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System76 do a lot of things, they've steadily grown to a point where they make their own desktops and now they're expanding further into making more hardware.

Now they're going to have a go at making a keyboard. Not the fanciest of tech, sure, however it's something we use constantly when at a PC and it's obviously essential. It also hasn't really changed much over the years, which System76 think they can do better.

Since they're a Linux hardware vendor, and they also make their own Linux distribution with Pop!_OS, it will of course all fit together nicely.

In their blog post, they did a little interview with CEO Carl Richell, who mentioned that they did research and found that "spacebars typically, for example, are way too long" and that "you use your pinkie because useful keys are out at the extremities of the keyboard—so we wanted to change that".


Obvious early prototype.

Being configurable is a bit point of what they're doing too. The hardware, firmware and configuration software will be open source too. The keys can be swapped around, making it easy to change how you use it. And yes, it appears to be a proper Mechanical keyboard too.

It'd not going to be a massively wild design though, beginners should still be able to plug it in and get going like anyone else but "you’re going to have less strain on your hands, because instead of using your pinkies, you’ll use your thumbs for common keystrokes and key combinations" and other common keys will be more accessible.

Speaking on Twitter in reply to a quick tip we did about this early yesterday System76 Engineer, Jeremy Soller, confirmed it will work with QMK (Quantum Mechanical Keyboard Firmware) something echoed by another System76 Engineer Michael Aaron Murphy who said "Everything is open source. You may even flash the firmware to remap the behaviors of each key.".

When will it be available? They're aiming for late Summer and before then hopefully they will show off the proper final design for us to ogle over.

See their blog post for more info.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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48 comments
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mirv 19 Mar
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I do appreciate companies exploring a little more with keyboard designs, but while I think it's nice...this isn't for me. Sadly. I like the idea of mixing up the space bar a little bit, but mechanical keyboards aren't suitable for my day-to-day typing (fine for gaming, not for coding).

Keyboards can be very personal to people however, and I don't think one size fits all. Which is why I'm appreciative of the endeavour regardless of if it's for me or not.
Liam Dawe 19 Mar
I do always find it odd when people ask "why when x exists?". Nothing moves on both in hardware and software, without more people and companies trying to make things. Competition is good too and a 100% Linux focused vendor doing it is obviously icing on the cake, the stronger they are as a company the better.
Quoting: BeamboomWho will be the first keyboard manufacturer to do the only change we really need with our keyboard layout and finally REMOVE THE F'ING CAPS LOCK KEY!!?

It must happen - the day must come!
I like the idea of having a caps lock key . . . somewhere. Somewhere off at the edge, with the function keys or something, where I won't accidentally hit it when I just want to hit shift. Because now and then I have a use for it, and when I do want it it's definitely what I want. Just not very often.
Looking at that prototype . . . OK, so on a normal keyboard the spacebar is too long, I'll buy that up to a point. But, maybe my eyes are getting old here, on that prototype I can't see a spacebar at all, which isn't really an improvement. Like, down where the spacebar would be I'm seeing alt, shift, backspace, ctrl. So is one or more of those blue and orange things supposed to be "space"? I don't want to be hitting "space" with my pinky!
Also not sure if I'm seeing an "enter" key.
Still, I'll be interested to see a later prototype.
SirLootALot 19 Mar
Quoting: Liam DaweI do always find it odd when people ask "why when x exists?". Nothing moves on both in hardware and software, without more people and companies trying to make things. Competition is good too and a 100% Linux focused vendor doing it is obviously icing on the cake, the stronger they are as a company the better.
If I started manufacturing cars and made a car competing with e.g. the VW Golf but being worse in (almost) every perceivable way, there would be (almost) no benefit to the market. I as a consumer would have no meaningful benefit if the additional option is not worth considering. Competition is awesome, but sometimes it is the underdog, that is the worse competitor. Competition works by people choosing the product, that is better (for their needs) not by buying partisan. This also applies to Linux-Laptops, I will only buy a Laptop from the likes of Purism System 76, Tuxedo etc. if they actually offer me a better package than the Linux-Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP.
I on the other hand find it odd when people see something being different/new/something or someone else as a virtue unto itself. I wish System 76 all the best and appreciate their contributions to open source projects, but if I want to support developers, I donate, and if I want a Laptop or a keyboard, I will buy what best suits my needs. And right now there are arguably better options for all their products.
mirv 19 Mar
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Quoting: SirLootALotI on the other hand find it odd when people see something being different/new/something or someone else as a virtue unto itself. I wish System 76 all the best and appreciate their contributions to open source projects, but if I want to support developers, I donate, and if I want a Laptop or a keyboard, I will buy what best suits my needs. And right now there are arguably better options for all their products.

Just to offer an alternative view: how do you know something is a better option if nobody tries to do something else? Looking at the space bar, and some comments here, I could definitely go for space on the right, capslock on the left (programmable at the keyboard firmware level of course).

Maybe overall it's not for your taste, and that's fine. It might be for someone else's though, or it might inspire ideas in others that build something that is for your taste. So I wouldn't see anything they're doing as a waste.
SirLootALot 19 Mar
Quoting: mirvJust to offer an alternative view: how do you know something is a better option if nobody tries to do something else? Looking at the space bar, and some comments here, I could definitely go for space on the right, capslock on the left (programmable at the keyboard firmware level of course).

Maybe overall it's not for your taste, and that's fine. It might be for someone else's though, or it might inspire ideas in others that build something that is for your taste. So I wouldn't see anything they're doing as a waste.
Well I agree. I have nothing against them bringing a different product to the market, just to make that clear. If they think that is a good business decision they shall go for it. Not a waste, just no benefit for me. I also see nothing I am interested in being inspired by this. There are (firmware-level) freely programmable Keyboards out there for cheap (look on ebay for those from Supermarket counters), there are 100% custom layouts and such things have been tried before. This is just a mishmash of existing things imo.
Furyspark 19 Mar
I need my capslock key.

I disabled the capslock key (by sort of unbinding it with the command `setxkbmap -option caps:none`) (not sure on the internals of that), and it's now my PTT key on Discord.
Liam Dawe 19 Mar
Quoting: mirv
Quoting: SirLootALotI on the other hand find it odd when people see something being different/new/something or someone else as a virtue unto itself. I wish System 76 all the best and appreciate their contributions to open source projects, but if I want to support developers, I donate, and if I want a Laptop or a keyboard, I will buy what best suits my needs. And right now there are arguably better options for all their products.

Just to offer an alternative view: how do you know something is a better option if nobody tries to do something else? Looking at the space bar, and some comments here, I could definitely go for space on the right, capslock on the left (programmable at the keyboard firmware level of course).

Maybe overall it's not for your taste, and that's fine. It might be for someone else's though, or it might inspire ideas in others that build something that is for your taste. So I wouldn't see anything they're doing as a waste.
Yes, mirv's comment is pretty much what I was trying to get across.
Beamboom 19 Mar
Quoting: Purple Library GuyBecause now and then I have a use for it, and when I do want it it's definitely what I want. Just not very often.

A ctrl-shift to lock it would be more than enough, imo. Or double-press shift to lock it?
We need no physical button for it. A colleague of mine has simply ripped it off his keyboard :D I've disabled it in the Gnome keyboard settings.


Last edited by Beamboom on 19 March 2020 at 8:02 pm UTC
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