Applying lessons learned - two more keyboard iterations
The journey continues (see previous post for more info...)... This post is really just for a few folks who had asked for updates.
I have learned a few more lessons:
- Expect it to take 3-4 months (100-200 hours) per full board build - a long feedback loop is just the nature of the game, especially with my availability
- Expect to get some crucial feature wrong - design for design failure
- Expect to break parts or have bad solder joints - design for repair
- Expect to be tempted to rush things
If you want to follow along or look for more detail or laughs or horror, I keep a build log in a google doc here: It's super long, but often updated daily
What follows is a brief summary of the keyboard development work between July 2022 and April 2023. I'll leave out the business analogies (continuous improvement aside). For the curious, the 'mk13' (mark = old British engineering thing, I think?) indicates the thirteenth time I started from scratch - and the maths-inclined amongst whoever reads this might note that 3-4 months times 16 doesn't equal 18 months of me walking these paths - some designs got thrown out real quick-like.
mk13 - the daily driver
I'm typing this post using this board - the ergonomics of it seem to work for me - and indeed it's made it possible to continue working (as I can no longer use a mouse).
- Thumb trackball positioning improved from mk9, along with auto-mouse
- Many more keys: 7x6 + 6 thumb keys per side
- Thumb clusters that don't destroy my thumb tendons
- Larger palm rests
- Better use of layers and combinations
- Screens - why? peer pressure, that's why. Also was an interesting option for making visible the invisible workings of the firmware.
Except until the one day I messed up a firmware update for it, and realized how fragile my situation was! So now we need a backup...
- Some teething issues around solder joints...ok a lot of issues with solder joints...
- The design, in practice, was not 'operable'
- There was a qmk bug, maybe?, that brought performance issues when using RP2040 and split transport, and/or my firmware/hardware had issues; had to turn off the screens eventually to recoup enough performance
- But finally, something that would allow me to keep working! Success.
mk15 - the 'definitely going to be better' improvement/backup
End of November 2022 through April 2023 produced this...
- 30-degree tent (BKB's Charybdis as a tracing aid)
- 4x6 + 6 thumb keys / side
- Dual trackballs (left = vert/horizontal scroll, right = mouse)
- Indicator strip at back (colour changing based on stuff like 'shift-hold is on')
- Encoders change per-layer (left = functions, right = layer select+hold)
- My symptoms have progressed since the design of this board started; I'm physically unable to use it.
- Dual encoders (Falcon pcb is great!!) and trackballs are pretty super duper.
- Dpad is where it's at!! (5-way switch giving directional arrow keys)
- Learned some lessons around design-for-repair....again...
- Learned what does NOT work for me! \o/
In the meantime, I have mk13 and mk15 together on my desk, pulling functionality from both!
mk16...er mk17 - seventeenth time's the charm, right?
mk16 was fun, but didn't work out. Between issues with finding the right lofting look and packaging and realizing that I should use dual encoders/side...well, lessons learned. Some of the design aspects will transfer over.
mk17 is going to be an improved and more maintainable mk13, with all the lessons of the in-between...we'll see how it pans out.