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QWERKYWRITER, one of the coolest keyboards I’ve ever used

Steve holding the QWERKYWRITER keyboard
Steve holding the QWERKYWRITER keyboard

Inspired by the classic typewriter, the QWERKYWRITEr is one of the coolest and most interesting mechanical computer keyboards I’ve ever used. Now, I realize that some of my readers may never have used a good ol’ typewriter which is kind of sad. I mean they will never know the joy of erasing character by character, just hoping the correction ribbon hadn’t run out yet. They will never understand the feelings that come after typing a masterpiece only to realize that the latest few sentences were permanently inked on the roller because the paper had run out minutes earlier. Ah, but these were the norm for those of us who used typewriters back in the day and did we complain? … Yes, yes we did. . 🙂

Typewriters weren’t all struggle though, they had many advantages that one just doesn’t find in most computer keyboards these days. For one thing, a typewriter was a solid, almost immoveable object. Generations of people might come and go, but the typewriter would remain where it was, impervious to it all. I used to drum my fingers on the edge of the typewriter while I pondered what I planned to write next, something that is challenging for me now that so many keyboards hardly have edges anymore. There was never any question as to whether a key was pressed hard enough or not because a hard click would signify success, almost as if the typewriter were saying, “Hey friend, I got you..”. And of course there was a certain gratification that could only be realized after hammering on the return key at the end of an angry letter or memo, as if that would truly help to emphasize the point. I found out that this isn’t very advisable with modern keyboards after I once hit the spacebar with a little too much vigor: The spacebar flew across the desk, a little plastic piece flew across the room, and I’m pretty sure the spring is still in orbit somewhere around the Moon.

When I first heard about the QWERKYWRITER, I wasn’t sure what to think about it. It wasn’t until I listened to a wonderful podcast demo by David Woodbridge that I decided that this was something I really just had to have. The QWERKYWRITER looks and feels like a typewriter. The case is made out of solid aluminum and while it’s much easier to transport than its namesake, it’s still very solid. On the top of the unit, toward the back, is what looks like the old paper trays that used to collect page after page of writing. This has been repurposed into a stand that can accommodate many tablets. On the sides of the unit, again toward the back, are roller knobs, one on each side. These even have the little grooves on them, just like the knobs that were used to roll paper in or out of the typewriter. Of course these too have been made modern and functional, one serves as a volume control wheel and the other as a scroll wheel. Along the right-hand edge of the unit is a rocker-switch, yep an honest-to-goodness rocker switch that is used to turn the unit on or off. The keycaps are also very solid-feeling with a gap between the cap and the metal platform beneath the key. In order to create a similar feel to the typewriter, German engineered Cherry MX “clicky” switches  are used creating an experience that is incredibly smooth, while retaining a solid click sound as each key is pressed. And oh my gosh! I almost forgot about the cast metal return macro bar which is found along the top left-hand edge of the unit. Yep, while this bar used to advance the paper in the typewriter, it’s a programmable key on the QWERKYWRITER that can be programmed to type up to fifteen characters. I have this programmed to type my name — just type Sawczyn a few times to see why it’s so incredibly handy to relegate this to a press of a lever.

Of course there are some differences between the modern QWERKYWRITER and a typewriter, there’s no 10-key number pad for instance. I know, I know, many people love their numpad, but the typewriter didn’t have one either, so if they had added it, it’d kind of be cheating. The QWERKYWRITER also supports bluetooth connectivity with up to three devices, and also USB connectivity. The QWERKYWRITER does not come with a dust cover, but if you really miss that, or if you just need to have a carrying case, wrist rest, or other accessory, they have plenty available.

Curious what the QWERKYWRITER, with its mechanical switches, return bar, and rocker-switch sounds like? I’ve made a brief recording.

Sound clip of the QWERKYWRITER as recorded by Steve

I really love this keyboard and truly appreciate having received it as a very unexpected gift. Not only is the typing experience absolutely fantastic and comfortable, but this keyboard brings back memories, memories of a time that unfortunately, many people will not be able to appreciate in quite the way I did. Sure the typewriter might be considered old fashioned these days, but for me, the typewriter opened up my entire world. The typewriter allowed me to produce documents that sighted people could read. The typewriter allowed me to write letters to friends and businesses, complete my own homework assignments independently, and so much more. Having a reminder of that on a device I get to use every day is incredibly powerful for me because it helps me realize that while technology continues to evolve, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the typewriter of yesterday.

10 replies on “QWERKYWRITER, one of the coolest keyboards I’ve ever used”

I realize that I have never learned to type softly in a computer keyboard. In fact, if I try I am more likely to make mistakes. Thanks for sharing Steve! I’m not going to think too much of that keyboard of yours.

Ah, but even if you don’t get one, I think I should show you it next time you come to Minneapolis. It’s an interesting design if nothing else. 🙂

Verry interesting post.
could you explain how you use this device in your daily activities? YOu mension that you can connect the device to up to three devices?
So my question is: With what kind of equipment have you connected this keyboard?

Basically, I use it on my desk in much the same way as one might use any other keyboard. Via bluetooth, I have it connected to my work laptop, my personal laptop, and my phone. In this way, I can press a few buttons and quickly change between devices. So if I’m writing a document on one of the computers and a text arrives, I can switch it to my phone and use the same keyboard to write a reply to the text.

Well, this certainly made me feel old and brought back memories; each is OK ’cause I’m older than Steve S. I didn’t have a correction ribbon when I first learned to type, if I needed to erase I used correction tape that one had to manually position it in the right place, and hit a key, take it out and hit the key you wanted. I learned to type somewhere around 1958 and, thinking back, I remember being upset that I was so slow.
This keyboard sounds interesting; nice writeup Mr. Sawczyn.

The keyboard is definitely unique, only thing it doesn’t have is a bell because, well, line-wrap is now a thing. But still, sometimes as I’m typing away, I miss the bell prompting me to go to the next line.

Fascinating. I love how some old things are being reimagined. Thanks for sharing this – not sure I’m running out to get one, but I do have a Pinterest board called “Laptop Ancestors,” so I know where you’re coming from.

Wow, very neat, that sounds like a wonderful Pinterest board. Are you collecting any of the laptops, or are you focused specifically on creating the history?

Ah yes, the Underwood. I think it’s great you still have one, sadly, my typewriter is long gone, so it exists only in my memory and vicariously through this keyboard. 🙂

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