Hello from Oakland!
We hope that you’re safe and healthy.
It’s been a minute. Here’s the tl;dr:
- The Atreus is available for pre-order
- We’re building the Model 100!
- Model 01 keycap sets are in stock
- Haven’t read enough about how COVID-19 is affecting businesses? We’ve got a bit about that too.
When we wrote a few months ago, we had just shipped Model 01 keycap orders and were gearing up for the Keyboardio Atreus Kickstarter campaign.
The campaign went pretty well: We ended up selling more than 2500 Keyboardio Atreus keyboards, along with a whole slew of travel cases and walnut palm rests. We’ve already shipped out about 150 “early delivery” keyboards and are on track to ship all preorders in August. If you haven’t ordered yours yet, now is the time! The coupon code JULY2020 will take $15 off the cost of a Keyboardio Atreus. If you order now, your keyboard will be in the first mass production run, which we expect to ship in August.
One of our early-delivery Keyboardio Atreus units
The Model 100
Earlier this year, we sold out of Model 01 keyboards. We kept a small handful of units in reserve for warranty replacements, but other than that, the Model 01 is sold out forever.
We love the Model 01, but it was time for some design updates. We’ve been working with our factory to bring the layout and keycap shapes of the Model 01 to a new keyboard that incorporates everything we’ve learned about manufacturing over the last five years. That keyboard is the Model 100.
An aside: Why are we calling it the Model 100? Well, we’d been planning on numbering our keyboards in binary: Model 01, Model 10, Model 11, Model 100, Model 101, etc. In decimal numbers, those would be the Model 1, Model 2, Model 3, Model 4, and Model 5.
We’re not quite sure where this idea came from, but at least one part of the genesis was that the “io” in “Keyboardio” looks a lot like binary. As we got ready to call the new keyboard the Model 10, we realized just how confusing it could be to have two very similar keyboards with the model numbers “10” and “01.” “Model 100” is different enough from “Model 01” that we don’t think there’s much chance of confusion. If we were to be truly pedantic, as our second keyboard the Keyboardio Atreus should technically be considered the Model 10. To make the numbering scheme work out properly, we’d need to sneak in a third keyboard (Model 11) before the Model 100 for it to truly be our fourth (100th) keyboard but that’s not looking likely right now. We’re working hard to get the Model 100 ready for you as quickly as we can.
Some of the biggest changes from the Model 01 won’t be visible from the outside of the Model 100. We plan to use hot-swap “MX” style switches, though we haven’t settled on specific switches yet. This will allow owners of the Model 100 to choose from a greater variety of switch types and even change switches (say, from clicky to quiet) on their own, without needing to pick up a soldering iron.
We’re also using a different kind of LED inside the keyboard. They’re much, much more energy efficient and shine upwards from the bottom of the circuit board through the switches. We’ve moved almost all of the electrical components to the bottoms of the circuit boards to make maintenance and assembly easier.
Underside of the Model 100 circuit board
The keycap shapes are almost final: they’re essentially the Model 01 profile with a few tweaks and a revision to have MX keystems.
The update to the stands is just about final.
To do a mechanical fit test, the factory 3D printed samples of the baseplate and keycaps for the left side and had an aluminum key plate laser cut. They had us order them bare PCBs and then assembled the “big” components to make sure that everything lined up correctly and fit well. The results were good, but just afterward, the factory flagged a possible supply chain issue that’s caused us to do a minor design rev to the circuit boards. We’d thought the boards were good to go, but the factory discovered that the USB C connector we’d chosen for the Model 100 has recently been marked by the manufacturer as “not for new designs.” In short, that means that while it hasn’t been discontinued, they intend to stop making it at some point in the future. So we’re switching back to the connector we used in the Model 01. This ends up having a ripple effect. Since the height of the USB C connector is changing by about a millimeter, the design of the plastics for the left side’s baseplate needs to be adjusted to move the hole for the USB connector by a millimeter. It’s not a huge undertaking, but we’re glad we caught it now.
We’re currently waiting on the wood supplier to make a sample of the updated wooden enclosure to make sure everything fits together.
Once we’re sure everything looks correct on the left side, the factory will mirror the mechanical design updates over to the right hand side.
After we sign off on the mechanical design and fit, the factory will start work on the tooling updates. It looks like we’ll be able to update the tooling for the stand, plastic baseplates, rails and connecting bars. The old keycap tooling, on the other hand, is a write-off. We’re going to end up needing to do new keycap tooling from scratch.
We haven’t yet started looking at cables, packaging, the manual, the layout card, or key legends, though all of those can go pretty quick.
One thing we’re thinking about right now is colors, materials, and finishes. We’re strongly leaning toward making walnut the default wood for the Model 100, rather than the maple we used for the Model 01. We love the look of the walnut on the Keyboardio Atreus palm rests and the wood CNC factory say that we’re going to end up with much more reliable results if we mill from walnut instead of maple. Along with that, we’re contemplating whether we want to use the same “paint + laser engraving” technology we used for the Model 01’s keycaps. We haven’t talked in detail to the factory about this yet, but we’re contemplating asking them about doing smoky translucent keycaps with white laser engraving directly on the plastic. If it ends up possible, we think it might end up looking gorgeous, whether or not you have the LEDs turned on. But more on that front in a later update.
We don’t have a firm launch date or price for the Model 100 yet, but we’re working hard to launch it before the end of the year.
Model 01 Accessories
We have plenty of Model 01 keycaps in stock in Hong Kong. Unpainted caps, blank black caps, QWERTY caps, Colemak caps, Dvorak caps, and Linear A caps. We’ve got ‘em all. You can order them here. While we have plenty of Model 01 keycaps in stock today, we do not expect to make more. When they sell out, they’re gone forever.
We don’t currently have Model 01 travel cases in stock. Our entire remaining stock of travel cases was lost by our US fulfillment provider. In late March, they notified us that their fulfillment business had been acquired and that we had five days to recover our stuff or they would ship it to the acquirer’s Kentucky warehouse. As it turns out, we didn’t have five days. Even before they notified us of the change, they’d closed the warehouse our stuff was in. They told us that our inventory was on a truck to Kentucky and that it might be 30 days before it was available to ship. 30 days came and went and …no stuff. Eventually, they admitted that they had no idea where our stuff was and refunded us the wholesale value of the inventory. Talking to other customers and former customers of this provider, we ended up pretty lucky. Other folks have told us that they are still waiting on hundreds or thousands of missing units.
The current plan is to make more travel cases when we launch the replacement for the Model 01, sometime around the end of this year. The new travel cases will fit both the Model 01 and the new Model 100.
Like every business on the planet, COVID-19 has affected our operations. We’re relatively lucky in that the big issues we’re running into aren’t existential threats. They just slow us down and drive up our costs.
- We can’t travel. Ordinarily, we’d have sent Jesse to Shenzhen this spring to work with the factory on Atreus mass production and to finalize the design for the Model 100. With the borders almost entirely closed, most commercial flights canceled and a deadly pandemic, that’s entirely off the table. So we’ve been leaning on Ken, our Chinese PM who’s on the ground in Shenzhen to be our remote hands and eyes for stuff that we can’t do by email, WeChat, or VooV (which is, as far as we can tell, the Chinese analogue to Zoom). When we absolutely need to see a sample, it goes out from Shenzhen by SF Express, who ferry it across the Pacific on their own cargo flights and hand it off to UPS for last-mile delivery.
- Fulfillment is slower, less reliable, and more expensive. We ship direct to you from Hong Kong. Ordinarily, this is great. Hong Kong is a global shipping hub. Pretty much every carrier we would want to use has tons of cargo capacity from Hong Kong. We built all of our plans for shipping Model 01 keycap sets, as well as the Keyboardio Atreus around a couple of reliable, but still pretty affordable carriers. The main carrier we planned to lean on was HK Post. Their “Speedpost” express offerings are priced incredibly competitively and partner with your local postal service for speedy delivery. They manage to pull this off without owning their own planes, like FedEx, UPS, and DHL do. The solution is really straightforward. Hong Kong International Airport is one of the busiest and best connected airports in the world. Hong Kong Post buy up cargo capacity on commercial flights. As you have likely already worked out, this falls apart when 90+% of commercial flights are cancelled for months, with no end in sight. In March, Hong Kong Post suspended their SpeedPost service to most destinations. Other lower-cost carriers, hit with the same logistics problem, ended up suspending service as well. The carriers that didn’t suspend operations found themselves with reduced cargo capacity at the same time they saw a huge spike in demand due to their competitors closing up shop and consumers around the globe relying heavily on online shopping. We managed to ship out most, but not all of the Model 01 keycap sets before shipping got really crazy, but the last 100 or so sets of keycaps ended up going out with a subsidiary of Singapore Post who picked up in Hong Kong and shipped everything to Singapore for distribution. They told us that shipments might take up to about 3 weeks. Once in Singapore, things got really crazy. Some orders made it out within a few days. Some got marked as shipped out in early April and then fell off the map. Some just showed that they were in a warehouse in Singapore. About two weeks after we’d entirely given up hope of ever seeing any of the last 40 or so orders again and started opening insurance claims, two of them showed up at USPS in San Francisco. Over the past four weeks, almost all of the orders have made it through to customers. At this point, we believe that fewer than a dozen sets of keycaps are still in transit. Most keycap orders made it to their destinations in around 60 days. We believe the current record for the slowest shipment that was still successfully delivered was 89 days. We’re not out of the woods yet, but things are starting to look up. On June 5, Hong Kong Post resumed Speed Post service to parts of Europe. At the beginning of July, Hong Kong post resumed SpeedPost service to the US. Our shipping partner in Hong Kong reports that generally, they’re starting to see prices and shipping delays both trending downward.
- We’ve put our “box of random stuff from China” product on indefinite hold. In December, we told you we were hoping to resume regularly selling a mystery box of the most interesting things from Shenzhen’s electronic markets. That’s now indefinitely on hold. Huaqiangbei shut down in the early part of the year due to the outbreak in China. As China has gotten their outbreak mostly under control, the markets have reopened, but without someone on the ground to choose the right shlock, we don’t know when we’ll be able to start shipping boxes of random stuff again.
- We’re going slower. Like most of humanity, our lives have been pretty disrupted for the last four months. On a practical level, we lost our childcare and have been full-time parenting a stir-crazy preschooler. And between the pandemic and the government reaction to widespread calls for racial justice, we're both spending a lot of our time just processing what's going on and trying to figure out how we can be helpful. At the same time, we know that a lot of folks are having a much rougher time of things than we are. Like you, we’re stretched thinner than ever before. We’re still 100% committed to Keyboardio and are grateful every day that your support has let us bring beautiful and comfortable keyboards into being.
Jesse & Kaia