We need a better adjective than "mechanical".

Something that came up in the thread about the Matias Quiet Pro was a debate about the term "mechanical keyboard".

The problem with that term is that it's vague (what is "mechanical" in the context of a keyboard?), surprisingly subjective, and even misleading (in another thread where this came up, someone even came up with a definition that activation occurs before the end of travel, but a rubber dome over membrane board can do that if designed properly)!

So, the first thing we need to decide is, what do people talk about when they talk about a "mechanical keyboard" as something desirable? I'd guess that most count Cherry MX, Alps CM, and buckling spring as mechanical (with the caveat that buckling spring uses either capacitive sensing or membrane electrical switching, instead of the metal leaf contact that Cherry and Alps use). Also, quite a few people include Topre's rubber dome over capacitive sensing technology, even though "mechanical keyboard" is typically used to exclude rubber dome over membrane.

Once "mechanical" is decided... is there anything else we want to include? I'm not opposed to including even high quality rubber dome over membrane boards.

Then, once we decide what's included in our term, what adjective should we actually use? Mechanical is either too wide or narrow of scope, and too contentious, so we need something that can be clearly defined in a keyboard context (and using a definition that's intuitive based on its definition outside of a keyboard context).

Adjectives I'd suggest:

  • High-quality (a bit on the subjective side, but meaningful)
  • Premium (also subjective, and allows some quite crap boards that are being sold for a high price tag)
  • High-end (see premium for problems)

Any other ideas?
bhtooefr
User avatar

Unread post21 Sep 2012, 21:27

User avatar
X
bhtooefr
 
Posts: 1207
Joined: 09 May 2011, 19:46
Location: Newark, OH, USA
Main keyboard: Matias Tactile Pro 4
Main mouse: ScrollPoint Optical 800dpi
Favorite switch: Matias Click
DT Pro Member: 0056
 
I wonder how Hall-effect switches would fit into this? They aren't 'mechanical' in the normal sense; a magnet passes by the sensor without making any physical contact.
Daemon Raccoon
User avatar

Unread post21 Sep 2012, 22:33

User avatar
X
Daemon Raccoon
 
Posts: 157
Joined: 09 Mar 2011, 21:08
Location: Flyover Country, United States
Main keyboard: Model M SSK 1391472
Main mouse: CST2545W-RC LTrac
Favorite switch: Buckling Spring
DT Pro Member: -
 
I don't really have a problem with the use of 'mechanical' because it pretty much covers most of the boards that we're all enthusiastic about while conveniently sectioning off rubber dome membrane keyboards.
There might be a few examples that the term doesn't catch like Topre, but for the most part I think it's acceptable to use mechanical.

Some people seem to get upset when others say that Topre is not mechanical but really, I don't give a shit. Even if it's *not* a mechanical keyboard, that doesn't mean that it's not better than a lot of mechanical keyboards. Some people seem to think that 'mechanical' is synonymous with 'best' and I think if you have this attitude you run the risk of looking like a snobby elitist.
002
User avatar
Topre Enthusiast

Unread post21 Sep 2012, 22:38

User avatar
X
002
Topre Enthusiast
 
Posts: 2728
Joined: 14 Mar 2011, 23:42
Location: Australia
Main keyboard: Realforce & Libertouch
Main mouse: Steelseries Rival 300
Favorite switch: Topre
DT Pro Member: 0002
 
 
Tokyo Press
Topre enthusiast
Image
Non-rubber.....
Mrinterface
User avatar

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 00:33

User avatar
X
Mrinterface
 
Posts: 1397
Joined: 30 Jan 2011, 14:47
Location: The Netherlands
Main keyboard: Omnikey evolution
Main mouse: G9
Favorite switch: Monterey blues
DT Pro Member: 0012
 
 
To boldly go where no innovator has gone before : always engage at full trust.
So you'd exclude Topre? Rubberdome isn't a bad term (includes Topre); membrane isn't a bad term (includes membrane buckling springs).
Daniel Beardsmore
User avatar

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 00:56

User avatar
X
Daniel Beardsmore
 
Posts: 5797
Joined: 17 Aug 2011, 18:23
Location: Hertfordshire, England
Main keyboard: Filco Majestouch 1 (home)/Poker II backlit (work)
Main mouse: MS IMO 1.1
Favorite switch: Probably not whatever I wrote here
DT Pro Member: -
 
 
I no longer have a place here.
002 wrote:I don't really have a problem with the use of 'mechanical' because it pretty much covers most of the boards that we're all enthusiastic about while conveniently sectioning off rubber dome membrane keyboards.
There might be a few examples that the term doesn't catch like Topre, but for the most part I think it's acceptable to use mechanical.

Some people seem to get upset when others say that Topre is not mechanical but really, I don't give a shit. Even if it's *not* a mechanical keyboard, that doesn't mean that it's not better than a lot of mechanical keyboards. Some people seem to think that 'mechanical' is synonymous with 'best' and I think if you have this attitude you run the risk of looking like a snobby elitist.

The problem is that we have definitions of "mechanical" that exclude even the Model M, ffs!

And then definitions that, sometimes to include Topre, are so broad as to include $5 rubber domes. (And, any definition that includes the M, other than one based on quality or price, includes those awful $10 Chinese buckling springs.)
bhtooefr
User avatar

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 02:53

User avatar
X
bhtooefr
 
Posts: 1207
Joined: 09 May 2011, 19:46
Location: Newark, OH, USA
Main keyboard: Matias Tactile Pro 4
Main mouse: ScrollPoint Optical 800dpi
Favorite switch: Matias Click
DT Pro Member: 0056
 
Some people might, it depends on your own interpretation of mechanical.
Personally I think that all keyboards with moving parts are mechanical in a sense, but when introducing a layman to what *we* know as mechanical keyboards, it's probably not appropriate to say that that a rubber dome is a mech board.

We have premium mechanical, moving parts keyboards like Cherry, Buckling Spring, Topre, Alps, NMB, etc...
We have cheap mechanical, moving parts keyboards like the mass produced crap that's included with modern computers.
We have non-mechanical keyboards like the one on your smartphone or tablet.
002
User avatar
Topre Enthusiast

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 03:01

User avatar
X
002
Topre Enthusiast
 
Posts: 2728
Joined: 14 Mar 2011, 23:42
Location: Australia
Main keyboard: Realforce & Libertouch
Main mouse: Steelseries Rival 300
Favorite switch: Topre
DT Pro Member: 0002
 
 
Tokyo Press
Topre enthusiast
Image
002 wrote:Personally I think that all keyboards with moving parts are mechanical in a sense, but when introducing a layman to what *we* know as mechanical keyboards, it's probably not appropriate to say that that a rubber dome is a mech board.

That's more or less what I'd say. To me "mechanical" would imply a mechanism, something with moving parts other than those directly moved by finger pressure - so a rubber dome is basically two things pushed together that bounce back under their own steam. I'm not an engineer so am not sure how to best explain, but I'd say somehow a rubber-dome type switch differs from something with a leaf-spring, or a cylindrical spring that moves against other parts that then change the switching action from something directly related to the finger pressure into something else. A model M, a Cherry MX, etc. - they all (semi-educated guess here) transform finger movement into a more even and controlled switching action through use of a mechanism of some kind. Whereas a rubber dome is something you push against something else, and the switch contact is directly under control of your finger pressure, despite the use of the material's properties to try to provide a tactile experience with a slightly less mushy response (ie, the dome's non-clicky buckle).

If that makes sense. I haven't had a coffee yet. :shock:
nathanscribe
User avatar

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 09:59

User avatar
X
nathanscribe
 
Posts: 505
Joined: 13 Mar 2011, 12:03
Location: Yorkshire, UK.
Main keyboard: Filco tenkeyless w/blues
Main mouse: Kensington Expert
Favorite switch: MX Blue
DT Pro Member: -
 
Actually, I do like that, although one could argue technicalities there.

But, if I had to describe this hobby in two words, and one of those words being "keyboards", what would the other word be?
bhtooefr
User avatar

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 11:28

User avatar
X
bhtooefr
 
Posts: 1207
Joined: 09 May 2011, 19:46
Location: Newark, OH, USA
Main keyboard: Matias Tactile Pro 4
Main mouse: ScrollPoint Optical 800dpi
Favorite switch: Matias Click
DT Pro Member: 0056
 
"Expensive".
nathanscribe
User avatar

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 11:48

User avatar
X
nathanscribe
 
Posts: 505
Joined: 13 Mar 2011, 12:03
Location: Yorkshire, UK.
Main keyboard: Filco tenkeyless w/blues
Main mouse: Kensington Expert
Favorite switch: MX Blue
DT Pro Member: -
 
The Wiki has a category called "Metal contact switches". It includes Alps and Cherry, but not Topre or buckling springs.
"Metal contact switch keyboard" is unambigous.

Seriously, no matter how much I like the Topre, it does feel like a rubber dome because it uses a rubber dome. The sensing mechanism uses a metal spring, but that is irrelevant to the feel.
For many users here, the feel is what differentiates the keyboards that we prefer to use from those that we prefer not to use. Therefore, the feel should determine the word that we use the most, not the sensing mechanism.

The "mechanical feel" that people talk about is what is provided by a metal spring. Therefore I would like to promote the use of "Metal spring keyboard" or "Metal spring switch keyboard". This definition would include the Model M, but not the Topre.
Findecanor

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 12:32

X
Findecanor
 
Posts: 2866
Joined: 01 Mar 2011, 20:43
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Main keyboard: Changes from day to day
Main mouse: Wowpen Joy (modified)
Favorite switch: I have yet to find it...
DT Pro Member: 0011
 
 
Fuck you Google for ruining YouTube!
Findecanor wrote:Seriously, no matter how much I like the Topre, it does feel like a rubber dome because it uses a rubber dome.

Don't forget that it has a property otherwise reserved for so-called mechanical keyboards: mid-travel actuation. No other dome board is capable of that.
Daniel Beardsmore
User avatar

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 13:31

User avatar
X
Daniel Beardsmore
 
Posts: 5797
Joined: 17 Aug 2011, 18:23
Location: Hertfordshire, England
Main keyboard: Filco Majestouch 1 (home)/Poker II backlit (work)
Main mouse: MS IMO 1.1
Favorite switch: Probably not whatever I wrote here
DT Pro Member: -
 
 
I no longer have a place here.
Isn't the Topre switch a capacitive one? And therefore not a contact switch at all, but a proximity switch? Are there other kinds of switch that might be considered 'mechanical' in structure/operation but not contact-actuated?
nathanscribe
User avatar

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 14:17

User avatar
X
nathanscribe
 
Posts: 505
Joined: 13 Mar 2011, 12:03
Location: Yorkshire, UK.
Main keyboard: Filco tenkeyless w/blues
Main mouse: Kensington Expert
Favorite switch: MX Blue
DT Pro Member: -
 
Hall effect switches IIRC.
fossala
User avatar
Elite +1

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 14:28

User avatar
X
fossala
Elite +1
 
Posts: 2730
Joined: 05 Aug 2011, 15:25
Location: UK
Main keyboard: HHKB Type-S
Main mouse: Rollermouse Free2
Favorite switch: Topre
DT Pro Member: -
 
Daniel Beardsmore wrote:Don't forget that [Topre] has a property otherwise reserved for so-called mechanical keyboards: mid-travel actuation. No other dome board is capable of that.

I am not so sure about that. They are uncommon for sure, but if a dome is supposed to follow Topre's own description of how a rubber dome keyboard switch should work, then it does actuate before the bottom.

Another category of switches is the switches with either a buckling rubber sleeve or a coiled spring directly under the key cap, and a slider with an arc of conductive rubber or foam and metal foil on the bottom.
These include the very common Mitsumi switches (Commodore Amiga, PC, C128, C64C + their own PC keyboards) and Key Tronic foam and foil switches.
The ones with a rubber sleeve felt just like rubber dome keyboards, but they actuated in the middle of the stroke. They even felt mushy at the bottom. The ones with coiled springs had linear feel in most of the stroke.
Findecanor

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 15:31

X
Findecanor
 
Posts: 2866
Joined: 01 Mar 2011, 20:43
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Main keyboard: Changes from day to day
Main mouse: Wowpen Joy (modified)
Favorite switch: I have yet to find it...
DT Pro Member: 0011
 
 
Fuck you Google for ruining YouTube!
Findecanor wrote:Another category of switches is the switches with either a buckling rubber sleeve or a coiled spring directly under the key cap, and a slider with an arc of conductive rubber or foam and metal foil on the bottom.

I've seen a lot of keypads made with a rubber sheet, moulded to form small domes, and a conductive element attached to the base of each dome. These make contact by shorting uncoated PCB tracks; which sounds quite similar to what you're describing above. These are both different to the rubber-dome-hits-membrane type; whether or not they're different enough to sit alongside whatever 'mechanical' might imply is another matter.

Are there any keyboards made with mercury switches? Maybe we need a Venn diagram.






...joke.
nathanscribe
User avatar

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 15:50

User avatar
X
nathanscribe
 
Posts: 505
Joined: 13 Mar 2011, 12:03
Location: Yorkshire, UK.
Main keyboard: Filco tenkeyless w/blues
Main mouse: Kensington Expert
Favorite switch: MX Blue
DT Pro Member: -
 
What about switch keyboard? Capacitative keyboards use capasative switches, and we know that other keyboards have switches e.g. alps, cherry. Membrane isn't switches, it is just completing a circuit, no (I could be wrong). The only thing it would exclude is Model M's.
fossala
User avatar
Elite +1

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 16:08

User avatar
X
fossala
Elite +1
 
Posts: 2730
Joined: 05 Aug 2011, 15:25
Location: UK
Main keyboard: HHKB Type-S
Main mouse: Rollermouse Free2
Favorite switch: Topre
DT Pro Member: -
 
It could be said that any physical switch is the completion of a circuit. "Switch keyboard" would basically mean "any keyboard". A membrane is a switch made from thin layers, that's all.

That would differ from something like an electronic switch that does not rely on the motion of discrete physical parts to complete its circuit - so I'm guessing that certain kinds of touch-screen would fall into that category. Keyboards? I doubt it.
nathanscribe
User avatar

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 17:49

User avatar
X
nathanscribe
 
Posts: 505
Joined: 13 Mar 2011, 12:03
Location: Yorkshire, UK.
Main keyboard: Filco tenkeyless w/blues
Main mouse: Kensington Expert
Favorite switch: MX Blue
DT Pro Member: -
 
And, some people could take "switch keyboard" the opposite direction - one that uses discrete keyswitches that are soldered to a PCB - disqualifying anything that uses an underlying membrane or capacitive sensing (unless the sensing is being done in the switch housing).

Also, note that on capacitive, I'm using "sensing", not "switching". Capacitive sensing is an analog thing (well, everything is analog, but conductive switching (be it metal contacts in a keyswitch, or metalized tracks on a mylar membrane) is two fairly discrete analog states, capacitive sensing isn't, and there's a threshold at which the system decides contact has been made.
bhtooefr
User avatar

Unread post22 Sep 2012, 18:03

User avatar
X
bhtooefr
 
Posts: 1207
Joined: 09 May 2011, 19:46
Location: Newark, OH, USA
Main keyboard: Matias Tactile Pro 4
Main mouse: ScrollPoint Optical 800dpi
Favorite switch: Matias Click
DT Pro Member: 0056
 
i like 'discrete' or 'discrete mechanism' keyboards.
to me, the most important aspect of many keyboards that we are fans of is that there is a discrete component per key that is NOT the keycap or simply a slider over a piece of rubber (the capacitive spring in a topre, or the MX switch in a filco, even the buckling spring assembly in a membranous model M).
sth
User avatar
2 girls 1 cuprubber

Unread post24 Sep 2012, 01:53

User avatar
X
sth
2 girls 1 cuprubber
 
Posts: 1105
Joined: 22 Mar 2012, 15:13
Location: US
Main keyboard: hhkb1
DT Pro Member: -
 
I thought Topre could activate without the spring, it was mostly there for 'Feeling of oneness with cup rubber'?
Daemon Raccoon
User avatar

Unread post24 Sep 2012, 02:23

User avatar
X
Daemon Raccoon
 
Posts: 157
Joined: 09 Mar 2011, 21:08
Location: Flyover Country, United States
Main keyboard: Model M SSK 1391472
Main mouse: CST2545W-RC LTrac
Favorite switch: Buckling Spring
DT Pro Member: -
 
Definitely need a spring :) Try using your smartphone screen with a piece of rubber and you'll be struggling.
002
User avatar
Topre Enthusiast

Unread post24 Sep 2012, 02:34

User avatar
X
002
Topre Enthusiast
 
Posts: 2728
Joined: 14 Mar 2011, 23:42
Location: Australia
Main keyboard: Realforce & Libertouch
Main mouse: Steelseries Rival 300
Favorite switch: Topre
DT Pro Member: 0002
 
 
Tokyo Press
Topre enthusiast
Image
Daemon Raccoon wrote:I thought Topre could activate without the spring, it was mostly there for 'Feeling of oneness with cup rubber'?

no, that's what the cup rubber is for.
sth
User avatar
2 girls 1 cuprubber

Unread post24 Sep 2012, 05:51

User avatar
X
sth
2 girls 1 cuprubber
 
Posts: 1105
Joined: 22 Mar 2012, 15:13
Location: US
Main keyboard: hhkb1
DT Pro Member: -
 
sth wrote:
Daemon Raccoon wrote:I thought Topre could activate without the spring, it was mostly there for 'Feeling of oneness with cup rubber'?

no, that's what the cup rubber is for.

Lawl. Topres definitely need the spring. They wouldn't be able to change capacitance otherwise. The spring does nearly nothing for the feel of the switch. It's mostly the cup rubber one feels.
itlnstln

Unread post24 Sep 2012, 12:41

X
itlnstln
 
Posts: 721
Joined: 03 Feb 2011, 18:57
Location: San Antonio, TX
Main keyboard: Noppoo Choc Mini
Favorite switch: Cherry Brown
DT Pro Member: -
 
I think we should stick with "mechanical" especially now that it's a commonplace term for users and for vendors alike. You can't change the tide.
It would be a nobler cause to try and abolish the horrendous, stupid, and utterly pointless zig-zag key arrangement of most keyboards (inherited from 18th century typewriters), in favor of straight-column arrangements :-)
sordna
User avatar

Unread post25 Sep 2012, 05:41

User avatar
X
sordna
 
Posts: 328
Joined: 11 May 2011, 19:48
Location: USA
Main keyboard: Kinesis Advantage LF / Dvorak layout
Main mouse: Logitech M500
Favorite switch: Cherry MX Red
DT Pro Member: -
 
After reading over this thread, it's pretty clear that we all mostly agree on what we mean by a "mechanical" keyboard, even if we can't exactly agree on what defines it. Rather than finding a synonym for "mechanical", I think we should look at more of what we are looking for in a keyboard. I think what people look for in a keyboard, and also why keyboard enthusiasts often spend so much money on different keyboards is this: We're searching for the "perfect" keyboard, mouse, and set of peripherals that satisfy someone's preference on switch, style, aswell as all other attributes of a keyboard. That's what makes a keyboard "Mechanical", not because of its phisical properties, but because it's an interest to this community. Here, "Mechanical" has taken on an entirely different definition than the one you would find in the dictionary. Something like Unanimously Selected Keyboards would fit my definiton well, it would probably end up being abriviated to something like USK keyboards, though. I'm not sure if there's a single word (in english, anyways) to define this, though.
graboy
User avatar

Unread post25 Sep 2012, 06:03

User avatar
X
graboy
 
Posts: 107
Joined: 09 Nov 2011, 01:49
Main keyboard: Filco Tenkeless w/blues
Main mouse: Logitech G9x
Favorite switch: Cherry MX Blue
DT Pro Member: -
 
I have certainly spent a lot on 'mechanical' keyboards, and a few other related items. A few thousand USD. But that's not even close to what some of you guys have invested. Fortunately I've slowly been downsizing to an amount that soon won't exceed $1,000 USD. Very manageable.

I never put much thought into the phrase 'mechanical'. Interestingly, I have no idea what it would take for that name to be replaced...what would have to happen for the users and industry to adopt another term. A really great game-changer keyboard 'line' with the new phrase?
Input Nirvana
User avatar

Unread post25 Sep 2012, 06:34

User avatar
X
Input Nirvana
 
Posts: 411
Joined: 19 Mar 2011, 04:58
Location: San Francisco bay area, California, USA
Main keyboard: Kinesis Advantage
Main mouse: Rollermouse Free2
DT Pro Member: -
 
 
Everything Kinesis Advantage=http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=8110.0

Evil Screaming Flying Door Monkeys From Hell
Don't forget that the industry isn't using Topre for the most part: all the "mechanical" gaming keyboards are definitely what we'd call mechanical, since the industry is 99% Cherry. It's switches like Topre where it gets complicated :)
Daniel Beardsmore
User avatar

Unread post25 Sep 2012, 09:22

User avatar
X
Daniel Beardsmore
 
Posts: 5797
Joined: 17 Aug 2011, 18:23
Location: Hertfordshire, England
Main keyboard: Filco Majestouch 1 (home)/Poker II backlit (work)
Main mouse: MS IMO 1.1
Favorite switch: Probably not whatever I wrote here
DT Pro Member: -
 
 
I no longer have a place here.
Except it's not just Topre, it's things like the Model M, where some people won't call it mechanical due to the membrane sheet.
bhtooefr
User avatar

Unread post25 Sep 2012, 10:44

User avatar
X
bhtooefr
 
Posts: 1207
Joined: 09 May 2011, 19:46
Location: Newark, OH, USA
Main keyboard: Matias Tactile Pro 4
Main mouse: ScrollPoint Optical 800dpi
Favorite switch: Matias Click
DT Pro Member: 0056
 
As long as we know what we mean by "mechanical" the term is fine. It also has the positive effect that people who don't know it will ask. If you call them "high-quality" people will assume they know what you mean and think of things like the new $300 mad catz board ( http://www.madcatz.com/strike7/#prettyPhoto ).

If you personally absolutely want to call them something different call them metal spring boards. :)
In general I don't think the term "mechanical" has caused any real problems so let's just forget about this discussion. :D
Icarium
User avatar

Unread post25 Sep 2012, 10:59

User avatar
X
Icarium
 
Posts: 1637
Joined: 11 Jan 2012, 16:22
Location: Germany
Main keyboard: These fields just
Main mouse: opened my eyes
Favorite switch: I need to bring stuff to work
DT Pro Member: -
 
Next

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Dingster, Hail_merry, mataenanos, rayfenwick, Thermitebite and 28 guests