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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.

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Beamboom Mar 19, 2020
Who 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!

Last edited by Beamboom on 19 March 2020 at 11:05 am UTC
Tchey Mar 19, 2020
That’s an excuse to show you keyboards, or maybe on a specific topic ? Anyway, my keyboard since about 3 years.

I usually rebind all keys, to play with PUIE instead of WASD (and all associated gameplay keys then).
I have issues with very few games, and if i must, i just switch system layout to US keyboard.
And of course, to simply type texts, it’s awesome.
French keyboard are usually copied from qwerty, but azerty.
However, last year, the standardization office said there are 2 main layouts now : AZERTY and BÉPO.
BÉPO is "weird" so still quite niche, but playing Linux + indi games + being french, i guess being niche is my fate...

Last edited by Tchey on 19 March 2020 at 10:03 am UTC
elmapul Mar 19, 2020
i think we are doomed, like, hardware? really?
dont get me wrong, i have asked for new keys for years, so i can create custom shortcuts and try to adapt my workflow for it.
the issue is:
we need more inovations in softwares, we will gain more productivity with better software...

its hard to make money with open source, so many distro makers chose to sell it togheter with an hardware, because its easier to convince people to buy an physical object that they cant get for free than donate to an project.

i can see the trend here, in the past, i thought that an free game with opitinal payments for cosmetics were the best business model for consumers, but now, many companies focus more on cosmetics than the game itself.

i think they should invest more money in projects like blender and godot, but they arent paid to be impartial, so making an system designed to be fast travelled with their own keyboard can make people get so used to this workflow that they will not want to use anything else, or better saying, maybe they will be able too...

i guess an proposal like the endless OS one is much better, sure, they make custom hardware, but they make an system that comes with a lot of softwares and documentation so you can use the computer offline in areas where people have no acess to the internet, without much prejudice, you dont have internet acess and cant find an video tutorial? this OS comes preloaded with it. (or something like that)
that is an real solution that i see solving real problems.

the system76 aproach here is... well, i dont like the trend...
TheSHEEEP Mar 19, 2020
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Left hand is left of the space key, right hand is right of it....
Standard 10-finger typing.
How the hell would you use the pinky finger for space?

Haven't even seen people who do not type with 10 fingers use their pinky finger to press the space bar.

But yeah, it could definitely be a bit smaller. And a bit less loud even on my silent keyboard.
Babouchot Mar 19, 2020
There is already a keyboard that tries to reimagine stuff that provides Linux support.
It's called A friend of mine backed it, and I had the opportunity to test it and feels quite nice actually. I'm not that used to such a compact layout though, but I suppose that's just an habit.
I think it hasn't been covered here so if you are interested, check it out.
wvstolzing Mar 19, 2020
A bit odd that they don't mention the type of key switches they're considering to use. I also wonder what range the price is going to be at.

Mechanical keyboard building is a really expensive hobby, esp. if you want a sturdy frame, and switches with good tactile feedback; if sys76 can deliver good quality at a reasonable price, that would be a huge plus.
SirLootALot Mar 19, 2020
So why wouldn't I just buy a Das Keyboard instead. Looks much more customizable, more standard and it comes with a german keyboardlayout. Its Software is also free.
Nanobang Mar 19, 2020
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Born into the age of typewriters, I took typing as a junior in high school to prepare myself for using the Vic-20 I was saving up for.

After 4 decades of touch-typing on QWERTY keyboards I'll never be able to type on anything else. I'll certainly never be able to type on anything as singularly arranged as the System 76 keyboard shown above.

In fact, the one and only thing I'd change about almost every keyboard available today is to worldwide and forever replace the crap "US" style ENTER key with the eminently practical "British" style one:

If System 76 want to make something, start making Steam style controllers so I can shake this sense of hopelessness and loss I've had since Valve announced they were discontinuing theirs.

Last edited by Nanobang on 20 March 2020 at 12:27 pm UTC
14 Mar 19, 2020
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Quoting: TheSHEEEPLeft hand is left of the space key, right hand is right of it....
Standard 10-finger typing.
How the hell would you use the pinky finger for space?

Haven't even seen people who do not type with 10 fingers use their pinky finger to press the space bar.
I read it that way first as well, but that's not what is meant. Pinky usage is a separate point than the space bar length.

The only "problem" I see with a big layout change is I'll have to get two so I don't have to switch back and forth at work and at home. To be honest, I think Tchey's keyboard layout looks more radical and worth trying than the System76 prototype. I agree with the space bar length being too long right now though.

Last edited by 14 on 19 March 2020 at 1:43 pm UTC
Cybolic Mar 19, 2020
I applaud their effort, we always need more keyboards, but with plenty of variations on Planck and Ergodox and the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard already available, I'm not sure where exactly they'll be able to innovate. The current layout looks very squeezed and like it would require either a lot of hand movement or cramped finger gestures, so I'm not sure what benefits over a standard Tenkeyless or (better yet) a Planck they're going for.
Disclaimer: Still in love with my ErgoDox EZ.
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