[Andrew] of [Wizard Keyboards] emailed us and asked if we were interested in his story of develop an ergonomic keyboard as a product. Many of us can relate to trying to bring one of our ideas to market. [Andrew], being a mechanical keyboard geek, knew a niche with no product to satisfy him and had a vision he wanted to implement. He began meticulously following the steps to bring his keyboard idea to life as a manufacturable product, and gave himself six months to do so.
After evaluating competing products and setting a price, he designed the case, keyboard motherboard, and even flex circuit boards to wire up the keys. The mechanical design alone has taken it through many iterations and decisions, and it walks us through the various paths it faces. Whether it’s these ideas, the story of a module with a fraudulent FCC certification, or an approach to electronics design that led it to pass EMC tests with flying colors, there’s a lot to learn from [Andrew]the trip.
Unfortunately, at some point the project quickly overshot its intended purpose and became a drain. For example, tuning the 3D printing processes alone took three months instead of one as planned. As the design was completed, he found himself stuck in producing marketing materials – an area that proved surprisingly hostile to a hacker like him. After a year of work and five thousand hours spent on the project, he took a break, and after, while trying to come back, [Andrew] realized that it burned. He took a break for a few months and, after recovering a bit, revisited the project. Still not thrilled with the product’s road, he decided that open source of the keyboard would be the best outcome – doing justice to the time and effort put into his work.
This is where the story ends – for now. [Andrew] has all open source you would have to create such a keyboard yourself, design assembly instructions and even sell kit parts for those who would like to take a shortcut. It wasn’t what he was aiming for, but it’s an honorable end – most commercial projects never go open source even if they fail to launch completely. Thanks to [Andrew], we had an insightful journey, a post-mortem, and an open-source ergonomic keyboard project. Product stories grace our pages from time to time – here’s a similar story about a MIDI controller.