I’ve been getting questions and comments about my Armenian keyboard picture lately. So, it’s probably time to write a post about it!
The Armenian language has its own alphabet. This means, Armenians either have to memorize the places of the letters, use a roughly phonetic layout matching the Latin letters, or stick labels on every key. Needless to say, sticking labels will soon get very messy, some of them will be lost, leaving the keyboard with glue residue all over.
While I haven’t encountered any (I have searched), I’m sure there must be printed keyboards available in Armenia. But, those will likely be generic cheap keyboards. So, how to achieve something very custom looking and unique like this?
The key terms are: “mechanical keyboard”, “custom keycaps”.
Mechanical keyboards are a world of their own, with serious communities and many hobbyists. Moreover, there seems to be a boom in YouTube channels lately.
To get an idea about what it encompasses, the Mechanical Keyboards subreddit is probably the best place to start, with lots of pictures and information.
While I do own four such keyboards, I wouldn’t consider myself a hobbyist yet, and I’m certainly not an expert. So, I will try to stick to the basics, and not give incomplete or false information. Mechanical keyboards can be costly, and they require individual research and a bit of understanding before diving into them.
Probably the most important and defining component of a keyboard are the switches. There are three main categories, clicky, tactile and linear. Going into all the differences and people’s preferences is a huge task, so this part is left to every person to do their own research. These days, there are thousands of videos, demonstrating every switch ever made.
The keyboard in the picture is a “Vortexgear Poker 3 (Pok3r)” with “Cherry MX Clear” tactile switches.
Mechanical Keyboards are very customizable. Almost all of them, regardless of the switch type, will have replaceable keycaps.
Keycaps are sold separately, and as long as they are compatible with your switches, they will be replaceable. For example, Cherry and its compatible switches will work with their corresponding keycaps.
Other than the compatibility, there is another important factor to consider, and that is the keycap profile. For example, there are keycaps where all the rows are of identical heights and sizes (like DSA), and others where each row is different.
However, we want a bit more than replacement keycaps, since we want to design our own labels. We need keycap sellers, that also provide services for printing custom labels. One such seller is WASD, which is where I got mine from. They sell these keycaps either separately, or together with a keyboard.
Finally, a note about the layout.
I thought a lot about what layout to go for, especially since the keys cannot be rearranged due to the differing heights of the rows. In the end, I went with “Western Phonetic”, because this is not the only keyboard I use, and on keyboards with no printed letters the phonetic one is the easiest to remember.
Others can of course do their own layouts, whether it be “Eastern Phonetic”, the traditional “Typewriter”, or something else.
In conclusion, I would love to see many more such keyboards! I claim that this is the only exclusive Armenian one, but if you have made your own Armenian keyboard, I would like to see it as well :) Feel free to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.