My older son asked for a mechanical keyboard as a graduation gift. I said, “Ok, what’s that?”
After doing some due diligence, I bought two Ducky Ones, his had the fancy lighting effects, mine didn’t. I was blown away by how much better these boards were compared to what I had been using. I knew that keyboards had turned to crap over the years, but I didn’t know there were viable alternatives.
I think the watershed moment was when I went to my first meetup. The organizer brought a Mech 27, and I looked at it and saw it was obviously very nice. He said, “Go ahead and pick it up.” So I did, and holy crap! Yeah, that’s not gonna budge off the desk no matter how hard I pound on it. There was, like, a machined imprint of a maple leaf on the underside. Nice!
He also had an HHKB with swapped Sony domes off a video editing machine. I knew what I liked as soon as I touched the keys.
There were folks there who had hand wired their crazy boards. Form factors I had never heard of, much less seen. People talking an esoteric language. Artisans up the wazoo. It was almost too much to absorb in a couple of hours. My son and I jabbered excitedly all the way back home in the car.
It’s all been downhill since then. We have ten built boards in the house and several more coming in. My son goes out to the garage almost every day to work on casting caps. I’m not as in to it as he is, but I try to keep up. I’m pretty much content with the solid hunk of aluminum, straight 60% configuration, Box Navies, and /dev/tty caps I have. I’m not into collecting or having one of everything, my goal was to get to the end as soon as I could and I am well pleased with this combination. I have a Model M for reference, and my first board is fine for backup.
I’m into the hobby as much as I am because the people are interesting, the subject is deep, and it gives me something to talk about with my son.
I’ve no idea what the future of the hobby is in general terms or what it will evolve into, but I kind of hope that keyboards will get better, although the trend in prebuilt, heavily advertised boards is flashy hype geared towards gamer boys, I think our little hobby might reach a tipping point and start to influence the mainstream.
I like that vendors are taking risks and pushing the envelope, coming up with boutique switches, case materials, key cap profiles, and form factors. I really like the enthusiasm and good will I see in meetups.
My hope is that people will be able to easily connect with a well-built board that suits their preferences. One that they can reliably use for decades. The angle of entry to this hobby can be kind of steep.