in gear

Keyboard futures

Das Keyboard over at Ars Technica. It’s a 2.6 pound monster with German-engineered mechanical gold-plated key switches. It’s designed for performance, durability, and loudness. Yes, loudness. If you miss the audible feedback from keyboards of yore, this is for you. To give you a sense of how loud it is, the company also sells reusable earplugs. It’s expensive (over $100), but if you like this sort of thing, you probably can’t do better.

Me, I prefer silence while I type. But what appealed to me about Das Keyboard is that the company offers a model without any key markings. I’m a Dvorak typist, so I rarely look at the keyboard anyway. Some part of me thinks it would be great fun to have a keyboard with blank keys, mainly because it would satisfy my inner Secret Squirrel impulses.

Reading about Das Keyboard reminded me of a post I wrote in 2008 about the Optimus Maximus, an industrial art creation from the studios of Art. Lebedev. At the time this fancy keyboard was still in development, but it’s now available for purchase. Cost-wise, it makes Das Keyboard look like a great bargain. It costs $2,400. No, that is not a typo.

Maximus OptimusWhy so expensive? First, it’s not a mass market product. It’s produced by an impressive design studio with a guiding business principle of ‘no bullshit.’ Hard not to like that. If you buy one, you can say you own a ‘work of Art.’ Second, it’s a fantastic-looking keyboard and, as far as I know, the only one of its kind. Each key is an independent stand-alone OLED display. That means that each key can transform into whatever you need it to be. While this is great for Dvorak typists, imagine the possibilities for people who want to change key functions for different languages, for games, or for application-specific functions. Check out the demo.

Back in 2008, rumors were circulating about the possibility of an Apple keyboard that also used OLED keys. I’m still waiting for it. I would bet that it already exists, hidden away in a secret lab, just waiting for mass technology to catch up so it can be released at a relatively affordable price. I still think, as I did in 2008, that this the future of keyboards. The question, of course, is if there is a future for keyboards. Will we still use these devices in 2020?

  1. Yeah, I checked out that Ars article too. I wish they’d make a quiet version of the Das Keyboard. I know it’s supposed to be retro but I don’t think I could stand it myself. The apple flat keyboard seems to be my keyboard of choice. It’s not membrane but it also has no feedback. A more premium apple keyboard (maybe with an alternative Fn vs Function keys solution) would be welcome.

    I think large, bendable and thin touch displays are the future. I want my display to curve down to my desk so I can type, pinch and scroll on the screen itself. Of course that’ll be some harsh touch typing. 😛

  2. Yeah, I think the quiet Das was out of stock when I checked. I don’t know that I’d like a flat, thin, bendable keyboard for ergonomic reasons, but then again I didn’t think I’d like the Apple thin keyboard and it’s actually pretty good.

    That looks like a pretty nice keyboard, Kelly. Did you get it?
    p.s. sorry for the delayed response time. Trying to buy a house right now and it’s eating up all my time and attention.

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