Because Sundays are always such slow days around the forums, I decided to start “Andy’s Porch,” a weekly post with musings that are a little more personal by nature. This is just my way of letting you, the reader, get to know me a little better and hopefully have a little fun in the process.
As a keyboard enthusiast and undeniable introvert, I always hate hearing the question “so, what do you do?” at any point in a discussion. Not only does this mean I’ve more than likely been suckered into going to some public event, it also means I have to try to explain to normal folk why I spend so much time, effort, and money on keyboards.
Out of all my quirky hobbies (collecting cassettes, vinyl, typewriters, building guitar pedals) no hobby confuses people quite as much as much as when I first let them know that I’m really into keyboards. Really, really into keyboards. People always assume that I’m talking about the musical variety of keyboards; and on their behalf I do actually have a degree in audio engineering and play “keyboards,” so it isn’t a dumb assumption. But, I’m always left having to cut them off and immediately clarify the type of keyboards I’m talking about, usually followed by pulling multiple mechs out of my knapsack to show them. If they aren’t already confused enough at this point by how expensive and time consuming this hobby really is for me, my enthusiasm about the subject inevitably will leave them completely dumbfounded. Having these awkward conversations is something I’m sure anyone reading this has already experienced, but it comes with the territory when you have such a niche hobby. I wasn’t always this way though.
A few years ago I was one of those people that would have been utterly confused by the fact that people actually get so into mechanical keyboards. I wasn’t a PC gamer and I had never really put any thought into what kind of keyboard I used. I was however an avid writer, mainly of poetry and short stories. I was had just graduated with an audio engineering degree and was trying to find a paying job. I had a very cushy job in a record store at the time…
(drink beer – sell records), but still wanted that nice salaried job school had promised me, and somehow came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea for me to be homeless between leases for 6 months in the NC mountains, in winter. The idea was to cut everything but writing out of my life, because screw it, if music wasn’t going to work out writing damn sure would. The idea sounded very romantic and exciting at the time, and it sounds absolutely nuts speaking about it now. But that is what happened, and it was a damn cold winter that year…
During my stint as a homeless writer, I drank scotch like water and wrote everything by hand. I still have a giant collection of Moleskine notebooks that I filled over those months. Through a bit of luck and a lot of work I somehow managed to get a book of my poetry and prose published. By the time the book actually came out I was back to living in a nice cabin and was trying to learn how to write all over again. Writing by hand just didn’t seem to work for me in home setting so I moved on to typewriters. I started on an old Sears electric typewriter and eventually moved on to a few really nice mechanical typewriters. I got to the point where I was spending five or six hours a day hunched over my typewriter, and it didn’t take much of that before I was hopelessly in love with clack. The rhythmic audible clicks from my typewriter became a needed vice that fueled my creativity. I would sit on my porch, listen to the stream behind my house, and clack away for hours on my typewriter. I had found my second wind, and out of it came my second book.
My second wind didn’t last long though, a few months later I moved out of the mountains and into the city. Porch sitting was no longer an option, instead of a gorgeous mountain view I now had trashy neighbors and a major road in my front yard. I had to move my writing indoors, and with that I decided it was time for a new way of writing yet again. This time around, I decided that I’d make life easy and just write on a computer. Writing on a computer felt so blah and uninspiring to me at first; then I remembered how my brother had told me about people in his office that would “bring $100 keyboards into work with them everyday because they clicked and feel glorious,” and decided to look into what exactly those “clicky keyboards” were. I had hope that if I found a keyboard that reminded me of my prized typewriters enough, I’d be back hacking away once again.
I slowly discovered the forums starting with GeekHack, Deskthority, and finally /r/mechanicalkeyboards on Reddit. By the time I discovered Reddit I was completely hooked. The endless stream of pictures constantly amazed me. It didn’t take long after I started lurking around that subreddit before I bought my first mechanical keyboard. I started with old IBM Model F, and slowly started buying more as I could afford to. Not only did the keyboards look nice, but they more than lived up to expectations when it came to feel.
To this day I am still an incredibly heavy typist because of the endless hours I spent clacking away on typewriters, which explains why I love my buckling spring/MX Green/MX Clear switches so much. My third book has yet to happen, but I am fortunate enough to be able to spend hours a day typing away on the forums , writing reviews, or sneaking in a few pages of poetry when there’s time, so I’m surely not complaining.
If you enjoyed this post and want to have “Andy’s Porch” as a weekly offering be sure to let me know, and if you thought this was a stupid waste of your time feel free to tell me that as well! Thanks to Peddamann on Twitter for suggesting the title “Andy’s Porch.” I dig it.