/dev/tty Round 2: Harder, Better, Faster, Sharper

/dev/tty Round 2: Harder, Better, Faster, Sharper

Long time I haven’t posted an update about the second round of /dev/tty. As you all well know I wasn’t very happy with the dye-sub quality of the first drop and –honestly– how Massdrop handled the whole development phase.

Fortunately this time things are moving smoother. I’m getting prototypes at a constant pace and the first impression is very good.

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3D Printing a Whitefox case

3D Printing a Whitefox case

Back to the roots! After a long period of high quality, high volumes fancy factory made keyboards I was missing my early DIY days. It all started from there: an idea, a bunch of hand wired switches and a layered acrylic case.

The keyboard enclosure has always been a problem. Layered acrylic (or aluminum) is definitely an option but it presents its limits and anyway you have to have access to a laser cutter. Time has passed –five year since my first custom?! gosh, time flies when you are having fun– and 3d printing finally got to a point where it’s both easily accessible and decent quality.  The problem with “home” 3d printers is that the building area is rarely big enough to host a whole keyboard so we have to be creative.

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Anatomy of a keyboard

Anatomy of a keyboard

This is the third and last introductory chapter in the How to build a custom keyboard series before turning on the soldering iron and actually build some stuff. You’ll learn how each component is constructed and the constrains we are going to face in making a keyboard. By the end of this post you should be able to pick the right keycaps, enclosure, materials and controller.

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All you need to build a custom keyboard

All you need to build a custom keyboard

Before getting our hands dirty we need to cover some basics. In this chapter we are going to dissect a keyboard into its main components and for each of them we’ll analyze cost, availability and difficulty to build.

We will also check our shopping list and make sure we have all the tools needed for our upcoming endeavor.

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How to build a custom keyboard: an introduction

How to build a custom keyboard: an introduction

I wrote multiple posts on my blog and on various community forums about mechanical keyboard making but the information is scattered, often outdated and unstructured.

Initially I wanted to release a full book, but it would take ages and I believe it would be somewhat limited. Being able to feature a video or download the source code of a firmware is crucial so I came up with a system that would let me publish my articles in a more organic way.

All chapters of the manual will be published on my blog at matt3o.com as soon as I write them. A post could cover some theory or be more practical and tutorial-like. Everything will be structured and easily accessible from the Table of Content at the top of each post so you can quickly navigate through the content.

Whenever possible I’ll add videos, source code, DWG and STL files in what I hope will become a valuable and ever growing source of information for custom keyboard makers. Even better, everything is free and released under a very permissive Creative Commons license.

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Device Terminal Round 2 AKA /dev/tty1

Device Terminal Round 2 AKA /dev/tty1

Some of you may have noticed that /dev/tty has dropped again. Waaaay sooner than I expected actually. As you know by now I don’t like to rush a product release and considering the round 1 hiccups, I would have liked a couple of weeks more to plan a good fight strategy.

Anywho. Device Terminal (that’s how you pronounce it!) round 2 is up and kicking. The official name would be /dev/tty1 (it’s 0-based) and we have approximately a month to fix the issues we encountered in the first iteration. Namely the drunken legends. MassDrop reassure me that they made so no more bold, tilted, not-centered legends will leave the factory. I hope they will let me check that before shipping to customers.

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The cost of perfection

The cost of perfection

Warning: this is a rant.

Important: the following reflects my opinion and my opinion only. I report the facts at the best of my knowledge/understanding but they are not necessarily accurate.

Of course I’m going to talk about /dev/tty keycaps set and the MT3 profile. The two are actually very different projects.

MT3 is the new profile we designed. It was a long process but it went relatively smooth. We had many iterations of the keys, I got plenty of prototypes both 3D printed and injected. We were able to fine tune the shape up to the very last minute. Indeed the profile came out beautifully, better than my expectations actually. The result is a wonderful new and original profile.

I was expecting the same process to happen for /dev/tty which is the first color scheme released on MT3.

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/dev/tty keycaps in all their glory!

/dev/tty keycaps in all their glory!

It has been a long journey but it was well worth the wait. I’m usually very critical with my own work but this time we are pretty much close to perfection.

Let’s start with the keys layout. The most avid of my followers know that we designed a completely new profile called –very unoriginally– MT3. The goal was to create a retro looking shape without sacrificing ergonomics. I’m typing on these little guys from some time now and it’s incredible how natural and pleasing these keycaps feel.

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/dev/tty even more prototypes!

/dev/tty even more prototypes!

I just received a new batch of prototypes. These hopefully are the very last prototypes I’ll see before the pre-production samples.

We had some issues selecting the –hell too many– colors present in the /dev/tty set and that took more time than I anticipated. Also finding the right legend thickness took some trial and error but the manufacturer has been very helpful and I’m glad to let you know that everything is sorted out.

I’m possibly biased but these are the best keycaps ever produced on planet Earth.

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/dev/tty prototypes take 1

/dev/tty prototypes take 1

It has been a quiet couple of months but the work on MT3 profile and /dev/tty keycaps is proceeding at a steady pace.

The first step was to 3D print a full set of keys to check the ergonomics of our new design. We made very few updates to make sure that everything was spot on and then we proceeded to production. What you see pictured here is the very first batch of PBT injected prototypes. They are not final by any means, the color is not finalized yet and we still have to work on the surface texture, but we are getting closer to the real deal and I wanted to share with you the progress.

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