PKB part 6, shifting along

Continues from Part 5

I had been reading assorted keyboard-enthusiast websites like GeekHack, DeskThority, etc. and seen comments about how useless the Caps Lock key was. So I thought I would do something more useful with that key, and turn it into a Delete key instead. I kept the Caps Lock function as a shift action on that key. And to balance things, I did the same on the right hand side, so now you have a Caps Lock facility on both sides.

I thought it would be useful to have the plus and minus keys more accessible, so added them on the inside. Getting a bit crowded there now.

Programmer's KeyBoard v 1.75

Programmer’s KeyBoard v 1.75

Yes, that centre column above the Enter keys is way too busy. While working and analyzing my own key usage, I noticed that I use the / much more than the +. Programmers, especially in HTML etc, use -, _ and / a lot more than people who type English text. So I had to make a plan. I also decided that Workman-P had put the I where it did for good reasons and I should leave I where it should be … So I swapped it back, and put the ; where it had been… which should reduce the likelihood of hitting the wrong : or ;.

Lastly that ugly Esc symbol was still annoying me, and with no idea when, or if, FontAwesome would add a nice version, I went for the Egyptian symbol for Life, aka the ankh sign. Also started labelling the versions on the space keys, which probably won’t be on the actual keys.

Programmer's KeyBoard v1.76

Programmer’s KeyBoard v1.76

More contemplation resulted in swapping the pipe and underscore keys. Also, following an increasing trend in the keyboard forums, the Caps Lock has finally disappeared and been replaced by Backspace on the left, and Delete on the right. So now you can do both operations on either side, although they are inverted. If you need CapsLock, you press both shift keys together.

Swapped the PageUp/PageDown and Insert/Overwrite and Delete keys in the bottom control block around. I need the delete key close to my right hand nave keys.

Programmer's KeyBoard v1.80

Programmer’s KeyBoard v1.80

Had some discussions with a chap who is trying to get the Unifon characters included in Unicode. Since he was one of the designers of Unicode (aka a Unicode god) I thought it would be a done deal, but it is not. I downloaded a Unifon dictionary and wrote a little Perl program to translate English to Unifon, keeping upper and lowercase text, and along the way discovered a problem with Unifon: it encodes pronunciation like it is supposed to, but different countries and areas pronounce words differently. An American might pronounce “dance” with the a as in ant, while a South African is more likely to say dance with the a as in ark. So I put this translation project on hold and dropped the symbols from the keyboard.

Programmer's KeyBoard v1.81

Programmer’s KeyBoard v1.81

Swapped the eraser and arrow symbols on backspace/delete for the Unicode symbols.

Programmer's KeyBoard v1.82

Programmer’s KeyBoard v1.82

So this is where I am now. I have ordered the keycaps from Signature Plastics, the stabilizers from WASDKeyboards, and the Cherry MX Brown switches from Gon’s Keyboardworks in Korea. Currently researching materials for the construction. Most people use stainless steel or aluminium to hold the keys. However SS is a bit stiff, and aluminium is not entirely regular like steel which makes it a bit trickier to use. So I considered phosphor bronze, but am having trouble finding a supplier of 1.5mm sheet. Also have no idea what it costs or what it will cost to have laser cut. Otherwise I need to use acrylic or polycarbonate all over. I generated CAD drawings via which uses the code that generates, but somewhere between the two things got a bit messed up, which meant I had a steep learning curve in LibreCAD to fix it up.

The other problem is how to print the letters and symbols on the keycaps. The keycaps are PBT, which can take heat, and that points to dye sublimation printing. However I can’t find anyone who can do it… There is a guy overseas who did a DIY job that turned out okay, the alternative is to buy a proper Ricoh sublimation printer and a sublimation press, though I’ll probably have to make my own holders for the keys. This is an expensive route.

The cheap and tacky alternative is to print stick-on labels with a label printer…

As regards the design, I think it is more or less final, although the extra period and comma bother me still. But can’t think of a better way to do it yet.

Continues in Part 7


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