An incredible gift

I received an astonishing gift recently, and I want to share the story with you. When I showed my wife, it made her cry — more than once.

I’m a novelist. I’ve written two technothrillers in a series, with the third in progress. I have a background in tech, and I have a membership/patronage programme on my site, where kind readers can support my writing. I write to them every week, with a story or an essay.

On Thursday of last week, a mysterious package arrived. Heavy. Solid. But I have no particular enemies at the moment, I opened it with curiosity. And I saw… this. It’s a custom-built mechanical keyboard, and I do mean custom. Let me tell you more about it.

Mechanical keyboard in padded zip case

The casing is a TOFU65, milled from a single billet of aluminium, then anodised. There’s a brass weight plate on the bottom. It is SOLID. The layout is a “65%” 69-key ISO, with a TADA68 PCB running QMK firmware. It’s programmable. So far, so amazing. But get this: the key layout and functions were custom-made for me, based on the features I’ve said I most use and need. The key stabilisers were hand-lubricated and installed. The switches were hand-soldered to the board.

The switches themselves are worth mentioning too: they’re Kailh BOX whites, based on my professed love for Cherry MX Blues. They’re just the most beautiful, subtle, solid, clickety-snickety switches you can imagine. The key action reeks of precision engineering. Made for me, based on my Strong Feelings about typing.

Mechanical keyboard on desk, viewed from angle emphasising the textured keycaps

The keycaps are textured, for the ultimate tactile feel. The italicised typeface was chosen because of my oft-mentioned nostalgia for the Apple Extended Keyboards I used as a young man.

Mechanical keyboard viewed from above, showing the italicised boldface sans-serif typeface on the keys

Then there’s the cable. Custom-made again, braided, and in purple with orange connectors at each end. Purple is the cover colour for my first novel, CHANGER, and orange is the colour for my second, TOLL.

Keyboard cable in purple with orange connectors, in a pouch

Finally, and this is the point where my wife went from teary-eyed to being openly in tears, you flip the keyboard over to see its underside. In CHANGER, my first book, chapter 1 is where the protagonist — an avatar for myself in some ways — is suddenly thrown into adventure. For me, it represents not just the beginning of a series, but also (I hope) a career. Stepping away from the safe, and daring to do something comparatively extraordinary. That chapter takes place here in Edinburgh, in a place I used to frequent.

So, you flip the keyboard over… and on the brass plate, the first line of chapter 1 of CHANGER is engraved there.

Underside of keyboard, with a brass plate bearing the engraved first sentence of chapter 1 of my first novel, CHANGER.

I mean, what a thing. It’s not even the time, and the money, and the effort involved, all of which are considerable. It’s the thought; the care and attention, and the damned appropriateness of it. A beautiful, unique writing tool for a writer. There aren’t enough words!

This whole thing was the brainchild of dear Rys Sommefeldt, with input from Lloyd Nebres and on behalf of my beloved site members and patrons. I am utterly touched. This is a huge deal. It’ll be with me, physically and emotionally, for a very long time to come. Thank you so much.

My desk, with the keyboard and my iPad Pro set up for writing. The wallpaper on the iPad is of my dog Whisky.