I am entranced by the world of custom mechanical keyboards

Nothing better than the clickity-clack of a mechanical keyboard

As someone who spends a good portion of their day typing, I love a good mechanical keyboard. For a while there in the mid-2000s, it seemed like the hottest trend was to have the most minimal keyboards ever (looking at you, Apple), and for a minute I was afraid tech companies would lean full-tilt into touchscreen keyboards. Of course I went through one of those phases where I wanted a typewriter for no reason at all. Naturally, as I got into gaming, I was introduced to the world of mechanical keyboards, and the whole community that surrounds them.

For years now, companies that make gaming peripherals have really leaned into the whole “gaming aesthetic” (which usually consists of black plastic and red LEDs) since they discovered they could make a lot of money from marketing it. Of course, more feminine designs have also made their way into the mainstream, and showing off your elaborate, custom gaming setup has become a way for players to express their identity and interest in games as a hobby or lifestyle.

[Image Source: Etsy seller PersonalLoot]
The first mechanical keyboard was actually patented in the early 1700s — but the first mechanical keyboard that was built specifically for gaming is attributed to Razer in 2010. Now that keyboards have become a necessary part of the way a vast majority of the population works, why wouldn’t we want to customize them to make them as fun to use as possible?

Baby’s first mechanical keyboard

When one of my friends wanted to buy me a mechanical keyboard as a gift, he asked me what my favorite kind of switch was. I’ll be honest with you, I had no idea there were different kinds of switches in the first place. This moment is what really started me down a rabbit hole.

In case you don’t know, switches are the little mechanical parts that go under the key cap, and they determine what kind of “click” your keyboard makes. There are some that make your key presses softer and quieter, some that make them loud and sharp. I found that the brown switches were my favorite, because they had this really nice feedback when I pressed down on them.

My favorite switches I’ve ever come across by far, though, are called the Banana Split switches. I’ve never used them personally, but just hearing audio of them was enough for me to lose my mind. I even hesitate to tell anyone about them now, because they’re always sold out, but they make one of the most satisfying sounds I can imagine. They’re kind of crunchy, and sound almost like someone is popping bubble wrap, and I need to write an entire novel on them immediately.

I think there’s a special kind of irony in the fact that as the technology for keyboards got better and better, we started streamlining them — but after a while, we started emulating that weight and tactile nature of the first keyboards back in the day.

We’ve come so full circle that not only do we have keyboards that are sturdy and hardly ever break, but we can also customize them to feel any way we damn well please! I’m sure Christopher Latham Sholes, the inventor of the QWERTY keyboard layout, would be thrilled by how far we’ve come.

The name of the game is customization

There’s also the whole world of LEDs!

I can’t believe that there used to be a time when I was around people who didn’t have keyboards that can light up to be any color they want. There’s just something about making my keyboard light up in rainbow colors that delights my inner child, and now I can never go back to having a boring, normal set of keys ever again.

Yet another layer of customization comes from key caps, which can look like pretty much whatever you want. You want caps themed after your favorite video game? You got it. How about resin ones with little dried flowers in them? Yup. A whole keyboard made of Kirby caps that are also magnetic and can “eat” things? That is also something you can do.

Some people even make deliberately “hostile” keyboards just for the fun of it. I seriously cannot stress how endless the possibilities are.

[Image Source: Etsy seller ThatArtistMeleigha]
If I went down that rabbit hole, there would be no coming out, and my wallet would suffer greatly. I knew I was in deep when I started following Twitter accounts of insanely talented creators who build their entire keyboards from scratch themselves, but all I can do is look at their pictures longingly and hope that someday I can justify a purchase.

I can understand the utility of mechanical keyboards when it comes to games, but it’s interesting that they really became popular because of their aesthetics and customization options. It’s just a fun piece of gaming subculture that I can really appreciate from afar, and maybe someday I can set aside enough cash to make the custom keyboard of my dreams.

What has your mechanical keyboard journey been like? Have you tricked out your set up? Let’s discuss in the comments!
[Featured Image Source: Reddit user u/Gerardy_Im_Design]

Noelle Warner