2020-10-18-atreus.md (6015B) - raw


      1 <!-- title: Improving ergonomics: the Atreus keyboard -->
      2 <!-- slug: atreus -->
      3 <!-- categories: Miscellany -->
      4 <!-- date: 2020-10-18T21:05:00Z -->
      5 
      6 Back in March, at the start of the lockdown, I had a lot of free time. I also
      7 had a lot of ideas for personal projects and functionalities for my server, so I
      8 started coding a lot. I realized that since I was spending a lot of time on my
      9 computer, without any time constraints, I could use the opportunity to try
     10 things I was always "too busy" to try. Things that I knew would make me more
     11 efficient on my computer, but had a steep learning curve. For example, I started
     12 using [i3][i3], which I eventually changed for [dwm][dwm], and I started using
     13 [neovim][nv] as my main editor (I had some experience with vim, but never used
     14 it for day-to-day tasks). I now use dwm exclusively and vim nearly exclusively.
     15 
     16 Both programs disregard the mouse completely (or nearly[^me]), and most other
     17 programs I tried or got more comfortable with during the lockdown also used text
     18 as the main input method. With all these changes towards a more keyboard-centric
     19 system, I couldn't help but think: can I improve my keyboard experience? I
     20 already touch-type, so that area didn't have a lot of room for improvement. I
     21 could get a mechanical keyboard, but back then, I had only used membrane
     22 keyboards and I felt perfectly comfortable, I didn't think there was a lot of
     23 room for improvement there either, and I could not justify the economic cost of
     24 such a change. That sounded just about everything I could improve on, so I guess
     25 I already had a pretty optimal experience.
     26 
     27 [^me]: In my case, I deactivate the mouse completely in neovim, as the only
     28   thing I use the mouse for is to select text to easily paste it with the middle
     29   button on another application, but I like the cursor staying where it is when
     30   I do it. For dwm, you can selects tags with the mouse, but I rarely do that.
     31 
     32 *Wait a minute...*
     33 
     34 Why are the keyboards arranged the way they are? Is it the optimal position?
     35 Apparently, not even close! If you look around, you will see that there are a
     36 lot of different kinds of keyboards with the keys arranged in very different
     37 ways. Keyboards designed to be more comfortable than regular ones are normally
     38 referred to as [ergonomic keyboards][ek]. I did some research and I tried to
     39 understand—although it was hard to evaluate without trying them—why they are
     40 considered more comfortable. Each keyboard had it's own pros and cons, and after
     41 looking at many, I decided that my perfect keyboard would have the following
     42 properties:
     43 
     44 - **Arranged in columns**: it makes no sense for keyboards' rows to be
     45   staggered. Indeed, the reason for that design is that typewriters had to be
     46   staggered so that the levers could all fit under the keys. With computers,
     47   this isn't an issue anymore, and columns are more comfortable.
     48 - **Make use of thumbs**: my right thumb's job on a normal keyboard is to press
     49   one big space bar and my left thumb doesn't even have a job! I would rather
     50   have a small space bar and fit a couple more keys for each thumb.
     51 - **Minimize the movements of my fingers**: ideally, no finger would have to
     52   press any key that's not adjacent to it's "resting" key (diagonally adjacent
     53   is fine).
     54 - **Easy to type modifier keys**: as I use the keyboard instead of the mouse as
     55   much as I can, I use modifier keys often. I would like them to be reached
     56   easily.
     57 - **High distance between hands**: for a better posture when writing on my
     58   computer.
     59 
     60 In short, I wanted to maximize the comfort of typing while minimizing the
     61 movements my hands had to make. Additionally, I didn't want to spend a lot of
     62 money (I didn't know if I was going to like moving to a different keyboard) and
     63 also would rather not have to build the keyboard myself, although it looked like
     64 that was the only option.
     65 
     66 After all the research, only one keyboard seemed to fulfill all my needs: the
     67 [Atreus keyboard][ak]. The Atreus seemed great, I would have liked it more if it
     68 had an extra column on each side (like the [Atreus62][ak62]), but it wasn't a
     69 big deal. The reviews on the Atreus were all great, so I decided to give it a
     70 try.
     71 
     72 Luckily for me, back then [Keyboardio][kbio] had just launched a Kickstarter
     73 campaign for that precise keyboard. It had a good price for an ergonomic
     74 keyboard and I didn't have to build it on my own. The only problem was that I'd
     75 have to wait until the end of August to receive it, but time wasn't an issue for
     76 me, so I bought it. Fast forward five months to two weeks ago, the keyboard
     77 finally arrived! *(There were some delays, although the people at Keyboardio
     78 always kept us informed, great experience overall.)*
     79 
     80 I have been able to use the new keyboard for some time now and it looks good so
     81 far[^nt]. It took some time to get used to the columns instead of staggered
     82 rows, but I am doing a lot better now. It also took some time to get used to the
     83 layers (I had to re-learn where every character is!), but after I changed the
     84 layout to make it as intuitive as possible, the learning process has been a lot
     85 faster.
     86 
     87 [^nt]: I don't want to use it for day-to-day tasks yet, as I am still a bit slow
     88   and feel more comfortable with a regular keyboard, so I haven't used it that
     89   much.
     90 
     91 Although I am liking the keyboard so far, I don't want to evaluate it
     92 extensively while still getting used to it and I think I shouldn't reach any
     93 conclusions until I feel more comfortable with it. I will probably write about
     94 my experience with the Atreus in the future.
     95 
     96 
     97 [i3]: <https://i3wm.org> "i3"
     98 [dwm]: <https://dwm.suckless.org> "dwm"
     99 [nv]: <https://neovim.io> "Neovim"
    100 [ek]: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergonomic_keyboard> "Ergonomic keyboard — Wikipedia"
    101 [ak]: <https://atreus.technomancy.us> "Atreus keyboard"
    102 [ak62]: <https://shop.profetkeyboards.com/product/atreus62-keyboard> "Atreus62 keyboard — Profet Keyboards"
    103 [kbio]: <https://keyboard.io> "Keyboardio"
    104 [vm]: <https://github.com/philc/vimium> "Vimium — GitHub"