A long time ago when the earth was green, computer keyboards were clicky. A single keystroke yielded a sound akin to a basketball dribble inside an empty gymnasium or the thwack of a wooden ruler on your desk by your high school algebra teacher. “I swear I wasn’t sleeping – I solve for x with my eyes closed! It’s my process.”
The click is caused by the actuation of independent mechanical switches with every key press. Mechanical keyboards ultimately gave way to today’s membrane design, in which keystrokes are registered via pressure pads. This type of keyboard is cheaper to produce and, if you’re on a computer right now, is probably what you’re using. Thus the clicky gave way to the smushy.
Over the past several years, mechanical keyboards have grown in popularity – particularly with computer nerds and gamers. Falling squarely into the former category and casually into the latter, I decided there was a gaping hole in my existence that could only be filled with the clicks. I needed a mechanical keyboard.
As a technical graybeard (or in my case, ginger with “blonde” highlights), I was generally aware of mechanical keyboards and their purported benefits, but I’d never really paid that much attention. It was time to take the plunge. I soon found the /r/MechanicalKeyboards subreddit and forums teeming with folks getting down and nerdy on the topic. As I often do when researching a purchase, I spent days immersed in posts, articles, and videos absorbing as much as I could.
When I finally emerged from my dungeon crawl through the arcane bowels of the Interwebs, I was overcome by enthusiasm. And, as I often do, I fire-hosed unsolicited and gory details of my findings at my wife which, of course, she loves. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Twelve full minutes of ranting about typing speed, accuracy, anti-ghosting, lifespan, modularity, and the sounds by Cherry MX switch type.
Wife: “Wait, are you talking about those old keyboards that click really loud?”
Me: “Exactly! They are really popular with nerds and gamers. There are lots of companies making them again.”
Wife: (stares through me emotionlessly while internally questioning her life-choices)
Me: “I found one I like. It’s stupidly expensive but has great reviews.”
Wife: “You’re an idiot.”
Taking this verbal cue as her full and enthusiastic support, I pulled the trigger on the Daskeyboard Cherry MX Brown switch keyboard of my dreams.
Ever see that black and yellow bumper sticker “loud pipes save lives”? It’s a well-worn motorcyclist mantra rooted in fact. Bikes outfitted with loud pipes are safer as they demand the attention of the texting, make-up applying, and otherwise distracted four-wheeled masses. That’s great and all. I enjoy not dying as much as the next guy. But a close second to non-death is the catharsis of twisting the throttle. The roar of my Milwaukee-born power plant through Rineharts the size of bazookas is deeply satisfying to the soul. There’s something magical about the low rumble and the loud response when you twist the throttle. There is nothing like hopping on your bike and drowning the day’s stresses in that glorious blublubblub. We biker-folk think of this as “throttle therapy” while the uninitiated simply call it “annoying.”
Although not exactly life-saving, the sound of my mechanical keyboard does tickle the “loud pipes” region of my soul. Typing furiously while engaged in email-to-email combat, my keyboard is like a machine gun rat-a-tat-tatting my words. It’s not therapeutic in the same way loud pipes are, of course, but there is a tinge of satisfaction that can be derived by those who, like me, largely exist in front of screens.
If you don’t own a mechanical keyboard and, like me, you spend your days tethered to computer, you might consider getting one. Already among the actuated? I’d welcome your pro tips and information on your go-to peripheral.