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MT3

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.

What’s new in round two

Small updates at each new drop are mandatory and are what make each revision unique. First of all of course we removed the limited edition “/dev/tty0” novelty key. Also the Cyrillic kit was removed and will be hardly repeated, at least in that form.

Last time we promised Ergodox compatibility and we delivered; a blank Ergodox kit is now available. Another fine addition are spacebars! We now support 7u, 6.25u, 6u, 4u, 3u, 2u spacebars in both Row 4 (angled) and Row 5 (flat). I hope next time to be able to add even more. We are still working on the stems position, they will be very likely centered.

I added a few keys here and there for a wider support of new and old keyboards and I believe a Tokyo60 specific set will be released at a later time.

Orange color will be fixed, it’s not how I wanted it, I’m sorry but it won’t match with the previous drop but all other colors will be the same! Including teal, which is a wonderful vibrant color that I 100% endorse and love.

The elves are coming!

They are snob, spoiled and bitchy but we can’t stop loving them.

I already worked on an Elvish kit for the Granite set in the past, but this time we brought it to the next level. The alphas are still compatible with Daniel Smith’s font and all extra keys and modifiers have been translated to Sindarin. Yes, I said “translated”. The Enter key for example reads minno, that means “enter” in Elvish, it’s not just a transliteration of the English word. Of course we don’t have an extended Sindarin vocabulary and we had to take some licenses but if you are curious about how all the legends were translated, here’s a quick reference:

Good match

  • Enter > minno
  • Escape > awartho (abandon)
  • Control > tortho
  • Insert > nest, abbr. of nestegi
  • Home >
  • End > meth
  • Pause/Break > daro (stop)
  • Page Up > cebi am (leap up)
  • Page Down > cebi dad (leap down)
  • Caps Lock > pedi caun (speak loud)
  • Scroll Lock > hebi yred (hold running)
  • Num Lock > hebi gwenyd (hold numbers)
  • Alt > eichiad (change), eichiad is a “neologism”, it doesn’t come from any original Tolkien lore
  • Function keys > phui-1, phui-2, phui-3 … (it’s like literally saying Ef-1, Ef-2 Ef-3…)
  • Shift > ortho (raise)

A bit of a stretch

  • Delete > geli (shine clear)
  • Back space > gwo dan (go back)
  • Print Screen > teitho parf (write a book, yeah I know, but it’s cute)
  • FN > esgail (literary veils, by ext. layers)
  • Super (OS key) > orchal (superior)
  • Menu > I can’t find anything so I phonetically transliterated the word “menu”
  • Tab > sarf (table)

Regarding how to write in Elvish I suggest you to head to the post I wrote when we released the Elven Tongue kit for Granite.

Before I leave please let me stress on the fact that /dev/tty is not just another color scheme over an existing keycap profile. We designed a completely new high-profile keyset –named MT3– that is not just nice to see but great to type on. You are not buying some SA clone, you are buying months of research in trying to do the perfect tall keycap.

Massdrop x Matt3o /dev/tty MT3 Custom Keycap Set

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.

The color selection has been painful, with color samples coming on and off without logic. Sometimes completely wrong, sometimes missing some pieces. I asked to see the colors on an actual injected keycap because the result changes from the color chip (which is like a small tag of plastic) and the final product. That did not happen for all colors. I also asked to receive at least three options per color (one slightly lighter one darker). That also did not happen for all colors. I also discovered that color shades are not absolute but very much cultural. That added a layer of complexity dealing with China.

Anywho. I did the best I could with what I had. At the end they turned out pretty well, except for maybe orange. I believe the problem is with the pigment that is not dense enough and the keycaps turned out not intense as I thought. That has been very difficult to explain because apparently nobody I interfaced with knew what I was talking about or what color pigment is.

Dye sublimation is another story. I only got one partial sample in a very early stage. I was able to outline some problems and I was expecting to receive a final prototype before going full ballistic. That –again– didn’t happen. We were able to tune in with the manufacturer with some photos, but that’s it.

Unfortunately in such complex projects organized between US, Italy and China some hiccups are bound to happen, but I can’t help but think that we should have done more. I’ve been told that Quality Control was set up but they need to be instructed first otherwise they don’t know if a rotated or a bolder legend are actually an issue. I’ve never been asked to train QC.

Perfection is not a state of things, it is a process and it has costs. At one point you have to release and move the improvements to the next round. They reached the point where they couldn’t procrastinate anymore or the whole thing would have collapsed.

What I am upset about is that I never received a final sample to review before the actual production started. I got a set –that I thought was still a prototype– the same time everyone else did. I was left with the assumption that the errors could have been still fixed but that wasn’t the case.

Why didn’t I get a pre-production? Because making one sample and holding the manufacturing lane for a week is expensive and you may risk to lose your place in line and the Chinese new year was dangerously close. Still, the lack of communication from the first dye-sub sample up to last week is upsetting.

I can honestly say that MT3 is heading where I wanted it and I can call it my creature. I can’t say the same for /dev/tty (that is spelled “device terminal”, btw) that is something I hinted and MassDrop and the manufacturer interpreted.

Good news? The set is still pretty darn good and if you got a flawed kit just ask for a replacement, I know they are already working on it. So at the end it’s not that bad, still when you work on a project for years and you reach 99%, I can’t help but feel that bittersweet aftertaste for that missed 1%.

Thank you for sticking with me up to this point. I can tell you that we are already working on a second release and this time we are making sure that everything is in place… At least so I am told.

/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.

Continue reading…

/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.

All colors are finalized. Shape and surface texture are perfect. Legends are nice and crisp. Dye-sublimation job as sharp as it could be. Unfortunately I don’t have yet a full set to dress a keyboard, but what I see so far is enough to wet my pants.

And don’t think even for a second that “LUV” is an accident.

The bad news –but you already knew about it– is that we are at least 4 weeks behind. The good news is that the end of the tunnel is right there! Hold tight, Device Terminal is coming and there’s no dragonglass capable of stopping it!

PS: the “super” key in the picture above is the light blue, not the triumph teal.

/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.

Regarding the upgrades we did after the initial beta test, it’s mostly about row 1 and row 2. They now follow a more natural curve, but as you can see from the picture below the difference between before/after is minimal.

The white keycap is the previous 3D printed prototype. I’m really maniacal when it comes to my creations and I don’t settle for anything less than perfection (well, at least I’m striving to it).

The surface finish is still to be determined. Below a textured vs a smooth test.

The glossy one is actually really nice, it is very close to vintage keycaps and the nostalgia factor is strong. The final version will be satin on the sides and a little rougher on top. If you are familiar with the HHKB, that is more or less what we are aiming to in terms of surface finish.

Two rather difficult keys to sculpt were ISO Enter and stepped caps lock. The former came out simply delicious, if it weren’t PBT I would be probably eating it. ISO Enter is a bad beast, we could have done it in a dozen of different ways, but all in all it’s a fine looking key and I can call it final.

What next?

In the coming days I should receive a second batch of pre-production prototypes. This time we will be checking texture, legend printing and colors. If all goes smooth there shouldn’t be any delay. Stay tuned!

About MT3 profile and /dev/tty set

About MT3 profile and /dev/tty set

By now you should know that I’m a retro-junkie. Signature Plastics SA keycaps are the closest we can ask to a vintage looking set but I’ve always seen it as an “hack”, not to mention that it is mostly an ABS set.

Few years ago Topre released the Hi-Pro keyboard which featured a wonderful set of high profile keycaps in a retrolucious beige colorway. I knew it had to be mine!

The keyboard was indeed sexy but the keycaps seemed still wrong, too high, too sharp and anyway still limited to topre switches. That got my maker-sense tickling and it is basically how the MT3 profile idea was born.

Continue reading…