This Wired or Wireless Input Device Is No Ordinary Keyboard — For Writers, It's a Convergence of Romance and Technology
In the highly converged film and TV industries, many of us — in addition to everything else — have become prolific writers. We write screenplays and teleplays, series synopses, pitches, novels, technical journals, and the occasional (hopefully) useful magazine article like this one. Indeed, many of us now spend much of our lives and many hours each day hovering over a keyboard. But we seldom talk or think about it much — until, that is, something goes wrong and it sheds a few keys, acts erratically, or fails to register at all.
The Great Apple Keyboard Debacle of 2015–2016 underscored the critical importance of proper design and manufacturing in our primary input device. The Mac laptops in question — 2015 MacBooks and 2016 MacBook Pros — featured a new and supposedly improved keyboard with a butterfly-type mechanism, a low-profile switch supporting each key that proved particularly susceptible to accumulating dirt and debris that would render the keyboard useless. Thousands of MacBooks and MacBook Pros were said to be affected, according to the well-publicized lawsuit, with many keyboards not registering keystrokes properly or failing altogether. For users with laptops out of warranty, the failed keyboards were especially costly in terms of time, money, and frustration.
The Qwerkywriter, a labor of love, passion and crowd-funding, was born in the mind of gadgeteer-inventor Brian Min, who wanted to create a top-end keyboard blending art and function. For many writers, the keyboard is not just a practical device for data entry; it can have a powerful emotional dimension as well. For example, most modern keyboards have square keys. Min, in his iconoclastic way, wanted to produce the ultimate keyboard with round keys, which are inherently more complex and expensive to manufacture.
The nostalgia factor entered substantially into Min’s thinking. Above all, Min wanted to resurrect the look and romance of decades-old mechanical typewriters. Min’s 2011 prototype keyboard drew inspiration (and actual keys) from a cannibalized pre-World War II Remington Rand model. Many of us aren’t old enough to remember the click and clack of mechanical typewriters, but I certainly do. I recall tapping away for hours on my old Smith-Corona in high school, so the emotional connection runs deep.
The first thing one notices about the Qwerkywriter is its considerable heft. It’s made of industrial-strength aluminum, and a lot of it. Plastic is much cheaper and easier to mold and fashion, so it is used commonly in cheap, ordinary keyboards. But this is no ordinary keyboard.
The build quality of the Qwerkywriter is exemplary in every respect. Like a fine wine in limited production, the company builds only a few at a time, employing the industrial-grade German-made Cherry MX switches more commonly found in factory assembly lines and automotive plants.
Min claims to have discovered the Cherry switches by chance; the clicky switch, with its distinctive positive feel, is integral to the Qwerkywriter. Indeed, after typing on it for just a few days, it’s hard to go back to the soft and vague, non-mechanical experience, of a more run-of-the-mill keyboard.
Contributing to the cost of manufacturing, the Qwerkywriter keys are individually soldered and assembled by hand. Each key is a discrete mechanical switch good for an estimated 50+ million strokes. That’s a lot of use! The Cherry MX switch that powers the Qwerkywriter is one serious beast.
Given its robust construction and simplicity, the Qwerkywriter feels a lot like an Apple product. To cite one example, Min opted to use heavy automotive-style chrome-plating to protect the key surfaces, so there is little chance for wear to materialize on the keycaps, even after many years of use. The current model, the Qwerkywriter S, reflects many recent improvements; the new surface treatment, for example, elegantly resists smudges and surface abrasions.
And the Qwerkywriter S will soon be available (via Indiegogo only, for shipment in 2019) in a range of colors beyond the tried and true original basic black, which I personally prefer and find conducive to writing awe-inspiring prose like this.
When evaluating a keyboard with wireless capability, it’s always critical to consider potential latency. In my evaluations, I noted a slight delay when operating via Bluetooth with my older (second-generation) iPad. On the other hand, my new (sixth-generation) 9.7-inch iPad presented no noticeable latency issue.
Min admits that Bluetooth is less than an ideal standard for real-time keyboard input. There is bound to be some latency in all iOS devices, Min points out, owing to the vagaries of Bluetooth from device to device and the particular chipset employed. Because Bluetooth uses a lot of power, Apple has implemented a time-out feature for Bluetooth in its latest iOS updates in order to preserve battery capacity. The constant disabling and re-enabling of the keyboard via Bluetooth is inefficient and deleteriously impacts the keyboard experience.
Beyond that, Apple sometimes uses different BT chipsets in iPads of the same model, so the performance of any particular iPad may vary considerably and unpredictably. There appears to be no perceptible lag on an iPhone, but then who uses the iPhone for serious writing?
Speaking of this, The Qwerkywriter S supports multiple devices, so it is possible to connect a mobile phone, tablet, and laptop simultaneously. For best performance, the wired USB configuration with so-called “N-key rollover” (NKRO) support is recommended, effectively eliminating dropped letters and strokes as well as most latency issues.
The Qwerkywriter features an elegantly-designed integrated tablet stand that holds an iPad up to 12 inches in any dimension. The keyboard’s Macro Return Bar, at first glance, is bound to draw more than a few perplexed stares. Suffice it to say, by default, it acts as a second ‘ENTER’ key, but can be programmed to generate up to 15 characters for a signature or line of copy.
This is not a piece of gear for kids or rabid gamers. As impressive as the technology is, that’s only part of the appeal of this robust, well-engineered keyboard. For most users, the Qwerkywriter will be all about the nostalgia and romance of clicking and clacking away like Dashiell Hammett writing The Maltese Falcon.
The Qwerkywriter is an inspirational surface for those of us who spend a lot of time writing novels and screenplays and articles like this. The fact is, this keyboard makes you feel good about the experience of pounding keys, and that is bound to lead to more fruitful output. And perhaps a new updated version of The Maltese Falcon.