Behind the scenes #2023/35
Quick news, an Olivetti with interesting backstory, Giga40 update, new shops and discounts, meetups.
Published September 1, 2023
Thank you for stopping by ladies and gentlemen. In this fabulous, most groovy editorial I got to tell you about my weekly harvest of – drum roll – DIY keyboards! (What else?)
Today's listening: Bellbottoms by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (yeah, I rewatched Baby Driver).
If you are new to kbd.news, this is a weekly recap and behind-the-scenes write-up. You can read how this started out and what this is all about nowadays. If you like what you see, subscribe to the newsletter (free) and donate some bucks to keep this otherwise free and ad-free project alive.
- No new donors this week. :( Even worse, MKUltra canceled the recurring donation. (No surprise knowing the situation.) Erik was my fourth biggest donor (thanks!), so if somebody out there is contemplating joining the ranks of supporters, this is a good time.
- Thankfully, I have some faithful donors who set up recurring donations earlier. Big thanks to everyone who helped this project thus far.
Reading for the weekend
- The long read: One year after launching the try-at-home service, Milktooth's Kevin talks about experiences and trends in the mechanical switch scene.
- A 3-row project by weteor: Grumpy is a cute 28-key angled unibody keyboard with column stagger.
- The TypeBoy, designed by FlatFootFox, is a unique low-pro split keyboard requiring a Game Boy cartridge to function.
- HuibenLAB's gorgeous ALU40 is a wireless ortholinear mechanical keyboard designed to complement Apple devices. Grab the last extras if you like what you see!
- The cos(y) Kong is another 3-row project by weteor, a 30 or 36 key keyboard with column stagger.
- Carpal Tunnel and Rubik's cube – new meme boards by Rudeism.
- Ever wondered how much money a custom keyboard store makes? Sydney based MtnKbd's Oldmate keeps sharing his quarterly financial statistics. Q1 2023 is out. I love this transparency, and it's also nice to see that kbd.news was one of the top referrers.
- A guide by Present_Lingonberry: finding Colemak/non-standard layout keycaps.
- Transparent split magic by @illness072. Check out his earlier posts for the solution.
- Moergo is working on a transport case for the Glove80. "Really for the first time, a full blown concave keyboard is portable in a standard laptop backpack – Stephen.
When Kevin announced the start of Milktooth last year, many commenters, myself included, were quite skeptical about his business model. I was genuinely curious how things have worked out for him.
Since there were similar longer format articles the previous week we agreed to postpone this one for Monday this week. Check it out here, and also this unique try-at-home service if you are in the US. Kevin does international customers on an ad-hoc basis, so if you are a non-US customer just email him or use the chatbox on the site to get started.
The last time I heard about the Giga40 was about a year ago. After seeing FlatFootFox's TypeBoy – another board starring a retro cartridge – I was wondering what's the current status of the similar project by Muji/Sneakbox, so I reached out for a quick update:
The design goals for Giga are a bit different that Flatfootfox's. Unlike the Typeboy project that uses a shift register, Giga is a system designed with QMK and VIA in mind. I'm outputting as many matrix row/column pin as possible from the MCU to the 60-pin Famicom edge connector, as well as for lighting, etc. The idea was to make a stereotyped matrix that could be used in multiple shapes and sizes of keyboards, with the only components of the keyboard ultimately needing design and assembly being the key matrix and diodes. Also, both a Atmega and Rp2040 cartridge have been developed. I do intend to bring Giga to sale, starting with Giga40. Currently progress has been in manufacturing the cartridge shells as well as in prototyping the RP2040 cartridge – mujimanic.
Bryan was kind enough to attach some fresh photos despite traveling (thanks!).
Upcoming events in the database of keyboard meetups:
As always, this meetup database is both a calendar and an archive so feel free to send me upcoming events or even ones from the recent past to make this collection as comprehensive as possible.
New coupons, new shops and updates to the database of keyboard vendors this week:
- Skree.us updated, and Marshall offered you a 5% discount (use the KBDNEWS coupon code at checkout).
- huibenLAB added with a 10% coupon code (KBDNEWS).
- ansiso.shop added. MK-themed apparel for ya – with 5% off (KBDNEWS).
- The KapCo discount reduced to 10% (from 15%) due to increased manufacturing costs.
- Mountain Keyboards rebranded to MtnKbd (well, last October) due to copyright issues. Entry updated.
- keyboarddweebs is shutting down due to lack of time (thanks for letting me know Alex!)
- Noxary.com taken offline?
In the mailbox
I promised a Bancouver40 review but we decided to postpone it. Talked to Chris and Robin, however, I may wait for the announcement of a similar project from Chosfox.
But the Killer Whale is waiting for customs clearance, hopefully I'll get it early next weak, and the Olivetti typewriter I mentioned last time arrived.
As mentioned in my previous editorial, I ordered an old Olivetti typewriter, an electric one. If it were architecture, I'd probably call it brutalist.
Not exactly this model, but I've been eyeing with a similar design for months. It shouldn't be a big challenge to find one of the beautiful green variants I'm still waiting for, since Italy is full of these. Well, the one I ended up ordering is neither green nor impeccable, but it has something special: an interesting backstory.
The gentleman in the picture is István Örkény, a well-known Hungarian writer, household name for a good half of the 20th century. His genre-defining work One-minute novels had a place on almost every family's bookshelf. It would be great if this typewriter was his machine, but nope. During a lifetime of professional writing, starting in the 1940s, he'd used this Wanderer-Werke Continental, much older than my Olivetti manufactured in the '80s:
Our story has more to do with the lovely lady in the above picture: Angéla F. Nagy, the first wife of Örkény. Angéla was grown up in a wealthy family with aristocratic roots and flatly refused (and actively sabotaged) her mother's request to learn to cook. Which is hilarious in hindsight, knowing she became one of the most famous food writers of the country, the Hungarian Julia Child.
When she met his gourmand husband, he not only introduced her into various cuisines of the world, and gave her the first books what became a legendary collection of cookbooks in various languages, but also encouraged her to write for a newspaper, helping her first steps on the way to become an established author herself. The result: dozens of recipe books written or edited by Angéla. Fun fact: she way outperformed her revered writer husband in sales numbers.
I'd be more than excited if the Olivetti was her typewriter but I couldn't find any reference to the one she may have used (before turning to computers), maybe there wasn't any:
I paid huge sums of money to typists… – F. Nagy.
We are closing in on the solution though! Many of her recipes were indeed typed on this Olivetti, which belonged to a lady working at the publishing house and various well-known magazines of the time, where Angéla was a columnist or editor in chief. Her recipes (and many other lesser known author's works) were prepared for publishing on this machine.
From mistyping "heart(h)" to a complete revamp of the search engine.
- Vendor database cleanup (partial).
- Shop logos added (about 80, only 420 to go…)
- Search engine revamp.
Ha. As cyanophage pointed out on reddit:
Heart, as in a ❤️, doesn't have an "h" at the end. Hearth is the area around a fire.
Sure, but where exactly did I make this mistake? Using the quite outdated and annoying search function of kbd.news didn't reveal any occurrence of "hearth". After finding the typo in the last editorial and thinking about why it wasn't listed by the search engine I realized it was still dependent on the old "issue" classification of posts I ditched when news temporarily dried up during the reddit protest. As a result, posts published after Jun 26 haven't been listed in search results at all. Facepalm.
Regardless, with about 2K articles in the database it was time to completely revamp the search engine (still in progress). I had three goals:
- Shop search integration. The vendor database is one of the most visited parts of the site. I often look up stores to check for their location, shop runner contact or if they offer discounts (with more than 500 shops listed I can't remember every single case) just to realize they are not handled by the search interface. What I end up doing is I simply press Ctrl+F on the vendor page. But you get shops in the results now!
- Order by relevance. Up until now the results were listed in chronological order, starting with the most recent occurrence. It's OK but with more general search phrases this resulted in a lot of irrelevant posts on top. The new algorithm's weights take into account factors like occurrence in the title, lead, the overall number of occurrences relative to the post length, etc. (I will bring back "newest" as an option.)
- Ajax UX fix. There was a known, annoying, often reported usability issue, but I could not bring myself to fix it – until now… Still a lot of work to do though.
- Minor tweaks (onchange vs onkeyup).
Still with me?
Don’t challenge Death to a pillow fight. Unless you’re prepared for the reaper cushions.
That's all for today. Thanks for checking by. As always: Keep learning and building!
Until next time,
Published on Fri 1st Sep 2023. Featured in KBD #133.