I wish I was a mechanical keyboard person.
Don’t get me wrong, I love mechanical keyboards. I own several of them — some straight off the shelf, some deliberately and meticulously designed to suit my every want and need.
I love the way the keys are often sculpted to cup the tips of my fingers. I love the different sounds they all make — some deep and velvety, some sharp and tinny, yet all pleasing in their own way. I love that nearly every aspect of them can be selected for and molded to the whims of its creator. I like being able to choose custom materials, layouts, profiles, media shortcuts, backlight colors, fonts, connector types (USB-C? USB-A? Detachable? Wireless? Bluetooth?). In the case of basically every mechanical keyboard that I have used, I have been impressed with its quality, attention to detail, cross-compatibility, modularity, and above all, its style. If ever a physical object were to be a textbook manifestation of my personality writ large, it would be a mechanical keyboard.
If only I were a mechanical keyboard person.
I spend most of my days writing text. That’s my job. Every day it’s hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of keystrokes. And there came a time when I made a realization: I am not a mechanical keyboard person.
For one, I simply type faster on a “chiclet-style” keyboard. I’ve tested this using every typing test you can throw at it, and time after time, the metrics don’t lie — I type noticeably faster, and with fewer mistakes, on a non-mechanical keyboard.
Not only that, I notice that my fingers don’t tire out as quickly, and since giving up the dream of being a mechanical keyboard person I’ve spent zero days with joint pain or aches in my fingers or wrists. After a day of typing, my fingers just feel better.
Then there’s the sound. While I adore the mellifluous acoustical qualities of mechanical keyboards, it took me quite a while to appreciate the effect that this had on my ability to properly form thoughts and commit them to screen. The noises managed to drown out whatever else happened to be swimming in my head. I sometimes have difficulty focusing if there is too much noise around me. I prefer quiet working spaces, or locations with relatively quiet background hums and murmurs. Beyond that, the sounds of the outside world often interrupt my thinking and obliterate whatever ideas are mulling around at the time. Although I love the sound of mechanical keyboards, the truth is that I have found them to be detrimental to my output and add haziness rather than clarity in my mind.
Not only that, but I know having a loud keyboard is distracting to others around me for the same reason. Back when I worked in a physical office I know I sometimes drove my coworkers bonkers with my keyboard (I even used an IBM Model M as my daily driver for a period of time, God help and forgive me). But even more now, when I spend much of my day in a remote call with my coworkers, I know that a loud keyboard can be picked up by my microphone and echoed back in their ears, a fact of which I try to be mindful.
For those reasons, I must come to grips with the fact I am not a mechanical keyboard person. And, if I’m willing to admit things further, there are some non-mechanical keyboards out there that I just really, really like.
For one, as an old-school Thinkpad fan, I find that the Thinkpad keyboard on my laptop is the greatest laptop keyboard I have ever used. Great key travel, fully backlit, rounded edges, and a delight to use in every way. I have had a number of laptops over the years, including MacBooks (Airs and Pros, with both the scissor switch and butterfly mechanisms), and my Thinkpad’s keyboard blows them all out of the water. The only shortcoming of note is with the media key selection, which is, and I’m being generous here, not particularly great. No play/pause, no skipping tracks, although for some reason Lenovo decided to have a dedicated bookmarks button. Now that’s a design decision I’ll continue to question (along with the sanity of the person who made said decision).
And at my desk, I have found no keyboard that has brought me more pleasure than my Apple Magic Keyboard. I know that’s a super basic choice that basically half the planet uses, and don’t get me wrong, it’s not a perfect keyboard — there’s no backlight, it still uses a Lightning connection to charge, and the arrow keys are a bit odd. But I love how the keypresses manage to feel tight and impactful, even though there’s relatively low key travel. I love how little space it occupies on my desk, how easy it is to clean (in stark contrast to mechanical keyboards), how it doesn’t require any wires or cables for day-to-day use and can go months on a charge, and of course, how quiet it is. Every single media key shortcut it has is useful and laid out exactly how I would want it. The profile is great. And it looks fantastic, too.
I really wish I could be a mechanical keyboard person. Connecting with other people over a shared love or interest is always a joy, and I have always found the mechanical keyboard community exceptionally welcoming. But at the end of the day, sometimes we must all face certain truths about ourselves, and with trepidation I must confess that such a life is not for me.