Hari's Corner

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Mechanical keyboards - rediscovering the joys of typing

Filed under: Software and Technology by Hari
Posted on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 at 17:19 IST (last updated: Tue, Jul 16, 2013 @ 17:19 IST)

Wow... after a long time, a proper article on this blog again! Actually this blog post is a result of my discovering the joys of typing on a mechanical keyboard.

Inspired by a few recent blog posts including one about the classic IBM Model M from my friend, Dion Moult, and also encouragement from my brother who is a fan of mechanical keyboards in general and the DAS keyboard in particular (being a full-time programmer who has to type 8-9 hours a day), I decided to make the switch to a mechanical keyboard. Unfortunately most mechanical keyboards are quite expensive and not available directly in India (the price tag in USD makes it more expensive in India with the current exchange rates and overseas shipping charges adds to the price). Luckily, there is one manufacturer of mechanical keyboards in India: TVS Electronics. The TVS-e Bharat Gold keyboard is relatively inexpensive and locally available. So it was my obvious choice. I went ahead and ordered it on e-bay and it arrived today.

It is a pure pleasure to type on this keyboard which uses Cherry MX Blue switches. The construction feels solid enough, and the clicky, springy feel is truly a joy after years of being used to bottoming out the keys on a membrane keyboard with little or no tactile feedback. I still press the keys a little too hard, but I am learning to reduce the pressure so as not to bottom out the keys. The added benefit of typing on a proper, full sized keyboard with separate Home, End, Page Up/Down keys and a numeric pad after so many years is a liberating experience.

A full review of this keyboard may be in order after some days of proper typing on this. In the meantime I might even goad myself to type a few more blog posts ;)

16 comment(s)

  1. Hahahaha hari! That's great :) It's one of those things where once you try it, you'll never go back.

    Comment by Dion Moult (visitor) on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 @ 19:49 IST #
  2. As the proud owner of a Model M, I'm definitely a fan of mechanicals.

    I'm strongly considering the "quiet" Das Keyboard for work, since I might get complained at for bringing my clicky Model M in but don't like the generic Dell thing I'm currently making-do with

    Comment by Dominic (visitor) on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 @ 19:53 IST #
  3. Hi Dion. Yes, definitely is. Strangely enough, I am old enough to remember when mechanical keyboards were standard on most PCs and I am not totally unfamiliar with them. TVS-e keyboards used to be quite popular in India in the 1990s. Somewhere along the line, when branded PCs became popular, mechanical keyboards slowly went out of circulation.

    Dominic, you're lucky to own a Model M. 8-) I think only one company (Unicomp) makes the same type of keyboard (buckling spring type). The Cherry MX Blue switch is clicky as well, but I believe the Cherry Brown switches are quiet(er). Worth considering. My brother owns the "quiet" DAS keyboard and he swears by it.

    Funny thing is, until recently I wasn't much bothered about keyboards.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 @ 21:06 IST #
  4. Thanks for citing me as an encouragement source ;)

    When I'm back in India I'll give your Cherry MX Blue a try and if I like it better, I can get a Das Keyboard Model S (with MX Blue switches) later. Having one for the office and one for work for me makes sense.

    The "Silent", "Quiet" etc. needs to be clarified. The "Quiet" is not Cherry MX Brown.

    DAS Keyboard Professional/Ultimate Clicky - Cherry MX Blue.

    DAS Keyboard Professional Quiet - Cherry MX Red. Something I'd not recommend for typing (maybe decent for gaming).

    The DAS keyboard Professional/Ultimate - Cherry MX Brown.

    They went through a series of renaming, but these are their current names. So I don't own the "quiet" (MX Red switch) keyboard, what I have is the "Professional" (MX Brown switch).

    My colleague has 2 original IBM Model M keyboards, which all have the buckling spring switches, I tried it and they're pretty amazing, but somehow I prefer the Cherry MX brown switches to them. Those keyboards are really bulky.. even for a mechanical keyboard.

    I remember I had started developing a ganglion cyst in my wrist (according to the doctor) but coincidentally few months after switching to the DAS keyboard the ganglion cyst reduced drastically to the point of barely noticeable. It's just a slight bump and I no longer feel too much pain when I press hard against it. I don't know if it was caused or made worse due to repetitive stress on my wrists from typing hours on end on a crappy keyboard but it certainly has become much better now.

    - Ramshankar

    Comment by Ramshankar (visitor) on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 @ 15:05 IST #
  5. Thanks for the clarification, bro!

    Anyway, I like the clicky keys. It is not too loud if I am soft on the keys but it takes time to get used to not pushing them down hard.

    Anyway, good information on the DAS Keyboard, which some sources incorrectly refer to as German. You also clarified that for me since I thought they were a German company.

    The TVS-e is a mass-market product because India is the home of data-entry services and other IT operations involving lots of typing. That's why a company like TVS-e can probably afford to make them relatively cheaper though I don't know how long that situation will last.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 @ 16:38 IST #
  6. The Cherry MX switches are german engineered switches. The company "DAS Keyboard" I believe is a US company.

    As far as I know, manufacturing of the actual Cherry MX switches happens in Germany.

    Comment by Ramshankar (visitor) on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 @ 19:23 IST #
  7. I removed the num lock key just to check the switch type and it's Cherry MX Blue confirmed. :)

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 @ 20:07 IST #
  8. Found this post while searching for info on mechanical keyboards in India. Might be hard to believe, but I've used the same keyboard day in and out for almost two decades now (a fact which I must admit is a bit of a shock since it makes me realise how the years have flown by!) It's a Ritcomp 7060C 101-key KB with a DIN connector; the only piece of hardware from my first PC that has survived through all the hardware upgrades since. No wonder I'm so attached to it since I've used it from my student days right through to becoming a professional codesmith.

    Ritcomp's spartan site doesn't have much information so I'm unsure whether they ever officially licensed the IBM/Lexmark/Unicomp design. The name does seem to indicate a Unicomp knock-off; regardless however the quality of manufacturing is evident given how it has lasted this long and borne the brunt of countless hours of hammering, especially during prolonged multi-player gaming sessions.

    Unfortunately a couple of the keys have stopped responding properly and have started skipping quite badly, and I'm at a loss regarding what I should do. No idea if this is something I can fix easily by opening it up and cleaning thoroughly, and I'm even afraid to pop out the key caps in order to check whether it utilises buckling spring or ALPS/Cherry key technology. Does sound like the former though. Tried their number but haven't managed to get in touch with Ritcomp yet, so no idea if repairs/part replacements for such an ancient model are possible or even undertaken by them, and unsure whether trusting some local repair shop is wise.

    On top of that the only model Ritcomp sells now (the 2098 ) uses "soft cherry keys" so I'm guessing it doesn't use Cherry MX Blue switches, and no tactile feedback and lack of audible "click" is a complete deal-breaker for me.

    Glad that you confirmed the TVS-e Bharat Gold uses Cherry MX Blues, since the site seems to omit this important piece of information (probably 'cos not many people care in India). Before chancing upon your site I found http://hothardware.com/cs/blogs/mrtg/archive/2009/03/09/mechanical-key-switch-keyboards-demystified.aspx but the comment thread didn't clarify the switch type which was what I was interested in. Thanks for sharing the info! If I can't get my keyboard repaired I'll probably go for the TVS-e one (and as a bonus will finally have access to a dedicated Windows key!) OTOH I see old Ritcomps in seemingly perfect working condition being sold on eBay, OLX etc. for not too much, so perhaps that's a viable alternative as well. For sure if my present keyboard uses buckling springs then I'm unlikely to get a new one with this tech in India, and of course given the current depths being plumbed by the rupee I can't afford to spend 10K or more getting a Unicomp Ultra Classic shipped all the way here, much as I would love to. :(

    Sorry for the treatise in your comment thread! I'm off now to try Ritcomp again, as well as search the net for mechanical (buckling spring) keyboard home repair tips. :)

    Comment by Sahil (visitor) on Mon, Aug 5, 2013 @ 10:53 IST #
  9. P.S. Make that "multi-player", plus your blogging software replaced the 8 followed by the closing parenthesis in the model number with an unwanted smiley. Also forgot to ask, just how much did you pay for the TVS-e Bharat Gold?

    Comment by Sahil (visitor) on Mon, Aug 5, 2013 @ 11:01 IST #
  10. Sahil, thanks for the comment. Would like to know for sure whether the Ritcomp uses buckling spring technology or not. Would also like your thoughts on how much force is required to actuate the keys on your Ritcomp keyboard. I've heard that buckling spring keyboards are a bit stiffer and even noisier than the Cherry MX Blues.

    It's a pity that neither Ritcomp nor TVS-e have made available on their website information on the type of switch used by their models, except the fact that it is Cherry. The different Cherry switches have varying levels of tactile feedback, actuation force and point and also clicking sound. I believe the Blues are considered best for typing although it is quite a bit noisy.

    Wishing you luck with your search for a mechanical keyboard as well as for repairing your present one.

    EDIT: I've made the corrections you sought in your previous comment.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Mon, Aug 5, 2013 @ 11:02 IST #
  11. Also forgot to ask, just how much did you pay for the TVS-e Bharat Gold?

    I paid around INR 1800.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Mon, Aug 5, 2013 @ 11:07 IST #
  12. I'm not sure what's the safest method to pull the key caps (don't own a dedicated key cap puller), so until I do won't know whether it uses buckling springs or not.

    BTW I got through to someone at Ritcomp finally, but not surprisingly he had no idea about their two decade-old models. Told me to bring the keyboard over for evaluation and repair, but said frankly that if replacement parts are required I'd be out of luck. Essentially he told me not to waste my time and tried hard to sell me the latest model instead, which BTW is the 2298 that is not mentioned anywhere on their outdated site (the 2098 mentioned on http://ritcomp.in/keyboard.html is apparently no longer being manufactured). No idea what differentiates the 2298 from the older 2098 (only got a vague "technological improvements" as the answer), but confirmed that both definitely sport tactile but non-clicky keys which probably means either Cherry MX Browns or Clears (as per http://www.overclock.net/t/491752/mechanical-keyboard-guide#post_6009482 and http://wiki.geekhack.org/index.php?title=Cherry_MX). The Ritcomp employee did declare forcefully that I could freely test their latest (only) model and wouldn't even miss the clicking, but that was probably just part of his sales pitch.

    http://uniaccess.in/default/tvse-gold-keyboard-black.html has the TVS-e for Rs. 1550/- right now (plus shipping of 5/- only as per the site), so I'm certainly thinking about it in case I need to buy a new one after all. BTW, would you agree with this review (http://www.thinkdigit.com/forum/reviews/169999-tvs-e-gold-keyboard.html) about the lack of n-key rollover (another important bit left out of the spec sheet) as well as the problem with the arrow keys?

    Comment by Sahil (visitor) on Mon, Aug 5, 2013 @ 13:01 IST #
  13. n-key rollover is important for gamers who often use multiple keys at once. I think for most average typing work, n-key rollover is not an issue. Also as far as arrow keys are concerned, I've not noticed any problem. However, it may pose a problem for gamers.

    In any case, I doubt whether dedicated gamers would prefer a Cherry MX Blue switch keyboard. The TVS-e is meant for typing comfortably.

    I hope you get your problem fixed with the Ritcomp keyboard. If it is the buckling spring model, it may be worth repairing (if possible).

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Mon, Aug 5, 2013 @ 13:16 IST #
  14. Forgot to address a few points in my previous response...

    Would also like your thoughts on how much force is required to actuate the keys on your Ritcomp keyboard. I've heard that buckling spring keyboards are a bit stiffer and even noisier than the Cherry MX Blues.

    My father (who learnt to type on and used a Remington typewriter for decades) probably out of sheer habit applies a lot of force thus bottoming out the keys every time and really going clickety-clack (I believe IBM developed the buckling spring design to deliberately feel and sound like their Selectric typewriters). However while I'm not a 10-fingered touch typist I'm quite fast and not the hunt-and-peck sort, and I have never needed to use too much force with the Ritcomp. Generally a light tap and even halfway depression does the trick just fine, except obviously for the two bad keys now. N-key rollover (no ghosting) too which only the most expensive USB keyboards tend to sport nowadays.

    Regarding the comparison there seem to be a few keyboards (obviously costing a bomb) that use Cherry MX Greens which are said to be closer to buckling springs than the Blues, but I doubt they are available here unless imported on special order.

    Wishing you luck with your search for a mechanical keyboard as well as for repairing your present one.

    Thanks a lot, you've been a great help! :D

    Comment by Sahil (visitor) on Mon, Aug 5, 2013 @ 13:19 IST #
  15. Thanks a lot, you've been a great help! :D

    Always glad to help. Do let me about the results of your search.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Mon, Aug 5, 2013 @ 13:40 IST #
  16. I too have this TVS eGold USB keyboard. I like the clinging sound when I type 65 words per minute.

    Comment by Amit Singh (visitor) on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 @ 23:54 IST #

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