Hak Foo wrote: ↑
I think part of the issue with Alps-and-clones is the anonymity. So many variants look alike but vary widely in feel/sound/quality. I wouldn't be surprised in the original era of this stuff, that was by design-- shops like Tai-Hao, Xiang Min, and a thousand lost to history were probably selling them as "it's a click-type switch that fits the PCB you already designed, but 1TWD per unit cheaper than Alps." They probably didn't want a big logo on there which screams to the world that your OEM customer has cut corners.
A few things changed:
* The buyers for mechanical keyboards are different now than in 1992. End users care about specifics and will notice and have a fit if you swap in an alternative for the sake of shaving costs.
* Clone makers have met and exceeded the originals, so there are legitimate reasons to select a different brand. Gateron and Kailh make switches as good if not better than Cherry, but added many new flavours; Matias at least promised tighter tolerances and longer lifespan than the original Alps datasheets.
For the 2019 market, I can see trying to present a switch that's got a brandable factor that speaks directly to end users. Matias has their clear cases; Kailh has box stems. Why wouldn't Hua-Jie want to say something like "look for our switches with the trademark #808080 stem"
Well said. I became aware of Alps switch keyboards in the late '80s when the Northgates were first sold separately. A buddy gave me a Leading Edge DC-2014 and told me it used the same switches, and I used that until I upgraded to a 286, which of course the 2014 was not compatible with, but by that time I had found a used Northgate. That was well into the period when PC clone parts became widely available to hobbyists, but long after the days when a "hacker" (early computer hobbyist) built their own stuff from scratch. The typical hobbyist by that time didn't solder anything at all, and certainly wasn't going to build their own keyboard or swap out one switch type for another in an existing one. Alps switches were mentioned by name in some advertising, as were the terms "clicky" and "tactile", but nobody was talking about slider color or simple versus complicated. By the time the Alps clone switches came out most folks were using throwaway membrane keyboards, which the clones had to compete with price-wise, and anything that wasn't an extended AT layout had been tossed in the trash. I was in the business, and I must have personally crammed ten thousand keyboards in the dumpster because we couldn't give them away and none of the recyclers would take them, even for free. I wish I knew where they were buried!
Fast forward thirty years, Now we are thankfully restoring the older keyboards, at least the ones that look and feel good, and building new versions. The desire for quality is driving at least a small corner of the market to provide decent switches; something that only a very few of us cared about for most of the past three decades. I really don't expect anyone to tool up and reissue complicated SKCM switches just yet, but perhaps in another ten or twenty years the demand to do that will be there, or something as good or better will be created in its place.