I realized that 7 years have passed since we started working on MT3 and many might not know the story behind this profile. Also information is scattered on this blog and various forums and it’s not easy to find, so I think it’s time to refresh our memory and put everything together.
I always liked high profile (tall) spherical top (scooped) keycaps; the only thing we had at the time (around 2014) was SA by Signature Plastics. I’m not a big fan of it, SP had the tooling for just a few keys and they hacked around a full set (often with the help of the community, 7bit from Deskthority paid for quite a few keys and made them available to everyone).
My obsession with a high profile reached its apex when Realforce release the Hi-Pro keyboard. I had to do something, the world needed true retro keycaps. I started working on few concepts and talked to Drop about my idea (still Massdrop back then). They seemed interested but their involvement wasn’t certain.
In 2015 June 02 at 11:47 hours I initiated a discussion on Deskthority and I started drafting the profile.
The general consensus was that we should have tried to create something that resembled an IBM beamspring keycap.
The design process
Muirium sent me an incomplete set of keycaps from what I believe was some beamspring keyboard. From that it was clear that it wasn’t possible to make a set out of it. We needed something that could work on any modern keyboard so we took that as inspiration and built something new.
Two years later Drop finally greenlighted the project and it was then that I met with Tom “photekq” Radley who is skilled with 3D software and shared my vision for the high profile keycaps. Unfortunately I don’t have an official date but the actual “bringing to life” moment was around March 2017.
At the end of April 2017 Drop had the first prototype 3D printed and sent to me for inspection. I posted an impromptu video about it right away but we were still far from perfect.
The shape was fine but we had various issues, the angle of each key top for example was a bit off.
The red line is how it should be (and actually is today). The fingers hit the wrong spot when touch typing and I couldn’t bear it. So I contacted Photekq and we went back to the drawing board.
The goal was to create a set that worked perfectly on a 5 to 9-ish degree angle. That was the sweet spot where row 3 becomes parallel to the ground.
Drop was pressing to go production, we had just a few days to make the modifications but we did it!
2017 August 07 I got the first round of injected prototypes and briefly talked about it on this blog.
It was around that time Photekq involvement ceased. He started a new job on top of the studying so I believe he couldn’t dedicate more time to it. He was paid for his contribution and he moved on. I don’t think he did anything else for the profile or at least Drop didn’t tell me and I haven’t heard from him since August 2017. If he had not parted then we would be writing this post together today.
As for the payment the agreement I had with Drop was different, I was going to get royalties after the release of the product based on its success (or lack of) but I was going to keep the ownership of the profile.
Anyway the work was far from done. The surface texture wasn’t finalized yet, we still had to fix a few keys and of course I had to design the first set for it, which was /dev/tty0.
The MT3 Name
It was time to find a name for the profile. We didn’t even have a temporary production moniker for it.
A few ideas were thrown on the table but I knew Drop would have eventually stripped the creation from me so in a precautionary move I suggested MT3 as an homage to the profile original creator (yes, that’sa me, Matt3o).
There was some reluctance at first, but I believe I have to thank Yanbo for letting it fly under the radar of the high floors and ultimately they agreed to it. Huge win but I was sure that one day they would have claimed the naming back, as it happened.
The impossible reach for perfection
Initially I wanted to fund the production of MT3 with my own money, but I thought that the experience Drop had with manufacturing in China was going to be beneficial for the project.
The investment Drop has done (and still does) is substantial, probably more than they anticipated and when you put so much on the table things start to get ugly.
The lack of experience and professionalism of the manufacturer created an incredibly frustrating situation where each prototype I got was wrong or incomplete or worse than the previous. Especially when working with surface texture and colors.
It was January 2018 and we were terribly late, I received what I was let to believe was a production prototype so I rushed reviewing it to send my report back. As soon as I checked my email and the socials I saw people posting pictures of /dev/tty.
They told me we had still time to fix things, but they had actually already shipped the keycaps out to customers. I understand I’m very passionate about my work and apparently they feel “intimidated” by me…
… But that doesn’t mean I’m unreasonable, just tell me the truth.
Anyway, the set was still great and I loved every piece of it and we subsequently perfected the production process.
PBT vs ABS
I’ve always been a PBT guy. It’s more durable and you have complete freedom with the legends. The only downside is that you can’t do dark sets.
Drop reached out and asked if I was interested in working on the ABS doubleshot version of MT3. People love the variety of colorways 2-shot offers and I was excited to work on a new MT3 project.
It was the summer of 2018 when I started working on the legends. In contrast to dye-sublimation that lets you choose and change your legends any time you want, double-shot is forever. I had to choose a font that would have been the face of MT3 ABS for the years to come.
I wanted a typeface that was simple but recognizable, I received a lot of feedback from the community and other designers including oblotzky, Mito and many others.
Ultimately I chose Barlow, with a few hand made tweaks. I find it to be a font with a “not pretentious” character and I still love it. In a few weeks we managed to finalize the legends and start production… or so I thought.
At the end of 2018 Drop collected pre-orders but by the summer of 2019 we still knew nothing about Susuwatari (the first set to be released in MT3 doubleshot). I don’t know what happened exactly, Drop basically stopped talking to me, I believe they had to change manufacturer because the previous one wasn’t able to deliver. Unfortunately I don’t have details and Drop is not willing to share.
What I know is that 2020 arrived and our lives changed forever. Covid hit China and Korea first then Italy (where I live) and the rest of the world.
Susuwatari was the most complicated set to get the colors right for. I don’t know why it took so long but I have dozens of injection tests and color chips and they’ve never been able to reach the desired result.
In an incredibly difficult situation and with months (years?) of delays Drop managed to bring Susuwatari to life by the second half of 2020. Considering all that happened in 2020, that was quite an achievement.
This is the story to the best of my knowledge of the MT3 profile. I’m sorry if I forgot to mention someone involved in the process, please let me know if I did, it’s very likely that Drop didn’t actually tell me about you.
During the years many designers created wonderful sets for MT3 and I’m honored they chose my profile for their works.
Unfortunately (again) Drop don’t tell me what they do with MT3 so I find out about new creations mostly by mistake, but the success of the profile is thanks to all the support from the community.
In April 2021 Drop announced a cherry-clone MT2 profile. It is completely unrelated to MT3 and I’m not involved in its development. While doing so they reclaimed control over the naming that now looks unrelated.
Thanks for sharing the history, it was an interesting read.
More importantly, many thanks for bringing the MT3 profile to life, it’s by far my favorite profile! I love my set of Susuwatari and was thrilled to find that it looks even better in person. Very few pictures online do it justice (I suspect the subtle yellow legends make it difficult to take good photos due to white balance?)
My favorite keycaps of all time though are definitely my MT3 Elvish Hardcore. When I first got into the keyboard hobby I found your DSA Nerd set on Drop and eagerly awaited a restock that never came. I’m so glad I was able to get MT3 Elvish instead! The colour palette is more to my liking and the profile is far superior too.
Like many others, when I saw the MT2 announcement recently I immediately assumed that it was another profile made by you. My immediate hope was that it was a shorter profile that maintained the incredibly comfy spherical tops of MT3! I was disappointed to find out that MT2 looked like a cherry clone with very minor modifications… but this made a lot more sense when I found out that you weren’t involved at all! It seems the MT2 name choice was just a marketing decision to capitalise on the good reputation of the MT3 profile.
I can imagine for a corporate entity it’s difficult to work with someone like you that desires such high levels of quality for their products, but it’s pretty clearly this dedication to quality that resulted in this: “our doubleshot MT3 toolset remains our highest average-rated keycap profile that we’ve ever sold.”
As a consumer who has purchased 6 sets of MT3 to date (5 of which were yours) I want to say: Thankyou for your attention to detail and your involvement with making a keycap profile and keycap sets that make me happy every time that I use them!
I sit here typing on my dev/tty keyset which I used daily for hours and hours for the last 3.5 years. It’s part of my 5th custom made keyboard and this is probably what I wanted from the start. I didn’t build another keyboard after this one.
PBT was and is the perfect choice. The high profile is perfect for me.
Even today I have moments where I just let my fingers slide over they keys because it feels so good :D
“Sad” part: with how durable PBT is I’m not sure why I should ever get another set or another keyboard :)
simple: you don’t need another set :). When you’ll need another keyboard (maybe for a second PC) get another PBT set, the planet will also thank you.
Have you considered running some of your colorways in MG or PGA? MT3 was my favorite production profile, but I would be very hesitant to purchase anything from Drop following this situation.
Or maybe you have some even deeper sphericals in the works? Personally, I really enjoy Shoggot’s Chicago Deep Dish, but 3D-printed caps aren’t really comparable to injection molded sets.
Just a quick Thanks! I’m typing this on an initial release Granite set — I got four or five of those along with four dev/tty (one initial release as well) and one Susuwatari sets. I have been using them for many years on my home and work boards w/o ever feeling the need to look for something else. I truly appreciate all the hard work and attention to detail that goes into your projects, thanks again!
(Mass)Drop had me annoyed for the last ten years and I only used it to buy an occasional MT3 set. Seeing how they kick one of their best talent to the curbs just reinforces my resolution not to use or recommend them anymore in the future (helps that I have all the sets I need ATM :), for all I care they can fizzle and die.
Best of luck for the future! I’ll be keeping an eye out for future projects from you! :)
I was so surprised that you had to part ways with Drop, but I know how you feel by reading this post and another one titled “The MT3/MT2 Drama-not-Drama”.
I have /dev/tty and Dasher, also ordered WoB. I’m so satisfied the profile and my fingers are optimised to MT3 profile and am addicted to it. I’m worried a bit about the pre-order set “MT3 Retro” will be delivered properly.
Currently, we don’t seem to be able to buy MT3 keycaps other than Drop, but I am looking forward to your new products will be sold in other shops!
I’m sure you mentioned it somewhere, but I didn’t find it in this post: Will there be future MT3 keycaps made by a company that is not Drop? I would like to support you instead of them and I would also like to see new sets designed by you, so it would be a shame if Drop owns the profile now forever.
don’t think I’ll do more MT3, but I’m working on other things. MT3v2? possibly :)
Yeah, totally looking forward to those :)
Ordered two more sets of devtty, I really hope for another PBT MT3 (mk2 maybe?) in future. Think I’ll be not using massdrop again after all this…
Drop has a buy-one-MT3-get-one-free-base-kit going on ’til Apr 18th, including dev/tty… Good opportunity for a last order ;)
MT3 has become my favorite profile, hell I have four sets. However with drop generally lacking PBT sets and especially ergo kits it doesn’t seem like they want any more of my money. Should I even expect there to be PBT sets with good ergo kits (like dev/tty used to have) in the future?
they seem to prefer ABS doubleshot as that’s what people buy
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy isn’t it? If all but 3 of the sets available are ABS then that’s what will sell more. I’d buy more MT3 sets if there were any more that were PBT and had ergo kits.
Hey Matteo! I’m still here!
I disappeared from the community for a long time after MT3 because of things going on in my life but I’ve been fully returned for a while now. Mostly just collecting keyboards and archiving keyboard websites/data for historical purposes, not so much designing.
I got locked out of my Skype and lost all of our logs after one of my hard drives died :<
I'd love to talk to you again, reading your mentions of me here brought a smile to my face. I'm proud of the work we put into that profile. I'd love to write something together with you going more in-depth on the design process – I bet those Skype logs would jog my memory a lot, if you still have them ;)
I'm on Discord now instead of Skype. Or email works too :)
I’ve been a Susuwatari user since it came out. It’s the first MT3 set I bought, and it will stay my main set. I just want to thank you and photekq for the effort you put into designing this set. I had a stroke a few years ago, and as a result I have some pretty decreased sensation in my right hand. Cherry profile is harder for me to touch type accurately on because a cylindrical shape doesn’t give me feedback if I’m starting to drift up or down on the row. MT3 with its lovely dish and the sharper edges gives me very clear feedback of whether I’m centered on the cap or not, even with diminished sensation in my fingertips.
Anyway, I love the aesthetic design of Susuwatari, but I love even more the physical design of MT3. It helps me at work and at home every day.
thanks for your message, I really appreciated it. The goal was to make some deep welcoming dished indeed :)
Good luck with you life!
What happened with the payment with drop? I know of more than one occasion where drop has reached out “helped” a designer with the manufacturing and logistics (as a vendor) but subsequently took over IP rights. They modified the product a little bit and re-branded it as their own!! And this is from massdrop days…
Honestly the only thing that ive bought from drop after learning about the above has been MT3 sets. So glad to hear of MTNU 🤘🏼🤘🏼 cant wait!!!
I know that some of the contracts they have are pretty draconian, but they call them “standard silicon valley”. Can’t really comment on that, personally I’ve been fine.
I love the MT3 profile, and would really love to see something like Susuwatari with shine-through legends. That’d be awesome.
Thanks for your work!