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Programmer Goes on Mission to Build a Better Keyboard

By - Source: Coding Horror | B 59 comments

Nobody is ever perfectly satisfied with a keyboard, as there is always something about it that just isn't right. Jeff Atwood though, he likes his keyboard a lot... because he built it himself.

Programmer Jeff Atwood has decided that he wanted to make a keyboard -- a keyboard that is perfectly crafted to his needs. In his eyes, no keyboards that were available on the market were perfect, so what can you do but build your own?

"I was indoctrinated into the keyboard cult when I bought my first computer. But I didn't appreciate it. Few do. The world is awash in terrible, crappy, no name how-cheap-can-we-make-it keyboards," Atwood detailed. "There are a few dozen better mechanical keyboard options out there. I've owned and used at least six different expensive mechanical keyboards, but I wasn't satisfied with any of them, either: they didn't have backlighting, were ugly, had terrible design, or were missing basic functions like media keys."

Jeff Atwood then teamed up with WASD Keyboards, and in partnership they made the CODE keyboard. The CODE keyboard is designed to be very minimalistic, yet functional. The keyboard features some very rare Cherry MX Clear mechanical switches, which have tactile feedback, but are not clicky. The choice for these is made because of the natural feeling, yet quiet operation. This should make the keyboard usable in office environments. The keyboard also features white backlighting, which has seven different brightness settings, plus off. To make sure that the keyboard is strong enough to take some serious keyboard mashing, it has even been fitted with a solid steel backplate right between the PCB and the keys. You won't be able to see the backplate with all the keycaps placed, but you'll certainly feel it. Due to the backplate though, the keyboard weighs a hefty 1.1 kg.

Normally, between the Ctrl key and Alt key we would find the 'Windows' key, which on the CODE keyboard is simply left blank. The Alt key can be swapped for an Apple Command key, the normally useless Scroll Lock key can be reassigned as a disable windows-button key for gaming, the Caps Lock key can be reassigned as a tertiary Ctrl key, and more. You can even change the keyboard's electrics into thinking that it is a Dvorak or Colemak keyboard, and then mix and match the keycaps accordingly for a whole new keyboard layout. Cool? We certainly think so.

This here though, is just a small sample of all the little details that Jeff Atwood and WASD keyboards have put into the CODE keyboard. For the full listing, head here.

At the time of writing the keyboard is already sold out, though from the looks of it a new batch might be in the works. The price for ordering one is also on par with other high-end mechanical keyboards at $149.99.

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  • 3 Hide
    beayn , August 31, 2013 1:35 PM
    But do the letters wear off like every other keyboard out there?
  • 8 Hide
    z0phi3l , August 31, 2013 1:55 PM
    Man I wish it were cheaper, looks like a damn nice keyboard
  • 6 Hide
    whyso , August 31, 2013 2:07 PM
    The ironic thing is that the QWERTY keyboard was designed at the time of typewritiers to minimize typing speed so that the little metal rods would not get stuck with each other.
  • 2 Hide
    GoldenI , August 31, 2013 2:44 PM
    It looks like a really nice keyboard; the price tag is somewhat deterring, however. ;_;
  • 9 Hide
    InvalidError , August 31, 2013 2:51 PM
    Quote:
    The ironic thing is that the QWERTY keyboard was designed at the time of typewritiers to minimize typing speed so that the little metal rods would not get stuck with each other.

    And that was still not "good enough" to prevent fast typists from jamming heads.
  • 6 Hide
    expl0itfinder , August 31, 2013 2:51 PM
    I love minimalistic keyboards. I'm a gamer, and I just don't think all the frills are necessary. (With the exception of some extra keys for the MMO gamer.) Also, I love a weighty keyboard. It often indicates fantastic build quality. I think this is definitely something worth looking in to.
  • -4 Hide
    unksol , August 31, 2013 3:01 PM
    Quote:
    The ironic thing is that the QWERTY keyboard was designed at the time of typewritiers to minimize typing speed so that the little metal rods would not get stuck with each other.


    They were designed to MAXIMIZE type speed by separating commonly used letters so the rods would not collide. That's just as valid today, you don't want one finger doing all the work. No other system has ever been proven superior, so I can't imagine what you are on about. Even if you believed the Dvorak myth, this supports it (though I doubt you could learn it).

    Regardless there is nothing special about this. Its a backlit mechanical keyboard, of which there are many. And if you need backlighting you're using your keyboard wrong or need to learn to type. the only thing "special" is he picked some rarely used (not actually rare) switches. And he slapped his name on it for a price premium. Even then there are other backlit boards using these switches, and which switches you prefer is personal.
  • 4 Hide
    GoldenI , August 31, 2013 3:03 PM
    It looks like a really nice keyboard; the price tag is somewhat deterring, however. ;_;
  • -4 Hide
    tadej petric , August 31, 2013 3:11 PM
    Im happy with my pentium 3 era keyboard.
    Maybe that guy just switches them too fats so you cant get used to it.
    Also why spend all that money on keyboards (Ive seen them cost upto 350€). You could spend that on better components, while 30€ keyboards will do just fine. Also the visuals seem pretty uninportant for me (except if its really really ugly); I mean, you look at the screen, not at the keyboard (or case for that matter).

    Ill never understand some things...
  • -3 Hide
    joe nate , August 31, 2013 5:07 PM
    Yet he fails to address the biggest concern I have for a keyboard: Key rollover. Far too many keyboards stop at 6kro over USB because that's the maximum you can do without being fancy, but higher key roll over is mandatory for me.

    Ducky's 9008 G2 has NKRO over USB, that's what I use. If you really want backlighting, Ducky now makes ones with backlighting and makes it with MX cherry blue, red, black and brown. Only difference is the MX cherry clears.

    I'm unimpressed.
  • 4 Hide
    Evan20x , August 31, 2013 6:32 PM
    Quote:
    But do the letters wear off like every other keyboard out there?


    My 9 year old Dell keyboard has no wearing visisble of the keys of any sort.

    Anyways this is a pretty nice looking keyboard. The FN and multimedia buttons look well placed.
  • 6 Hide
    bigpinkdragon286 , August 31, 2013 7:02 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The ironic thing is that the QWERTY keyboard was designed at the time of typewritiers to minimize typing speed so that the little metal rods would not get stuck with each other.


    They were designed to MAXIMIZE type speed by separating commonly used letters so the rods would not collide. That's just as valid today, you don't want one finger doing all the work. No other system has ever been proven superior, so I can't imagine what you are on about. Even if you believed the Dvorak myth, this supports it (though I doubt you could learn it).

    Regardless there is nothing special about this. Its a backlit mechanical keyboard, of which there are many. And if you need backlighting you're using your keyboard wrong or need to learn to type. the only thing "special" is he picked some rarely used (not actually rare) switches. And he slapped his name on it for a price premium. Even then there are other backlit boards using these switches, and which switches you prefer is personal.


    I would love for you to explain the Dvorak myth of which you seem to be so aware. In what way is Qwerty superior to anything, other than being more common? Dvorak was set up after research was done into minimizing finger movement and other factors to increase typing efficiency, when typing using the English language. The US NAVY did a study in the early 40's, and concluded Dvorak was far superior. Qwerty was neither designed to speed typists up or to slow them down. Qwerty was designed to minimize the event of typists jamming the machines they were using by placing common two-letter groupings on opposite sides of the keyboard.

    "It has been estimated that a QWERTY typist's fingers travel 16-20 miles a day, while a Dvorak typist's fingers will only travel about 1 mile. This is a major benefit to the health of your fingers." - http://www.theworldofstuff.com/dvorak/

    "As of 2005, writer Barbara Blackburn was the fastest English language typist in the world, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. Using the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, she has maintained 150 words per minute (wpm) for 50 minutes, and 170 wpm for shorter periods. She has been clocked at a peak speed of 212 wpm." - http://www.funtrivia.com/askft/Question103372.html
  • -3 Hide
    gamecube , August 31, 2013 7:19 PM
    Change the Home, Insert, End, F keys and other's to primarily media and functions control and it's game on. I can't imagine having to press Fn every time I want to change brightness or volume.
  • -6 Hide
    agnickolov , August 31, 2013 8:29 PM
    As the article clearly says, this is a keyboard for software developers. Yet it fails to address the biggest issue virtually all keyboards have today - the small Enter key. A real productivity keyboard needs both a large Enter key and a large Backspace key so a sloppy aim with my little finger hits it every time. You can't imagine how many accidental backslashes I've had to erase over the years...

    I have a Keytronic LT Classic keyboard I bought around 1999-2000 and I'd take it over this one any day. It cost me under $30 and after 13 3/4 year it still doesn't show any visible wear. I'll probably use it until they stop providing a PS/2 slot on motherboards. I only wish I'd get such a keyboard at work where it actually matters...
  • -7 Hide
    dark_lord69 , August 31, 2013 9:52 PM
    good luck selling your keyboard man...
    I honestly don't think it's worth anywhere near that price.
    I would pay 10% of your asking price. $14.99 for that keyboard.
    Keyboards are a waist of money if you buy anything expensive.
  • 3 Hide
    razor512 , August 31, 2013 10:52 PM
    due to the textures around the letters, it seems that they use the same process that logitech does for their gaming keyboards. they use all clear keys and paint everything but the letters black, thus allowng doe back lit lettering.

    This process also means that the paint will eventually come off through use.

    a better solution though more costly is a 2 step mold flow production process for the keys.

    Black plastic is used for the keys and the letters have no plastic at all.

    then in the second step, another machine either fills the letter areas with a frosted clear plastic to diffuse the lights from the LED, or a paper like diffusion material is electrostatically charged and then placed on the back of the clear plastic of the lettering during the second injection process.

    I don't think I have ever seen a keyboard use this production process, but it is common on cars, boars, and medical equipment where people would really prefer their buttons to not fade after a 2-3 years.

    Non painted plastic for buttons also means that strong hospital grade disinfectants can be used without stripping the color off of the object.
  • 0 Hide
    Maxor127 , September 1, 2013 1:22 AM
    I bought a cheap <$10 keyboard 10 years ago, and it's still working great after heavy use. I've never had a problem with it.
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