the key to take. Blue for instance, had a high tension spring that took a hard push to depress, but the key registered when it was depressed half way. There were different feels to each switch. A factor called Linear or Tactile switches provided either an increase in pressure as you neared the registering point or no increase. I did a great deal of research and review reading. I even bought a $175 board that had blue switches, just to find out they were not for me. Too many typos, as the keys just needed to be grazed to register, and I am a sloppy typist.

I ended up going with Black, Tactile. I should have known that in the end black would be my choice. I bought a Rosewill Helio. The keys light up either green (which looks yellow to me) or red. When I wrote On the Corpse of Wrath, a book set in Hell, I used the red keys. Otherwise, green is my baby.

Shortly after paying 150 bucks for this board, the keys started to wear off. Boy was I pissed. I raged for a while and thought about sending it back when I pulled out my Deck, which I had lovingly placed gently in my office closet, and I plugged it in. Frustration soon took over but, in my temper tantrum, I noticed that the impervious Deck keys were the exact same size as the Rosewill Helio keys.

I swapped the keys and everything has worked just fine. It feels like a black switched Helio and has the durability of an immortal Deck. I have written about 1,265,076 words on it, and it is still going strong.

This keyboard has a clock on it. One day, it will give up on me and drop, exhausted, to the ground groaning for a quick death. I’m probably going to keep the keys and swap them out later. I like the font, and these keys are indestructible.

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