For some reason, the last couple of months have seen a glut of mechanical keyboards pass through the PC Gamer labs. From Razer's Battlefield 3 branded Black Widows, through Corsair's elegant Vengeance K60, to Qpad's MK-85 which arrived on my desk today – if I was any good at planning ahead I'd have organised a group test.
All of the keyboards that have come through lately have had one thing in common – Cherry's MX switches, which have a light action and that familiar clackety clack sound that evokes an old fashioned typewriter. They come in different flavours – my favourite are the smooth action Cherry MX Reds of the K60 and MK-85 – but they all make standard plastic dome keyboards feel like typing in treacle. If only there was a relatively good value ergonomic keyboard that uses them – I'd struggle to write without the layout of my Microsoft 7000 typist's friend these days.
The question I find myself asking is this: how much longer would a mechanical keyboard really last me? Is it, at two to three times the cost, a sensible economic investment? The answer is a most definite yes: most keyboards have keys that are rated for about a million or two activations before failure. Cherry's MX switches are supposed to last for 50 million operations before they wear out.
What does that mean, though? How many words is 50 million characters? In the interest of a lazy Friday afternoon, here's a few things you can do with a single key of a mechanical keyboard before it breaks (assuming it makes it through to the maximum lifespan).
Things you can do...
- Play StarCraft 2 for 1,388 hours at 600APM
- Type for 772 hours the world record speed of 216 words per minute
- Make 290 copies of the entire script of Hamlet . Enough to give every cast member a copy for 15 different productions of the play
- Write out all 3 books of The Lord of the Rings 105 times each
- Produce 17 copies of the King James Bible , first produced 400 years ago and containing
- 3.1 million characters
- Coincidentally, you could also duplicate Tolstoy's War and Peace by hand 17 times. It's more or less the same length
- Get halfway through the first volume of Samuel Johnson's 1785 edition of A Dictionary of the English Language (10 million characters total)
- Write 1/6 of the Encyclopedia Britannica
- Back up 0.003% of Wikipedia (13,900 million characters at the last count in 2009. It's grown by more than a thousand articles a day since then mind)