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The early years of custom keyboards

About the early years of custom keyboards on geekhack – a retrospective post by GreenPylons.
Published October 20, 2020

GreenPylons collected how Geekhack reacted to some of the earliest custom keyboards in 2009 and 2010 – some $300 OTD's and 356's:

  • That's really expensive for how labor-intensive that is... I'd love a metal case custom keyboard, but that's really pricey, especially when the switches are another $75-100.
  • I bet whatever keyboard manufacturer is laughting at all this right now. "Hey, some keyboard nuts are willing to pay more for a disassembled keyboard!"
  • Love the idea, but the price kills it for me. I'd rather have a Realforce. Also I'm not a big fan of legs that you can't collapse.
  • i don't understand. they just give you a bunch of keys, pcb, case and you assemble it yourself?*i don't understand. they just give you a bunch of keys, pcb, case and you assemble it yourself?
  • 269 USD for a 'board 'o cherries? I'll pass.
  • Price is too steep considering you're doing the building yourself. Would love to have one, for half the price..
  • the matrix design looks pretty clean. also aluminum chassis looks really good. but it's just too expensive considering extra the cherry swith / keycap prices.

Btw, the quotes were taken from this 2009 thread on the announcement of the $300 Korean 356CL, and this 2010 thread on the announcements of the OTD Cheat, and according to GreenPylons, these keebs now go for $10K+ because of their history.

Customs weren't a thing in the western keyboard community in 2010, and everyone in the community just used prebuilt and vintage keyboards. Cherry MX, Topre, simplified Alps, and buckling spring were your only options for new switches. $350 for a Topre was considered extremely steep. The very first keycap group buys from SP had just run, with sets costing only $40* $50, supporting only TKL/full-size, only 60 people joining, and being shipped in just 3 weeks. GMK wasn't a thing yet, and Cherry had shut down their production of their OG double shot caps, with people buying 2 or 3 G80s and G81s to harvest enough caps to fit a TKL.

MX Browns won the Best Switch category in 2011's Deskthority Awards. It was... a very different world back then – GreenPylons.

If you're ever curious about the history of the community, browsing early-2010s Geekhack threads are a real treat, though Ripster (one of the most prominent posters) was banned from Geekhack and Deskthority and had his posts removed, and a lot of image links from back then are broken.

*The $40 price for SP sets was the cost to the GB runner. After factoring in their costs (shipping from SP) it was $50 a set + shipping. Still, way cheaper and faster than they are today.

GreenPylons did a bit longer write-up of his experiences in the community in the early 2010s, check it out here:

The Dark Ages and early Renaissance – what the western keyboard community was like a decade ago.

Published on Tue 20th Oct 2020. Featured in KBD #1 (source).

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