Monday (Cherry MX) Blues

It began while I was shopping for a gift for my brother. I was browsing the gaming section of the electronics store, in search for a mouse that costs less than his college tuition. There were some mechanical gaming keyboards out on display, and I tried a couple, for curiosity's sake.


And down the rabbit hole I go.

Mechanical keyboards are nothing new; in fact they were one of the first to be designed - the mother of all keyboards, the IBM Model M, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Simply put, a keyboard is mechanical if it has actual physical switches underneath each key. They were initially designed to mimic the tactile feedback of typewriters, from which the user base is migrating. Eventually, the computing world moved on towards cheaper, quieter builds. But over the last couple of years, the mechanical keyboard has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance thanks to a growing community of enthusiasts.

It is still pretty hard to track one down, though. There is a tendency for mechs to be all souped-up with color-changing backlight and macro keys and such because the gaming community loves them. I wanted one that is completely devoid of bells and whistles, and here in Singapore I was only able to find one in Sim Lim Square. Now, a word about Sim Lim Square. It is not the place to buy normal consumer electronics - laptops, phones, tablets, cameras. No, no, and no. Especially if you're a tourist. Just no. However, for things like jumper wires and sim card cutters and crimping tools it's the perfect place to be. Just thought I'd put that out there.

I settled on a Ducky Zero, with Cherry MX blue switches. Ducky is the keyboard manufacturer, Zero is the model (I think it also refers to the number of extra features), Cherry MX is the company that made the switches, and blue is the type of switch.

Blue switches are the "clicky" type and are awesome for typing. I would have to say, though, that if you're planning to get a mechanical keyboard of your own, no amount of reading about it could replace the actual feeling of using said keyboard. There's just no way around it. In fact I spent weeks doing my research and was so convinced that red switches were for me, and I actually went ahead and got one only to be severely disappointed - I traded them in for blues the very next day. That tactile feedback is everything.
I feel I also have to mention that blue switches aren't exactly the quietest things. In fact they're probably the noisiest keyboards around. On the positive side, it gives everyone at work the impression that you are so very hardworking and busy. It might also make them want to kill you. Thankfully, my colleagues insist that they hardly even notice when I'm typing. It also helps that we have a relatively noisy work environment - we have alarms sounding off and equipment beeping and laptop fans noisily humming away. But even with all of that going on, it did not prevent me from being extremely self-conscious when I brought my mech to work, and so I caved and bought a pack of O-rings off eBay. 

And yes, Cherry MX Blues are also literally blue
They were easy enough to install, and thankfully my keyboard came with a keycap remover (shaped like a duck! Gotta love that branding). What they do is prevent the keys from "bottoming out" - which is what happens when you press them all the way down - so you get all of the clicks, but none of the clacks. It's still noisier than, say, a laptop keyboard, but I would say it generates around the same decibels as a colleague taking out his frustrations on his computer peripherals (we all have at least one of those, yes?).

I can honestly say that it's the single best upgrade that ever happened to my workstation. It's like a good mattress, or fast internet connection, or Hakuhodo brushes - once you've experienced it there's just no going back to anything less.

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