Hello from I-5, somewhere north of Oakland, California!
The campaign crossed the half-million dollar mark today! You are wonderful, wonderful people. Thank you so much for believing in us and backing us! Now that we've buttered you up just a little bit, we could really use your help. We have about 72 hours left in the campaign. If you have friends or coworkers who type, please tell them about the Model 01 and the Kickstarter campaign. The more keyboards we can order as part of our first production run, the better we can make them.
Yesterday morning, we woke up in Bellingham, Washington and set out for the last hackerspace on our 22 city, 30+ stop trip: ADX in Portland, Oregon. Traffic was heavier than expected and we made it to Portland with only a few minutes to spare. We used those minutes to stop by Nong's Khao Man Gai for a quick meal of their crack-like chicken and rice.
Ten minutes later, we were setting up tables and chairs in ADX's loading bay. As we were getting keyboards put out, Thursday showed up. Thursday, a professional writer, was one of our earliest beta testers of the Model 00. Seeing her walk in holding her keyboard brought a smile to our faces. If you've been following us for a while, you might remember Thursday as the beta tester whose biggest complaint with the Model 00 was that she kept wearing through the Sharpied-on key labels on her keyboard. Thursday's also the person who was approached by a stranger in a cafe and offered a baby in trade for her Model 00. (She declined.)
Like many other makerspaces we've seen over the past four weeks, ADX keep the lights on by mixing commercial fabrication services with a membership model that gives you access to shared shop space and discounts on classes, and a rented space model selling studio space to local makers. One of the rented spaces that particularly stood out is a local nonprofit that teaches disadvantaged kids to build boats from scratch. They even get school credit for it. (It's a pretty credible applied geometry class.) ADX also has a new craft space with silkscreening, sewing and a few other things. You can get a limited membership that grants you access just to the craft space if that's what you're looking for.
One clever business model hack is that, while folks can walk in off the street and take classes, the non-member price for a class is actually more expensive than the members-only price of a class plus a one month membership.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, one of the things we liked about ADX was their documentation. At most of the major stations around ADX, giant "We have" and "You Bring" lists spell out just what you need to be able to make good use of their facilities. Inside the workshops, a one-page laminated card was affixed to every major tool. The card described the tool, regular usage and standard cleanup instructions. They were less comprehensive than the binders Maker Works in Ann Arbor showed us, but they put the most important front and center where it was hard to ignore.
The other day, we wrote about the changes to the keycaps and key placement we're planning to make before the Model 01 goes to production. There are a few thing we know we'll be changing about the rest of the Model 01's design, too:
- The outline of the keys doesn't do a good job of matching the overall butterfly shape of the Model 01. By cleaning up some of the shapes, we'll be able to make the Model 01 look nicer and be a little bit more sturdy, too.
- The widest part of the keys is the narrowest part of the enclosure. With just a little bit of tweaking, we should be able to make the whole keyboard about an inch narrower without making things feel cramped. This will make the whole keyboard lighter and easier to manufacture. It'll have the added benefit of letting you use a 13 inch MacBook case to transport your Model 01. (There are a lot of manufacturers of quality 13" Macbook sleeves, from the inexpensive and practical to the overpriced but absolutely adorable.)
- The center bars we're using for the current Model 01 prototypes are...not so hot. The current design for the center bars was an attempt to make a 'cost-reduced' version of an earlier design. And indeed, it's much, much cheaper. Sadly, it's also notoriously temperamental. So, we'll be replacing it with something better. The replacement will still give you the option of using the Model 01 in a flat configuration or a tented configuration. We're working on a design that would also be relatively easy for you to replicate or modify at home if you wanted a different sort of center bar.
- As we've mentioned before, we aren't yet happy with any of the designs we've come up with for the feet for the two halves of the keyboard. When we ship, the Model 01's feet will let you tent the keyboard when the two halves of the keyboard are disconnected and will let you tilt the keyboard either toward or away from you.
- We're hoping to shoehorn in a 1/4-20 tripod mount in the center of each half of the keyboard.
- Right now, the aluminum plate on the bottom of each half of the keyboard is sized to cover the entire bottom of the keyboard. We're going to experiment with reducing the size of that plate. That'll make the Model 01 a bit lighter and will also make it easier for you (or us) to build new enclosure shapes for the Model 01 without replacing any of the metal parts of the keyboard.
- Inside the Model 01, we currently use a two circuit board "sandwich" to position the LEDs right under each key. Switching to a single circuit board will be lighter, more reliable and less expensive. We think we know how to do it, but we'll need to try it before we commit to changing it.
- The LEDs we've been using on the prototypes, WS2812Bs, are pretty standard in the maker world, but we've had a couple very knowledgable friends recommend some options that may do a better job. We'll be taking a long, hard look at the APA102, as well as a few other options.
- The circuit board for the left half of the Model 01 breaks out a few of the most common pins on the ATmega32U4 a hardware hacker might want access to. We're working to get you access to all the pins you'd have on a regular Arduino.
- There will undoubtably be other changes we make to the Model 01 as we go through the 'design for manufacturing' process.
If you missed us in Portland, we'll be back in just over a week for the OSCON hardware showcase. The hardware showcase runs in the conference's expo hall. You can register for a free expo-only conference badge using the discount code 'PCEXPOPLUS'
Over the past two days, we've driven 894 miles, bringing us up to 8352 miles since we set out from Boston.
As of 6PM on July 12th, a total 1620 of you have backed us to the tune of 1611 keyboards and $501,217. As of today, we'll need to order 103,104 keyswitches and 103,104 LEDs to make your keyboards.
What we're listening to: Bossypants, written and read by Tina Fey. (Thanks for the recommendation, Chris Swenson!)
Tonight, we're back home in Oakland.
On Monday evening, we're at Eventbrite in San Francisco. To get in, you need to RSVP in advance. (We won't be serving food, but there are tons of restaurants nearby.)
On Wednesday, we're biting our nails as the campaign ends.
On Thursday, we're sleeping in.