At this point my dream to drive down to Greece for a week has been shelved for at least a month. The weather on the Aegean sea is even colder than it is here on the Black Sea.
Plus, of course, our Canadians are only days away. They are currently having a blast in Amsterdam and are on their way to visit Barcelona. Yes, yes….I’m jealous, the last couple of weeks have been a bit boring in Sunny Beach.
Well, from my perspective it looks like the #1 digital hipster thing to do these days is to buy, modify, custom design and program mechanical keyboards. I had not idea the market and interest in these things is a fairy new but a massive (and and rather fascinating) bagazillion dollar business. Certain folks are buying vintage (or new) keyboards, replacing the caps, replacing the switches, changing the electronics, writing custom drivers and software, adding lighting and steel braided USB cables.
Many are sharing their “barn finds” (imagine finding an old Ferrari or a vintage Porsche in a forgotten farm house) where they find stacks of old and forgotten IBM keyboards in abandoned office buildings and reselling their treasures for many thousands of dollars or simply keeping them for bragging rights.
The keyboards that originally came with the IBM PS/2 model line still seem to be the most desirable as they’re engineered like tanks with 100s of incredibly high quality components and Lexus-like tolerances, a far cry from your modern $10 unit you can pick up at your corner computer store. Apparently most of them work as reliably today as they did 20++ years ago.
The IBM PS/2 model like was perhaps the most interesting and bulletproof line of computers ever made by any manufacturer. In many ways years ahead of its time. Unfortunately their high cost, proprietary internal components (remember Micro Channel architecture?), a huge flood of no-name clones and IBM’s initial embrace of OS2 was a gamble that unfortunately did not pay off in the marketplace. Read the WIKI HERE, it’s incredibly interesting, it really is. I grew up admiring these monsters during my weekly visits to computer stores in Winnipeg when I was barely a teenager. I vividly remember the PS2/model 80, a 386SX with ‘brilliant’ color VGA graphics, a 3.5 inch floppy drive (years before it became a standard) and almost an included suitcase of shiny IBM documentation. The thing was as tall as a toddler, as heavy as a bank vault and as intricately assembled as a modern jet fighter.
If you are curious what a heavily modified keyboard looks like today, here is an example. A completely custom unit with blank, custom 3D printed keys (it’s a huge faux pas to have any lettering on your key caps, duhh) custom switches and about $400 worth of bits and pieces. A unit like this is like a fine watch and strangely desirable and very expensive.
Yes, there is such a thing as a ‘keyboard enthusiast’.
Thank you for reading.