On a recent Swiss mechanical keyboard meetup I found out about this very nice, minimal split keyboard design. It consists of two identical 10x10cm PCBs (designed so that one of them is flipped) and Kailh chockolate switches, plus two venerable Arduino Pro Micros. I bought a set of PCBs there and here I am now, assembling it.
The way you use it, you first need to get the firmware from https://github.com/qmk/qmk_firmware and then copy the keyboard definition file to the "keyboards" directory. Then just run "make 5plit:default" to compile it, and "make 5plit:default:flash" to flash it — reset the pro micro when it tells you to. You have to program both pro micros, and the one that has the USB connected is the left one.
The default layout looks something like this:
The legend and the upper left is what you get by default, the one in upper right is what you get with Fn1, middle right with Fn2, and bottom right with Fn3. Middle left is what you get when you hold down the key instead of just tapping it, and upper center is what you get with Fn1 and Shift.
I will need to actually modify this a bit, to add right Alt key — because that is how you do Polish accented characters on the Polish keyboard. But I think I can just do it as holding down the Alt key.
I still need to learn this layout — I'm not normally a touch typist, more like a hybrid one, so this requires some getting used to.
All the components slowly arrived, and now I only have one thing missing: the diodes for de-ghosting the keys. Unfortunately, this design uses through-hole diodes, and I only have SMD ones in my drawers, because I avoid through-hole parts whenever I can. So I had to order them, and they take a long time. I guess in the worst case I could solder some wires to the SMD diodes, but I don't really feel like doing that for 36 diodes.
While waiting for the diodes, I should probably start looking into programming the pro micros with the right firmware.
One project that I was thinking about since a while is a reversed keyboard, that goes on the back of a tablet or phone (or any other device with a screen), so that you can use it with all your fingers while holding the device. I realized, that if I just soldered the thumb keys on the other side of 5plit, I could make such a keyboard:
Just imagine a tablet velcroed on top of this. I am still not sure I really want to do this, but I'm really curious why nobody does it. It seems such an obvious solution, that there must be some catch that I'm not seeing. Anybody wants to save me the effort and reveal it for me?
I'm not sure I will do it, but it is very tempting.
It all started on a Sunday, when I brought my #Alpen Clack and #Steno Keyboard projects to the sixth keyboard pervs meetup. I had my eyes on the low-profile Kailh switches since a while, but their official website only lets you order a bag of 800 pieces at the minimum, and I didn't have the energy to go out and organize a group buy. I even brought my KB390L keyboard that uses those switches, that is my favorite keyboard since two years, and that I use daily. But I saw very few keyboards using those switches, except for this:
I loved the minimalist approach to those keyboards (called 5plit), the chocolate switches they use, and the fact that they use the same PCB for both halves, just flipped over. And the PCB fits in 10x10cm, so it's cheap to manufacture.
I met the author of this keyboard, and learned that he uses it for his everyday keyboarding needs, even though it started as just a silly experiment. Sounds really great. I asked if he could sell any spare PCBs, and he did, so now I have a pair of them. He also told me about the Aliexpress shop that Kailh has, where you can buy those and other switches in any quantity you want. Also key caps and everything else. So I made the order the same day, for 40 switches and as many transparent key caps, to bring this keyboard to life.
Today the switches and key caps arrived. I still have the diodes, the jack sockets and cable, and one of the pro micros (I ran out) on order, so it probably won't be ready until next month (I go on vacation too).