The Keyboards Every Writer Should Be Using

March 26, 2019 | 5 min read

As a writer, you’ve probably used a variety of different keyboards, and know that they’re not all created equal. Keyboards come in many different styles and choosing the right one can have a big effect on your typing speed, comfort, and accuracy. Some have traditional solid, clicky keys with switches inside them, some have modern flat, silent keys, and some fall halfway in between.

What kind of keyboard should you be using? In this article, we’ll look at the three main types of keyboards, what makes them different from each other, and which one is likely to be best for you.

Membrane keyboards

Membrane Keyboard

These days, most desktop keyboards are membrane keyboards. Their name derives from their construction. Rather than each key being independent with an inbuilt mechanical switch, all the keys sit on top of a single plastic membrane that houses the electronic circuitry. Between the keys and the circuitry is a rubber sheet with domes that give the keys their characteristic bounce-back when you type. They’re popular because they’re light, cheap to produce, are relatively spill-resistant and give you a bit of tactile feedback.

Chiclet keyboards

Chiclet Keyboard

If you’re typing on a modern laptop, chances are you have an island-style keyboard, popularly known as a chiclet keyboard because the square keys with radial corners look somewhat like Chiclets chewing gum. While there’s usually a membrane beneath these keyboards too, the rubber domes that are present beneath higher-profile keys are either omitted altogether or replaced with scissor switches or butterfly switches, which enable the use of very low, flat keys that can fit into thinner and thinner devices.

Mechanical keyboards

Mechanical Keyboard

The main difference with a mechanical keyboard is that each key is a separate component with its own switch and metal spring. There are many different kinds of switches that can be used in mechanical keyboards, and each type gives a different user experience with varying levels of travel (the distance you have to press the key for it to register a stroke), bump (the level of tactile feedback) and noise (the click the key makes when depressed).

Most mechanical keyboards contain Cherry switches. While their patent for the switch design has recently expired, opening the way for other manufacturers to imitate it, Cherry is still considered the industry leader in keyboard switch technology. Their MX switch, which was first introduced to the market in 1983, is one of the most successful ever made. Cherry switches come in different colors, and each color has its own set of characteristics. The full range is wide, but there are three main variants.

Cherry MX Blue

These switches have a tactile bump and a loud click that occurs when the keystroke registers, and are favoured by those who like a more typewriter-esque experience. They only need to be depressed to the click point to activate the keystroke but require more force than the Red or Brown variants.

Cherry MX Red

These switches are favoured by gamers because they have no tactile bump or noise and require less force to press, which is an advantage when you’re engaged in a fast-paced cyber-battle.

Cherry MX Brown

These are an excellent all-rounder switch – they require the lighter actuation force of the Reds but have the nice tactile bump of the Blues. They lack the Blues’ loud click, however, making them perfect for use in offices or coffee shops where you don’t want to annoy those around you with a constant flurry of clacky keystrokes.

Why mechanical keyboards are better for writers

People who convert to mechanical keyboards often become lifelong fans because of the satisfying typing experience and range of benefits they get from using them. What makes mechanical keyboards so good for writers?

1. Accuracy

There’s nothing worse than trying to type fast on a chiclet keyboard where all the keys are flat and close together, and you’re forever hitting the key beside the one you want with the edge of your finger. Like the keys on a traditional typewriter, mechanical keyboard keycaps tend to be nicely contoured to help your finger naturally hit the centre of the key as you type, resulting in fewer typos.

2. Comfort

Mechanical keyboards require less force to type, and you don’t need to press the keys all the way down – only to the point of the click or the tactile bump. Membrane keyboards require you to “bottom out” each key complete the circuit, something that people often describe as a heavy, “mushy” typing experience, leading to fatigue in the fingers, hands and wrists.

3. Speed

Contoured, more responsive keys naturally lead to faster typing. Another benefit of mechanical keyboards is n-key rollover. Rollover is a technical term for how many simultaneous keypresses a keyboard can register accurately. Membrane keyboards often have a much lower rollover which results in “ghosting”. That’s when you’re typing flat out, your keystrokes overlap, and your keyboard registers extra keystrokes, resulting in additional “ghost” letters. Keyboards with n-key rollover can accurately register every keypress, regardless of how many keys you strike simultaneously, meaning you don’t have to slow down to improve accuracy or stop to fix ghosting typos.

4. Durability

Mechanical keyboards last a lot longer than their membrane counterparts. Rubber dome switches tend to lose their bounce after about five million keystrokes, and you’ll notice that some keys will become unreliable or stop working completely. In comparison, Cherry key switches are designed to last for fifty million keystrokes.

5. Customization

If you’ve got Cherry switches on your mechanical keyboard, you can swap out the keycaps for other styles. Gaming? Change your W, A, S, D keys to red, so they’re easier to locate quickly. Swap your function keys or numeric keypad to a contrasting color for extra style and visibility. Want to modify the feel of the keys? Grab a dampening kit to reduce the travel and key noise.

Ready to make the switch?

Freewrite Smart Typewriter

If you’re raring to write your next novel, article or poem on a mechanical keyboard, have a look at The Freewrite by Astrohaus - a smart typewriter that incorporates an industry-leading full-size mechanical keyboard into a portable device with an E-ink screen that works perfectly outdoors as well as indoors. A stand-alone writing tool, it contains none of the distractions of your desktop or laptop, but still has the ability to save your work to the Cloud. Designed especially for writers, the mechanical keyboard contains Cherry MX Brown switches which means not only will you be distraction-free, but so will everyone around you. Check out the Freewrite 2nd Generation Smart Typewriter for more information.

Related: Laptop vs. Freewrite


 

About the author:

Claire Wilkins is a freelance copywriter and editor from New Zealand. She loves to write about travel, health, home, and proper punctuation. After a career in financial services spanning almost three decades, Claire left the corporate world behind to start Unmistakable - her writing and editing business. She creates website copy, blogs, and newsletters for creative agencies and small businesses, and specializes in polishing existing content until it shines. In her spare time, Claire enjoys cloud-spotting, singing in the car and editing video. 

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There’s an age-old debate about the superior version of a story: Is it the book or the movie? Most readers and far too many writers will default to the idea that “the book was better.”

But was it? Was it really?

May 20, 2024 9 min read


Talking to Alex Kazemi doesn’t feel like talking to the guy who wrote 2023’s “most dangerous book of the year,” a book Ellen Hopkins calls “raucous, raunchy, and sure to offend.” And it certainly doesn’t feel like talking to Bret Easton Ellis’s “favorite millennial provocateur.”

It feels like talking to a friend I haven’t caught up with in a while. And my friends just aren’t that cool.


We’re chatting because Kazemi lives a ruthlessly offline lifestyle, a philosophy at the core of Freewrite and which Kazemi sees as necessary to being the best artist he can be. Having garnered a book deal at the tender age of 18, he knows a thing or two about life as an artist.

Kazemi released his first book, Pop Magick, an occult book about how to manifest, in 2020. “Madonna helped me launch that,” he says, casually mentioning one of the biggest pop stars of the twentieth century. “So, yeah, that was insane.”

But it wasn’t until the release of his first novel, New Millennium Boyz, nearly a decade in the making, that things got truly wild.

Kazemi’s unflinching look at Y2K culture and teenage boyhood reads like a horrifying screenplay — or the transcript of a violent AIM conversation between bored, lonely teenagers. Even before publication, the book faced criticism calling it dangerous, prompting the publisher to splash a content warning across the front matter, to Kazemi's extreme annoyance. Conservative American moms later flagged it for book bans, leaving the Canadian author baffled.

Was an honest look at the 90s and early ’aughts really worth all that uproar?

We sat down with Kazemi to discuss the driving force behind his portrayal of this often-glamorized time period, why he felt compelled to present this reality to modern audiences, and how in the world he lives an offline lifestyle in the year 2024.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 

 Mirror selfies without a smartphone

ANNIE COSBY: First things first. Are you a millennial?

ALEX KAZEMI: Yes. I was born in 1994, which means I’m on the cusp. I do not identify with any Zoomer qualities or tendencies at all.

COSBY: In general cultural discourse, millennials tend to get a bad rap – very infantilizing, even though some of us are 40. What's your take?

KAZEMI: I think it's pretty insane because we were dealt a really bad card, with the recession, jobs being lost, the digital age booming… Many of us still have memories of going to Blockbuster and, you know, AOL chat rooms and the early web. But then we watched everything go chronically online and digital through the 2010s. We watched technology and the information age replace a lot of skillsets. So we became a weird bunch, for sure.


COSBY: I do find it interesting that people glamorize that period specifically because it was the beginning of everything being online — so everybody's mistakes and drunken pictures are out there.

KAZEMI: Right? And we did it willingly.

COSBY: Oh God, the things I said to strange men in chat rooms.

KAZEMI: Me as well. And it’s so, so dark, because the internet has always been and will always be, even as we're adults and growing older, a mirror of our subconscious vomit. The frequencies we vibrated to when we were coming of age were more about exploration, and that's why there was so much stranger danger. There were so many scary scenarios that kids could get themselves into with the early web because of how unregulated it was, as well.

COSBY: Would you say New Millennium Boyz is a defense of the way we Millennials are? Or is it a commentary on how misremembered that era is?

KAZEMI: It's definitely a commentary. And it's supposed to be historical fiction, educating younger folks and also older generations about how, you know, this beautiful picture that you see of Rachael Leigh Cook from She's All That on TikTok? There was actually a lot of darkness and chaos going around, especially when it comes to very normalized racism, misogyny, and homophobia.

 

 

I find it very ironic that this new generation that is so fixated on social justice and evolution and freedom would fetishize the aesthetics of an era of true debauchery and chaos and cruelty — like really — which was mirrored in the art in that period. Look at 2000s teen movies! I just wanted to write a satire of that extreme teen genre, like Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen, Larry Clark's Bully, Spring Breakers...

My second motivation was to really look at boy culture in the post-Columbine era and how this was very much a prescient, predictive time of where we would end up with the alt-right and 4chan and “incels,” and how it's all connected.

And then of course exploring the romanticized aspect of Y2K — going to the mall, people wearing Marilyn Manson shirts, and the aesthetic obsession with it. I wanted to create the book I wanted to see in the world that I didn't feel existed yet.

COSBY: I’ve heard you talk about the misogyny of the “teen girls are bitches” trope. It's like, have you met boys? Have you been a teen boy talking to other teen boys?

KAZEMI: Oh, they're the biggest bitches. They're so cruel. You see the “mean girls” trope in tons of movies, like Jawbreaker, but it’s so strange how we don't ever look at the cruelty teenage boys face. And not just the cruelty but also the misguidedness and the culture that feeds that.

Especially in the 90s and 2000s, boys were so encouraged to be testosterone-driven and hyper-masculine. Woodstock 99 was such a great example of the chaos of too much of something – and it’s being talked about now because of the documentary.

COSBY: New Millennium Boyz really explores this violence inherent to 90s culture for boys, and because of that, it got a content warning, right?

KAZEMI: Yes. During the final cuts of the book, when we were in edits and copy edits, I got the call from my publisher that “So-and-So is not going to stock it without a content warning because they're really worried about how teenagers are going to react to the work and if they're going to reenact the behavior.”

And I was like, this is a cultural critique. It's not anything to be glamorized. I think anyone who reads it would understand that.

COSBY: Do you think we as humans always look back on past time periods with rose-colored glasses, or is there something special about Y2K?

KAZEMI: There's something really freaky about what we're doing with the 90s and 2000s. I don't think we've ever before been in a place, as humans, where corporations like Meta and TikTok can just algorithmically feed into us all the time.

A teenager in the 90s could fetishize the 70s or the 60s, but they could close the book when it was done or finish the movie and turn off the TV. But with Gen Z, and every generation now, we're just inundated every day with memes, photos, videos, and other people’s thoughts.

And I guess this 90s nostalgia is partly because it represents familiarity for people of a certain age, but even for the people who didn't live during that time, it seems to represent a kind of order, a sense of quietness — “Oh, 90210 is on at 9 p.m. and that's all there is.” No choices to make. There weren’t one billion options like kids today have.

COSBY: So you think people are viewing that period as a time of simplicity and unplugging, which we’re all kind of yearning for now?

KAZEMI: Yeah, and you certainly could unplug then, but you can unplug today, too — we're just brainwashed into thinking that we have no choice, that we have no free will. But it's totally not true. You could simulate Y2K if you wanted to! You just have to set a lot of boundaries.

COSBY: Like writing on a Freewrite.

KAZEMI: Yes! That’s why I write offline. Over the years, I’ve had different cool ways to do that. For a lot of my teenage years, I wrote in Apple Notes. Then, I ordered a BlackBerry off eBay and used it as a word processor for a while. I have a dead AlphaSmart here — rest in peace.

I feel like what's so crazy about Freewrite is a lot of people don't know that these products exist, which is a problem.

COSBY: It's also super polarizing. Without even trying it, some people are like, “What is this hipster thing?” Meanwhile, we get so many messages from new users saying, “What is this magic? I'm actually writing for the first time in years!” It's really interesting to see people's reactions. Tech is such a weirdly touchy subject.

KAZEMI: And a Freewrite is way better than a typewriter. I'm not fucking doing the ribbon, there's no time for that.

COSBY: Some people do though, right? Aren’t you friends with Matty Healy?

KAZEMI: Yes, yes. I told him about Freewrite. I love his songwriting. I love the 1975's lyrics. I love him as a literary mind.

COSBY: Alex. [heavy pause] Is he the one being referenced in the song?

KAZEMI: [rolls eyes] Honestly, I'm not really interested in all the gossip. I don't think great artists should be reduced to that.

COSBY: OK, that's fair. I think they're both great storytellers, too. And it would be so hard to live a creative life under that kind of microscope. On that note, your offline approach to life goes beyond writing, right? How does that work?

KAZEMI: Well, it definitely includes a lot of conscious boundaries that annoy a lot of people.

I’ve had a flip phone for a few years now, and I have a landline. When it comes to the internet and iMessage and emails, I try to do regulated “office hours” of screen time.

It's a very privileged position to be in, because a lot of people have to be on call all the time for work. But being disconnected definitely gives me more time for my mind to be free and creative and to write more.

COSBY: And this annoys people?

KAZEMI: Yeah, it drives everyone insane. It's a huge boundary I put in my life. People have to go through loopholes to contact me. But it's the only way that I can have a life as an artist and as a writer.

All of this technology can be a tool. There's nothing inherently bad with the tools that exist on the Internet. It's just the compulsivity and the addictive mentality we have with it that creates this chaos for us as writers and artists.

COSBY: You've mentioned being on Tumblr before, back in the day — are you on social media now?

KAZEMI: No, I'm not. Sometimes I have to look at it on friends' phones to get a person's email or something like that, but no, I don't have social media. It's so scary, the pressure of having to perform or turn my most personally valuable things into currency — to monetize it. It just feels weird. I'm not into it. I'm not into it.

And when you're online so much, you're like, “I don't have to be doing this. Why am I doing this?” That's where that punishing feeling of addiction comes in. A lot of us, when we are in those spirals, we don't even really even want to be there. There isn't a sense of agency or control.

It's a loss of control.

And I think that submission of when you are looking at other people's work, what they’re doing, and you're scrolling, scrolling, it just creates a huge sense of inadequacy and darkness.

COSBY: It's interesting to me because time goes so much faster when I’m scrolling — and I feel the same way when I get really into something I'm writing.

KAZEMI: Like a flow state.

COSBY: Exactly! It’s complete absorption. But scrolling doesn’t make me feel good after, the way creating does.

KAZEMI: It’s like a black market, counterfeit flow state. A heroin flow state.


So I guess the question is: How can we induce positive, offline flow states?

COSBY: Isn't that the question. How do you do it?

KAZEMI: I find that just setting boundaries is so important. You have free will over your boundaries. This idea that we have no sense of agency and have to give all of our energy and life force to these corporations zapping us is just so crazy and unfair.

But when you bring up these things to certain people, they can't even fathom living without their online habits.

COSBY: Yeah, it has to be a conscious choice.

KAZEMI: You have to ask yourself:

"OK, am I going to just sublimate myself to be a consumer of everyone else's content? Or am I going to be a creator and produce?”

COSBY: Most of us know which one we want to be.

KAZEMI: You have to know which one you want to be.

COSBY: Any last words for the creators out there?

KAZEMI: For creators and artists and writers who are overwhelmed by information overload and the prospect of putting your work out there, just know there is an audience for your work. Just stay focused and don't be discouraged. You’ll find your place in the weird world.

--

Annie Cosby is the Marketing Manager at Freewrite, a former fiction editor, and the author of seven books — and counting. Her work deals with Celtic mythology and has twice won the YA Indie Author Project in Missouri. See what she's writing on Freewrite.

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It’s no secret that Taylor Swift is one of the biggest players in music right now. (Maybe one of the biggest ever.) As a lyricist, she’s enthralled audiences worldwide, but did you know she’s also woven a subtle tapestry of literary references throughout her discography?

Whether you love her or hate her (we’re talking to you, dads, Brads, and Chads) you’ll be impressed with these hidden literary references in Swift’s songs…