Enumerating the Rabbit Holes (and Dramas) in our Hobby

Hi,

I recently posted a list of all the rabbit-holes in our hobby I could think of on Reddit — buried deep in the Liminal GB thread. But that was definitely in the wrong thread (and IMHO also on the wrong platform :wink:).

And after this comment by @PHO, I thought, I should (re)start this topic here, but as a separate thread instead of hijacking his new-member-introduction:

Welcome to the hobby with the most rabbit-holes in one hobby. :wink:

… already fell in the first ones and see a lot more incoming :smiley:

Our rabbit-holes are IMHO very manifold:

Alone finding for each rabbit-hole the variant, which suites yourself best, is already a huge quest, given the tons of properties of a mechanical keyboard:

Note: This posting can be edited like a wiki. So feel free to add properties or dramas below to complete the list. But please don’t delete or extensively rewrite entries. Thanks!

Rabbit-Holes of a Mechanical Keyboard

(I’m on purpose excluding vintage keyboards, that’s another bunch of rabbit-holes, too. :slightly_smiling_face:)

  • size/layout (form factor)
    • macro pads, number pads, non-numpads-10% (e.g. Ginny), 20% (e.g. Butterstick), 25% (e.g. Pain27 and Alpha28), 30%, 40%, 50% 60%, 65%, 70%, 75% 80%/TKL, 95%, 100%, 100%+, 120% (Sun Type 5), etc.
    • split or not (split, split with fixed angle or not split)
    • stagger or not (classic stagger, uniform stagger, ortholinear, columnar staggered, half-staggered/half-ortholinear, etc.)
  • soldered PCB, hotswap PCB or handwired
    • which hotswap sockets (Kailh, Millmax, Holtites, etc.)
  • plate
    • plate-less (PCB-mount), full-plate, half-plate
    • material
    • thickness,
    • cut-out form
      • plate-mount vs PCB-mount stabs
      • MX-only vs ALPS-only vs ALPS-or-MX
      • support for opening switches while inserted into the plate
  • key layout
    • modifier row layout
      • WKL, HHKB, Tsangan, etc.
      • spacebar length
      • split spacebar or not (1, 2 or 3 spacebars)
  • alphanumeric key layout
    • ANSI vs ISO
    • QWERTY, QWERTZ, Dvorak, Colemak, NEO, Bèpo, etc.
  • layout of additional layers and how to get there
    • hold vs toggle vs rotate vs permanently switch to a layer
    • SpaceFn
    • Tap dance (tap-or-hold)
    • Chord
  • switches
    • plate-mount vs PCB-mount
    • orientation (back- or front-facing LEDs)
    • technique
      • Bucklespring, Beamspring, Electro-Capacitve, Optical, Leaf, etc.
      • MX, Alps, Topre, low-profile/Choc/X, etc.
    • type
      • tactile, linear, clicky
      • silent or not
      • dust-proof switches
      • speed switches
    • manufacturer and their qualities
      • rattle
      • wobble
      • scratchiness (smoothness)
      • reliability
      • consistency
    • spring
      • weight
      • type (linear, progressive)
      • plating (none, gold, etc.)
    • lube
      • lubing or not
      • which lube
      • lube what
    • switch modding if the perfect switch doesn’t yet exist (switch films, switching stems or leafs, etc.)
  • stabs
    • plate-mount or PCB-mount
    • snap-in or screw-in
    • color
    • plating (none, gold, etc.)
    • rattle
    • lubing
    • which manufacturer, etc.
  • key caps
    • which profile
      • homing keys (deep dish vs bar vs centered dot)
        • which keys are marked as homing keys (F+J or Apple-style D+K)
      • sculpted vs uniform
      • row alignment
        • 01234x vs 11234x
        • x12344 vs x12343
        • x1234x vs 223333 (e.g. Laser SA Cyberdeck) vs 333333
    • surface
      • smooth, silk, textured
      • grade of texturing
      • top surface vs side wall surface
    • colors
    • material
      • ABS vs PBT vs POM
      • plastic vs wood vs metal, etc.
    • legend position
      • Cherry/top-left, SA/centered, bottom-right (DSA Take Out)
      • blank keys
    • Artisans
      • Finding a fitting one
      • Collecting them
      • Making them
  • back-lighting (unicolor, RGB, programmable or static)
  • keyboard connection
    • Wired vs Wireless
    • USB vs PS/2 vs DIN vs other vintage
    • USB: B vs Mini vs Micro vs C
    • Bluetooth vs Unifying
  • case
    • weight
    • material
    • surface processing (anodizing, cerakote, car paint/lacquer, etc.)
    • design
    • colors
    • high profile vs low profile
    • inclination angle (flat vs 5⁰ vs 8⁰ vs indiviual tiltable)
    • plate and PCB mounting style (gasket, top mount, integrated plate, burger mount, etc.)
    • manufacturing process: 3D printed, milled, cast
  • sound
    • switch sound
      • switch dampening (e.g. QMX clips)
    • case sound
      • case dampening (foam plates below PCB, etc.)
    • key cap sound
      • spacebar dampening (tampons, filling foam glue :wink:
    • switch plate dampening (foam plates between PCB and plate)
  • micro controller
    • onboard vs daughter board
    • ATmega32 vs STM32 vs exotics
    • Teensy vs Pro Micro vs Proton-C vs Elite-C, etc.
  • firmware
    • non-updateable vs updateable
    • free (as in free speech) firmware vs proprietary, usually windows-only update tools
    • QMK vs TMK vs other free firmware
    • GUI vs commandline update/flash tools
    • Layout editing: GUI vs web vs key map files
  • additional extensions
    • encoder
    • integrated trackball
    • trackpoint

I’m sure, I forgot some properties. :wink:

Finding the Perfect Keyboard

Then finding (or designing/building) a keyboard which has

  • as many of these preferred variants in one device (aka »end game«)
  • and is still looking good. :wink:

Acquiring this Keyboard or Keyboard Kit

  • The no-more-available drama (aka r/mechmarket drama)
  • The IC form drama
    • Google account required
    • Community nickname required
    • E-mail address required
  • The GB drama
    • Includes the GB form drama
      • Google account required
      • Community nickname required
      • Paypal account required
  • The payment drama
    • Paypal only pays the seller after shipping confirmation
    • Paypal being a monopolist
    • Paypal requires you to have a Paypal account despite the seller claims it’s not necessary (BTDT)
  • The manufacturer drama
  • The shipping drama (shipping between US and Europe is prohibitively expensive, parcel does not fit in P.O. box, etc.)
    • Includes the parcel service drama
      • parcel service doesn’t deliver to P.O. boxes but just tells you “address wrong” (BTDT)
      • parcel service can’t find address
      • parcel service just drops parcel on the porch (BTDT)
      • parcel service didn’t rang but left a note that claims that nobody was at home despite you waited the whole day
  • The customs/tax drama
  • The colors-on-screen vs colors-in-real-life drama
  • The missing-parts drama

Building your Keyboard

(More drama ahead. :wink:)

  • The lubing mess
  • The leadfree vs lead-containing solder (BTDT)
  • The soldering-the-Pro-Micro-in-the-wrong-direction drama (BTDT)
    • The desoldering drama (BTDT)
  • The frying your PCB during soldering drama (BTDT)
  • The “streaming your build on Twitch but forgot to enable recording it for later video-on-demand viewing” drama.

The Ground Hog Day Drama

And then suddenly and totally unexpected a new $something design comes out and you’ll notice that there is something which is better than anything you knew so far. So a part of the story begins again. :wink:

27 Likes

This sums it up realy well, and I feel silly to know about everything you mentioned.

Also for me it’s the hoarding drama, as I gather tons of stuff and only use 1-2, sell lots of stuff after a while and then get back in the frenzy with the new cool stuff that appears. The good thing is at this point that I am so spoiled that a new board/keycap set has so many things to tick on my list that only a few are being made and really catch my interest.

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You forgot clip/unclip stabilizers (or bandaid mod) and then, in building the “forgetting to put in the stabilizers before soldering in the switches drama”

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There’s a rabbit hole for switch collectors too, which is deep and getting deeper by the day.

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I feel like I should give you Keebtalk Gold for this post, if only there were such a thing :medal_sports:

Now that we have a (quite exhaustive) list of properties, it follows naturally that they be compiled into a database, yes? At least the enumerable ones. Deskthority, geekhack, and the various fora are great resources, but I can’t help but feel like it would be amazing to have a community-curated, embeddable relational database. The hobby is indeed wide and deep, but many hands make light work. Imagine if within minutes you could answer complex questions like

  • what keysets support various layouts, features like stepped caps lock, R4 tab, etc.
  • see all group buys currently open for PBT caps,
  • cases in a color range to match a given colorway
  • linear switches with an actuation force between X and Y
  • PCBs with wireless support in 4x% layout
2 Likes

I think that would be cool in theory, but you would be querying against items that are mostly exclusive to group buys and not currently available. The keeb database would serve us more as a history of missed opportunity, lol.

Don’t forget the rabbit whole that is also just topre in general aside from just the switch since it has a very slow moving but dedicated ecosystem of keyboards that people love to modify.

I know you mentioned excluding vintage rabbit holes, but they’re worth looking into for people who are interested, but it’s a tough mix of luck, money, and competition with other vintage enthusiasts :eyes:

3 Likes

Thankfully the firmware rabbithole is closing. QMK is king. You don’t really have an option anymore, other than maybe VIA support, but full qmk support of VIA has been in the works.

The one interesting rabbithole that custom keyboards has yet to conquer is bluetooth. We don’t really have a be all end all bluetooth module thats as ubiquitous as QMK, likely because bluetooth would need to be certified by all the various government agencies that regulate wifi emissions.

I really hope for a day when the community bands together and sources a fairly affordable and logical solution that lets us basically put logitech gaming level wireless into all new kit groupbuys.

I mean really, wireless really doesn’t make sense in a keyboard unless its perfect(other than split keebs). Since we don’t move our boards often, theres nothing wrong with just using a wire. However, I do think a great wireless solution could take us to the next level. Especially with the prevalence of phones and ipads being a primary computing method, and commuting to work with your keyboard.

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There is still BMC for some of the Korean boards, as well as ps2avr (and it’s variants), so I don’t think the rabbit hole is closed quite yet. We’re getting more things to QMK, but it takes time from some dedicated people to port stuff over to QMK.

1 Like

Honestly I think the QMK hole will simply narrow to people who are really into QMK since I’m looking forward to a future where the normal person who gets into keyboards only needs to see a VIA interface and that’s it. No BMC, PS2AVR, QMK toolbox or github page. Just VIA.

5 Likes

Speaking of rabbit holes I just fell down one I didn’t really realize was there. Getting all the kits for Keycap sets you have bought in the past before forming your favorite layouts. This is something I always find myself struggling with. Due to not planning ahead for layouts I’d want to try in the future but can’t currently use & just not having the money for all the kits I want when the GBs are live.

SA Godspeed is a great example, I just got the solar alphas, modifiers, & novelty kit at the time cause I only owned a TKL & few standard ANSI layout 60s at the time. Since then I have been chasing down a TSAfox kit for it without any luck or even just individual keys I need for certain layouts with some luck. Then there is the GMK Sky Dolch accent kit I neglected to grab when Oco had them in stock & I have been SOL finding one secondhand since they sold out of them.

I did just score a win in this category a little bit ago though! I got lucky & found someone selling a Oblivion V2 Hagoromo alpha kit I was able to jump on before anyone else. I am paying a decent premium for it, but I was really kicking myself for just getting Hagoromo cadet & not this as well.

Word to the wise for those new to keycap GBs. Grab any & all child kits you think may need in the future if it doesn’t break the bank to do so. Worst case scenario, you never end up using them & then can sell them for a profit later down the line!

3 Likes

Yep, and also easy way of doing macros without programming knowledge.

The fight against clutter is probably the third biggest headache in the hobby after cost and scarcity of getting what you need when you need it and have actually can afford it. I feel like Im always trying to sell or trade something and just the pain of negotiating shipping prices and making sure you’re vetting the people youre trading with can be quite tedious

3 Likes

Exactly

I have a few years worth of stuff I want to sell, but I’m completely overwhelmed with the process… especially on mechmarket. I don’t mind cataloging and listing my wares, nor researching for listing prices. I just don’t want to be seen as a fraud for missing a posting guideline or some other protocol, and I certainly don’t want to be taken advantage of.

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Missing silencing methods: O-ring, QMX clip, etc.

UPDATE: nvm. found mention of QMX clip. This rabbit hole is pretty deep and goes beyond sound dampening though. I often use QMX clip sometime on unruly spacebars.

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Great post.

At some point some vendor will “fill in” many of these rabbit holes. At that point two things will likely happen:

  1. The resulting excellent experience in custom keyboard purchasing will dramatically increase the number of hobby participants, and
  2. that vendor will capture an insane amount of market share.

I feel incredibly strongly about #1. I’m very interested in using well-designed great-feeling keyboards but have very little interest in lubing, modding, piecing together keycap kits, soldering etc. My first build involved the post-GB Lunar and it still took 3 months to complete. I’d pay a premium over GB price to have a well-designed great-feeling keyboard requiring little extra effort from me.

Anyway, there are several vendors who are very popular in our community who already seem to have adopted this strategy. I wonder if you all agree.

2 Likes

Thanks!

Hmmm, not sure. This listing is a high-dimensional matrix. And so far, most vendors try to keep the complexity of their offers down to an manageable amount of variants.

Or do you think that those who want their keyboards ready-made don’t mind a limited choice of switches and keycaps anyways? (In that case, I’m obviously far too deep in some of these rabbit-holes. :wink:)

Probably, yes. But I still doubt that it will come that far:

Yes, but this only works if the vendor will actually build you unique keyboard on demand. I at least remember having seen such offerings at Kbdfans and Candykeys.

And I doubt that many vendors will have the resources or infrastructure to do custom builds, especially at the quality level many of us expect from a custom build.

I get more the feeling that building custom keyboards has become a separate kind of “industry” of one-man workshops. It seems as if not that few of the YouTubers in our scene build custom keyboards on commission, probably mostly because they have fun in building them.

I myself feel like being somewhere inbetween, i.e. can understand both sides:

  • On the one hand I have a bunch of stock mechanical keyboards, some of them even with stock keycaps, e.g. Vortex Tab90M, Vortex Core, Massdrop Alt High Profile, Varmilo VA68M “Panda”.

  • On the other hand, I’ve now built at least four keyboards out of kits (Keebio Fourier, PyroL Alpha, Keyhive Nightmare and a KPRepublic Daisy — not counting those with stock hotswap sockets which I just put together like LEGO.) And two them were even modified to sport Mill-Max hotswap sockets. And I have a bunch of kits more here to finish (TKC 1800, KBD19X, JD40, BM43a, and a bunch individual parts for at least one 60%).

  • Next step would be to do a first handwired build based on my own layout ideas.

I’m not really clear which strategy you’re thinking of. What do I have to look for in a vendor or dealer?

  • Offering their stock keyboards with custom designed (but still stock) keycap sets, usually all-over dye-sub designs. So far I only know of Varmilo and Ducky and they even work together on this, just think of the Ducky×Varmilo MIYA Pro which shares many designs with other Varmilo keyboards.

  • Offering custom builds based on keyboards in their own online shop: Candykeys

  • Offering built variants of their products without offering much choice there, i.e. usually just a checkbox to tick and paying like $15 to $30 more: Kbdfans, (Mass)Drop, some shops on Etsy, …

  • Offering also kits based on their usually ready-made keyboards: Mass(Drop), Tex

  • Offering tons of switch and partially color variants, but relying on the manufacturer offering these variants:

    • Dealers: MechanicalKeyboards.com, Candykeys, MyKeyboard.eu and probably others
    • Brands: Varmilo, Ducky, Leopold, Mistel, Tex, Filco and maybe some more.

Or did you mean those big, fashionable gamer keyboard manufacturers like DasKeyboard, WASDKeyboards, Razer, Logitech G, ASUS ROG, Corsair, Sharkoon and so on? (Sorry if that categorisation of these vendors is wrong, I just don’t care about martial-looking and gamer targeted keyboards and hence don’t have much of an idea of that market.)

1 Like

Thanks for all the corrections. I knew, I missed the one or the other rabbit-hole.

I now wonder if I should update and complete my initial posting with these corrections or if I should keep it as it is to not distort the initial impression of the posting.

Or is there a kind of wiki, where we can work together on a complete version of that list?

Off topic, but I’ve been debating starting a Keebtalk Wiki :thinking:

1 Like