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Been a while since I talked about keyboards, even on my various social networks. Thought maybe I’d prattle a bit about where I am with my keyboards and my thoughts on the current state of things. Who am I? Why should you care? You shouldn’t. Go checkout out some cat vids or something on TikTok.

Where am I with my keyboarding hobby? I guess… nowhere. It’s kind of come to a hault. This is not for lack of interest, though. Helping people stop hurting from keyboard use is still very important to me. However, I’ve sort of run out of stuff to build. I have a cabinet full of builds of interesting keyboards and I’ve not found remaining ones I can just buy. There are lots out there that exist as gerbers which I could order but I’ve not felt great about ordering five or ten of them, per MOQ, that’ll just fill a drawer. Also, I’m not finding boards I think are interesting. There are only so many ways to put together keys and maybe I’ve run that well dry, for myself.

So, I’m not building keyboards much. Doesn’t help I’ve had some health issues that have kept me out of the studio.

Where am I with my keyboarding in general? “Stalled” isn’t the right word. Maybe just “happy with my choices”. When I’m at my desk, my daily driver for non-coding work is a corne and, typically, my own variant.

But I spend a lot of time on my laptop, wandering the house, far away from my desk. Particularly this year when I was (still am) unemployed a lot and sick a lot, I’m often crashed out on the couch with my laptop. The custom keyboards just don’t come into play all that much right now.

Which leads me to my work/coding daily driver. That’s either a lily58 or an iris. Due to being on a laptop a lot, I have a really hard time shaking off the need for a first layer number row. Hitting a layer key to access the number row, particularly symbols, is too much cognitive load at this point. I wish it were otherwise, but it’s not, so coding/work is done on these boards with a number row. To be honest, even sticking the right hand symbols on a layer is somewhat of a challenge. I’ve been pondering a design for basically a split 60% where the core keys match a corne stagger. But I’m not there quite yet.

Thoughts on the hobby of keyboarding in general? In the big general sense, I think the relatively hugely popular custom keyboarding hobby was born out of pandemic lockdown. Tech folks were working from home, often for the first time, went looking for a good keyboard and fell down the rabbit hole. With lots of extra alone time, since we couldn’t go out much, there was lots of extra time to play around with keyboards.

Also, a lot of folks with spare money fell down this rabbit hole which led to lots of group buys and color ways and new switch types and just an explosion of stuff. And lots of folks had extra spare money from not going out to events or food or whatever else folks spent their money on when not legally ordered to stay home.

But then that lifted and then we found out that most of the group buys were scams or failures and then some folks realized that buying the same key profile over and over again in different colors at $200 a pop was unsustainable. The bottom fell out. In the last year, a lot of the smaller keyboard vendors have folded. Folks aren’t that interested in group buys anymore. Folks are building less of “that same 60% that everyone else has but mine looks like spider man”.

“Market contraction” is the late stage capitalism term.

Further, a lot of people found their forever board. I say “end game is a conspiracy/myth” a lot but it is a real thing. It is totally possible to find a keyboard in the right form factor, with switches that work well for you, in colors you like, and just, you know, stop. Keep using that board. Maybe buy some extra bits or build an extra board in case of problems. But then be just done.

So the hobby has contracted and faded a bit for great reasons.

The “ouch my wrists hurt wtf even is this keyboard” crowd is still out there and we’re still under-served. The contraction of the larger hobby will make that worse. Having a billion options made it much more likely to find something that hurt less while still being aesthetically great for us. And now? I don’t know.

Did I ever think about selling keyboards? I did. I still want to. I specifically want to serve the under-served “ouch my wrists hurt” crowd. I still have the dream of a little watch-maker-style shop that has “weird” keyboards with caps and switches for folks to try, to help folks find an accessible board for reasonable prices without buying a billion types to try.

But I had to be real with myself. My assumed ADHD means it’s unlikely I can make a business of that type work. I struggle to remember house chores, let alone shipping stuff to people on a deadline. I could maybe, when I’m healthier, be talked into building a board for a friend, particularly if they already had switches and caps and just wanted the pcb and maybe a 3d print case. But that’s about it.

Also, I decided I didn’t want to add on taxes and business stuff onto something I find fun. I feel like that’d ruin it. But if I didn’t have to worry about any of that, I’d probably still jump on the opportunity to build keyboards for folks and help folks find tech that makes them hurt less or that helps them.

So where am I? In short, I have keyboards I like in a contracting hobby space that I’ve largely been too unhealthy to participate in much. I’m hoping that will change. I’m hoping to build my own lily58 variant and maybe finish up a new version of the ish. I think I’d really like to participate more with the “ouch my wrists hurt” and accessibility folks. But that’s a ways down the road. Until then… I guess we’ll see.