My knowledge of custom keyboards and the community around them has grown immensely in the past 15 years. Concepts like easy-to-program microcontrollers with USB ports and big community led projects to make easily customisable keyboard software were unheard of when I started.
Back then Arduinos were barely a thing, let alone stuff like the Arduino Leonardo or Teensy.
So ultimately the sensible path forwards was to acquire a board that did what I wanted and hack stuff to make it work.
However today, I have desires to build designs of keyboard I can't get elsewhere (I want a full-size Thinkpad-style keyboard with Cherry MX Blues or an Ergodox style split one with a built-in Trackpoint) and maybe a simple step towards that would be to take my slightly annoying old AEK and modernise it's internals.
What's even better is that I already have a QMK compatible microcontroller on hand: a LeoStick, essentially a thumb-drive sized Arduino Leonardo with an ATMEGA32U4 (Freetronics is an Australian manufacturer of Arduino compatible boards)
So now all I need to do is modify the matrix to be compatible (which I believe will be adding diodes to prevent ghosting) and replace the existing controller board with the LeoStick.
Except it won't be, I'll have to map out the entire matrix, figure out where I can hack in the diodes, then modify it.
Mapping out that matrix will be the next step.