Mark Andrews: The secret to unbridled joy? It's all in the switches
I guess I can't really claim it as an exclusive, as presumably it will have been released to other media around the world.
But as far as I am aware, it appears to have so far escaped the attention of The Sun, the Daily Mail, Sky, CNN and Abberley Village News. So chances are, you read it here first.
All the way from Germany comes breaking news: Cherry MX, the originator of the mechanical keyboard switch, has proudly unveiled its new MX2A, which is claimed to be by far the best MX full-size switch in the world.
Now I personally thought the OmniPoint adjustable took some beating, and I am informed that the Gateron Lekker also puts up a pretty strong fight. But according to the press release which has just dropped into my inbox, the MX2A represents the 'pinnacle in mechanical switch performance' thanks to 'Cherry's unwavering commitment to innovation, meticulous engineering, and superior quality'.
My first thought on reading the press release was that it speaks volumes about Teutonic attention to detail that they get so excited about a humble electrical switch. Aren't they pretty much of a muchness? And what is the 'pinnacle of mechanical switch performance'? Don't they just turn things on and off?
Well, according to the experts at PC Magazine – I think that's the one all the spotty men in corduroy trousers stand around reading in W H Smith – dismissive attitudes like mine could be having a seriously detrimental impact on my quality of life.
Now given that I spend something like 60 hours a week hammering away at a computer keyboard, you might think I would be pretty knowledgeable about the subject. But it never really occurred to me that 'a mechanical keyboard can be a daily driver that gives you joy every time you sit down in front of it'.
Maybe that's why I seldom experience joy when I sit down at my computer screen first thing in the morning. Usually it's just frustration as to why I need so many passwords to get into the thing, followed by exasperation as to why it doesn't do what I want it to once I've cranked the thing up. And then having to switch on and off three or four times to deal with all the different glitches which the people who read PC Magazine would doubtless explain to me in great detail.
Oh, and once all that's out of the way, it's another half hour deleting the hundreds of emails which have been sent from other computers during the hours I have been away from my computer. Including press releases about new switches.
Anyway, thanks to the esteemed publication PC Mag, I now know why this joy has been eluding me for so many decades. It is because I've been using the wrong key switches.
"Fail to consider which type of switch is right for you, and you could be robbing yourself of years of comfort, function, and style," the magazine warns. And failing to consider my switches I have done indeed.
I failed to consider how 'the key feel can keep you motivated through a long work day writing up those TPM reports and tapping out endless e-mails'. Whatever a TPM report is.
PC Magazine waxes lyrical about different key switches the way Oz Clarke portrays fine wines, or how Jeremy Clarkson goes into raptures about a multi-million supercar.
It tells me how, in the last few years, 'underlying technology in mechanical keyboards has exploded in complexity, to an extent, driven by marketing and extreme segmentation catering to keyboard enthusiasts'. Keyboard enthusiasts? There's two words I never expected to see used together.
"With so many choices, picking the right mechanical keyboard can be overwhelming," it adds.
The problem is, anybody who has ever shared an office with me will testify that my technique probably doesn't lend itself to the nuances appreciated by the keyboard connoisseurs who read PC Magazine. It's a running joke among colleagues that I've never quite mastered the transition from manual typewriters, and hammer away like a drop forge at whatever keyboard I've been given.
Those girls who sat behind Dickie Davies on World of Sport have got nothing on me.
So maybe it is time for me to consider my keyboards and switches more, although I suspect the subtleties of the Cherry MX2A will be rather wasted on me.
I think my ideal key switch will be made of cast iron, and would replicate the feel and precision of a 1925 Underwood Standard Typewriter.