The NovelKeys event came around yet again this year, complete with "Team Ron" on the back of their event staff shirts. (You know... the Gater named Ron!) It was our mission to share the keyboards of the Keebio office we enjoy the most at the event, so Emily and I packed up ourselves and some keebs to journey northward to West Virginia. Keebio is located in central North Carolina, so it should have been a roughly 6 1/2 hour trip. The interesting part of adventuring is that there are elements beyond the control of the adventurers, like tropical storms.
Unfortunately, we met no elderly folks to bestow upon us cool swords. (Maybe next time!) But we did have a tropical storm that made our road-tripping quite the journey.
The meetup brought people from all kinds of connections with keyboards: the passion of building, innovation and the sharing of ideas.
With an itinerary from central North Carolina to West Virginia, Emily and I journeyed through the wind and rain of tropical storm Nicole, venturing on the path that Google Almighty recommended would have the least amount of red-line happening. En route, we counted the number of cow occurrences, tunnels, and vehicles that are incapable of resisting the urge to tailgate us.
At 9:34pm, we officially began settling into our room at Hotel Morgan. We settled in for the night to rest before the epic keyboard shindig the next day.
Clicky Things, Lovely Things!
The excitement in the room was a noisy backdrop, with an impressive level of energy. Emily and I set up on a table that was already featuring two keyboards lovingly placed on their own special mats that created a perimeter ever so slightly larger than the keyboards on them. Richard of TofuTypes on YouTube found us as we were setting up, asking us what we loved the most about mechanical keyboards.
Emily, recognizing that most of the room is filled with individuals who came to mechanical keyboards out of hobby interest, humbly noted the fact that we came into the community from a slightly different path than most others: our work. Both of us have been enjoying learning something we knew little about before starting, but it is a genuinely different starting place. I stated that the innovation of the community was something I admired. Many people share ideas and work together to produce the work that they do. Learned ideas become shared ideas. It offers a different perspective than many business ventures. Or, at least, it feels that way for someone who has worked in other corporate jobs. I’m sure Richard’s video will be out soon, so be on the lookout!
After stepping back from our setup (complete with rainbow keychains for grabs) we bumped into Click Clack, who displayed his work at the table diagonal of ours.
His table featured beautifully produced metal cases, with intricacies of Egyptian hieroglyphs, among other outstanding design features. Emily chatted with him in regards to the machining, while I admired the way the light is reflected off the facets of the keyboard cases. He joked that Click Clack’s original name and Keebio’s name started out rather close, thus the change to his current title.
Circling around the room, Emily and I saw keyboards of all shapes and sizes. One, even, with all the keys of a keyboard side-by-side that was ultimately even longer than the diameter of the table it was resting on.
I found myself deeply attached to the thocky sounds of the techno violets featured by two different keyboards.
After winding around the room several times, Emily determined it was a good time to go and introduce ourselves to folks. And so, we made our way to the vendor tables.
CannonKeys had a presence at one of the vendor tables, so we went to go say hello and see what exciting things they’re getting into.
After chatting for a bit with Jake and Chippy, I pointed out the stands that the keyboards were displayed on. Chippy illuminated me, saying it’s something they’re excited to come out with soon (among other things, of course!). The stand was acrylic with aluminum rods connecting each side.
After the conversation, I stepped away to find water. Emily wound her way around the room, finding the Omnitype team: Garrett and Heather. As I came back from my acquisition of a water bottle, I picked up that they were talking about one of Heather’s recent contributions to the business: a 10-key! Emily and I chatted with Heather and offered our support on her efforts in elbowing her partner, Garrett, to agree to have some made. I learned that Heather had worked a job where 10-key was something used daily. I empathized, as I had worked two jobs where that was the case as well. Their table featured not only fun stickers but also some adorable keycaps. I asked Garrett what led him to the mechanical keyboard business. I learned from him that he was originally in the Graphic Design field. He found he got tired of making things for someone else, and wanted to make designs for himself. From that gusto came Omnitype!
Love to hear about how people got started? Read how Keebio launched next!
It took us a while to find him, but we found Josh! From Josh, known as Hiney, we chatted about the challenges in balancing customer questions but also encouraging independent learning and inquiry. Josh discussed the difficulty that can sometimes come when patience is tested by customers, as he’s already generated the documentation to a question he knew would be asked.
Without question, it is the people of the community that make these gatherings come together.
Sharing Treasures and Treasured Learning
With oodles and noodles of stickers, Emily and I began our trek south the next day.
Beautiful things can come from collaboration. We even had someone who had a giant Jelly keycap who offered to place it on our big switch BAMFK-1 acrylic case. It made the look even better. I saw this meetup as a perspective into what can happen when people decide that sharing their learning and excitement is just as important as learning from others.
Check it out on YouTube!
See all the keyboards in action and the journey we took to get there!