When is a keyboard "mechanical"?

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Chyros

19 Dec 2018, 13:30

When is a keyboard "mechanical"? Maybe more of a philosophical video this time, but I figured it was a subject well-worth diving into. Hope you enjoy the video! :)

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whiffysole

19 Dec 2018, 16:43

A keyboard is mechanical when Chyros says so! :lol:
Great video, really makes me think about that term in relation to a keyboard.

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Laser
emacs -nw

19 Dec 2018, 20:45

So, it's mechanical if it deserves to be called as such :)

Findecanor

19 Dec 2018, 20:59

"Mechanical" is not a synonym for "good".

I'm a stickler for having words mean what they mean. From esoteric terminology to every-day words.
Last edited by Findecanor on 19 Dec 2018, 23:46, edited 2 times in total.

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Chyros

19 Dec 2018, 21:04

Findecanor wrote: "Mechanical" is not a synonym for "good".

I'm a stickler for not misusing terminology.
It doesn't, but in practice, that's what a lot of people, if not most, make of it.

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whiffysole

19 Dec 2018, 21:10

I got my hopes up when I first found out about Cherry ML. Boy was I disappointed. I'll take just about any dome board over those scratchy abominations.

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ThePillenwerfer

19 Dec 2018, 21:35

What is and isn't mechanical is something I've pondered as rubber domes and even flat membrane monstrosities like ZX80/1s rely on mechanical force and movement. The only 'keyboards' I can think of that aren't mechanical are touch-screens.

davkol

19 Dec 2018, 21:55

The dictionary definition is correct and practical, because the vast majority of keyboards is virtual on touchscreens nowadays, and it's a worthwhile effort to study their usability compared to keyboards with ‘hardware’ buttons.

Then in #2 you say that you might not want your keyboard to be mechanical. Correct. I wouldn't put ‘mechanical’ on a pedestal… or try to redefine it to mean ‘good’. What sort of post-truth doublespeak is that?

Luckily, there's the part starting around 12:00. I'm kinda curious how the Reddit circlejerk might react to that.

BTW let me introduce you to
  • Electronic Keyboards,
    We manufacture optical keyboards where the finger is detected by a matrix of infrared sensors.
  • FingerWorks (TouchStream),
    FingerWorks was a gesture recognition company based in the United States, known mainly for its TouchStream multi-touch keyboard.
  • or LightIO.
    This new and unique Ergonomic Touchless Keyboard replaces push-button keys with optical sensors to avoid the forces on fingers.

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Chyros

19 Dec 2018, 23:48

davkol wrote: The dictionary definition is correct and practical, because the vast majority of keyboards is virtual on touchscreens nowadays, and it's a worthwhile effort to study their usability compared to keyboards with ‘hardware’ buttons.
This is obviously not what the term is used for, though :p . We're not here because the keyboards we like are non-virtual. If this were the case, "semi-mechanical" or "mechanical-feel" would mean something completely different from what it's actually taken to mean, too.

Then in #2 you say that you might not want your keyboard to be mechanical. Correct. I wouldn't put ‘mechanical’ on a pedestal… or try to redefine it to mean ‘good’. What sort of post-truth doublespeak is that?
Again, you don't have to convince me, you're preaching to the choir here. But the unfortunate truth is that that is exactly what the term is used for, generally.

If you're in doubt on this point, look at the product page for ANY "mechanical" gaming keyboard :p .

davkol

20 Dec 2018, 00:13

Chyros wrote:
davkol wrote: The dictionary definition is correct and practical, because the vast majority of keyboards is virtual on touchscreens nowadays, and it's a worthwhile effort to study their usability compared to keyboards with ‘hardware’ buttons.
This is obviously not what the term is used for, though :p .

[…]

If you're in doubt on this point, look at the product page for ANY "mechanical" gaming keyboard :p .
Keyboards/covers for tablets are commonly advertised as ‘mechanical’ and there's research that uses such definition. For example, I was reading a paper that compared the ergonomics of a ‘mechanical keyboard’ (something like Apple Aluminium) and a virtual keyboard (software keyboard on an iPad) the other day; they were looking for differences in wrist strain, fatigue and accuracy between basically non-zero- and zero-force keys.

That's the use case for most users. Not ‘keyboard enthusiasts’, but then there's a whole bunch of other issues, like trying to redefine ‘standard layouts’ (read: Filco Majestouch in US layout, as opposed to actual standards).

Before this (actually in the middle of the previous century), there was a major distinction between mechanical and electrical keyboards of respective sorts of typewriters.

Anything between that, I don't see the point. Just call it ‘rubber dome’ or ‘coil spring’, ‘capsense’ or ‘Hall effect’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’,… Yeah, advertising will turn anything into a meaningless buzzword, but they can @#$% off.

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digital_matthew

20 Dec 2018, 02:11

A mechanical keyboard is a keyboard with moving parts that doesn't use rubber domes over membrane.

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flowerlandfilms

20 Dec 2018, 02:32

This is what I posted in the comment section after I watched it.
I thought about it for a bit and I still think it's true.

"I think the closest definition would not be defined by the user experience, but by the production of the keyboard.
Determined by how much Effort/Thought/Time/Problem Solving, was put in by the engineer/s.
After all any material or mechanism is valid if it gets the job done.
I acknowledge this makes the issue largely nebulous, and difficult to determine in retrospect."

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Chyros

20 Dec 2018, 03:03

digital_matthew wrote: A mechanical keyboard is a keyboard with moving parts that doesn't use rubber domes over membrane.
In that case BTC dome with slider is mechanical, but the other dome with slider switches aren't. But how about buckling rubber sleeves?

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Sangdrax

20 Dec 2018, 03:08

I just can't believe you didn't make the good old ebay "clicky" keyboard joke.

andrewjoy

20 Dec 2018, 10:52

I think it rules out some designs but how about.

A keyboard design where the keycap does not act directly on a rubber dome?

This would allow slider over tome , topre etc to work as well as ALPS and so on. But it would exclude dome over membrane ( the classic junk rubber dome) and scissor switch

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ThePillenwerfer

20 Dec 2018, 12:36

I made my earlier comment before watching the video and was pleased to see that I'd independently come to at least some of the same conclusions.

The definition of Mechanical being when the key doesn't have to bottom-out to activate doesn't hold water either. I'm typing this on an HP KUS0133, which I certainly wouldn't dream of calling mechanical but if I slowly press a key and watch when the character appears on the screen there's still about 1/16" of travel remaining.
Last edited by ThePillenwerfer on 20 Dec 2018, 14:25, edited 1 time in total.

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Chyros

20 Dec 2018, 13:58

davkol wrote: Anything between that, I don't see the point. Just call it ‘rubber dome’ or ‘coil spring’, ‘capsense’ or ‘Hall effect’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’,… Yeah, advertising will turn anything into a meaningless buzzword, but they can @#$% off.
Heh, yeah, definitely - unfortunately that type of advertising has been used for what, 30 years straight now? It's practically brainwashed everybody who reads about it into such a mindset xD .

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Hypersphere

20 Dec 2018, 14:58

For me, a mechanical keyboard is any keyboard that has keys that are activated by pressing them so that there is a macroscopically measurable displacement -- that is, a displacement that is detectable by a human using his sense of touch or instruments no more sophisticated than a ruler or caliper.

Menuhin

20 Dec 2018, 15:05

This switch is for sure mechanical:

Image

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Laser
emacs -nw

20 Dec 2018, 15:39

If it's just for show, it does nothing, so it's not mechanical :D In this sense, yes, the better a switch does its function (and, for keyboards, this means two things: to actually actuate and to feel good for the user), the more "mechanical" it is :P

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Muirium
µ

20 Dec 2018, 16:54

Mechanical is such a useless term in search of a definition. Surely we can all agree Cherry MY is mechanical, and Topre is not. All hail our wet newspaper mechanical overlords!

(There’s even numpties around here who insist buckling spring isn’t mechanical, whether due to trolling or serious head injury I cannot verify.)

In reality, the umbrella terms I use for all the good stuff are “high end keyboards”, “quality keyboards”, “custom keyboards” and “vintage keyboards.” The unspoken assumption being that if it’s garbage, it’s not worth talking about.

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Hypersphere

20 Dec 2018, 17:00

In my silly mixed-up world, Topre is mechanical.

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Muirium
µ

20 Dec 2018, 17:04

Hmm. But then what isn’t?

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Hypersphere

20 Dec 2018, 17:18

Muirium wrote: Hmm. But then what isn’t?
Indeed. Which is why I tend not to divide keyboards into "mechanical" and "non-mechanical". Like you, I use other qualifiers. In my case, the qualifiers are usually indicators of switch type, e.g., Topre-switch keyboard, Cherry mx keyboard, Alps-switch keyboard, etc.

By my sweeping definition of mechanical, about the only keyboards that would be excluded would be laser-projection keyboards and touch-screen keyboards, but some might argue that even these have mechanical components, although not easily measured.

davkol

20 Dec 2018, 17:26

Muirium wrote: Hmm. But then what isn’t?
I already listed three examples…
davkol wrote: BTW let me introduce you to
  • Electronic Keyboards,
    We manufacture optical keyboards where the finger is detected by a matrix of infrared sensors.
  • FingerWorks (TouchStream),
    FingerWorks was a gesture recognition company based in the United States, known mainly for its TouchStream multi-touch keyboard.
  • or LightIO.
    This new and unique Ergonomic Touchless Keyboard replaces push-button keys with optical sensors to avoid the forces on fingers.

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ThePillenwerfer

20 Dec 2018, 17:31

As with most things, there are two types of keyboard: those I like and those I don't. I would even hesitate to use terms like "Good" or "Bad" as a lot is down to personal preference.

Menuhin

20 Dec 2018, 17:47

After the video, I think I should accept all rubber-dome keyboards as "mechanical" to a certain extent.

While "mechanical" means having some physical moving parts in the switch or activation mechanism,
therefore, the older generation "Resistive Touchscreen" when implemented as a keyboard, can somewhat be called "mechanical":

Image

Findecanor

21 Dec 2018, 00:50

A keyboard on a resistive touch screen is a type of membrane keyboard.

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Elrick

21 Dec 2018, 01:04

A keyboard is anything that makes your fingers - HAPPY :D .

There's too much sadness and hopelessness looming about everywhere but when you have your favourite switches in front of you, then for a short time you're elevated into heavenly bliss.

That is what ALL keyboards should be but alas, not all are in that category and perhaps shall never be.

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digital_matthew

21 Dec 2018, 02:06

Maybe "Stock" vs. "Aftermarket" is the more useful distinction, at least in terms of modern keyboards. We all know how insanely awesome '70s and '80s IBM stock keyboards are. ;)

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