Aquarius

Mechanical Keyboard

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Abstract:

The Aquarius II came with a mechanical keyboard, whereas the more common Aquarius (1) only had a "chicklet" keyboard, which by most accounts is miserable to use. To provide a better typing experience and a more open upgrade path, this is a replacement keyboard built with commonly available components.

Background

Ooph, the Aquarius chicklet keyboard sucks. It's uncomfortable to type on, it's not accurate, and it's prone to wearing out. Today, people build custom keyboards all the time using Cherry MX switches, custom keycaps in a rainbow of colors, and special PCBs and switch holder panels that give users complete control of the layout of their most-used input device. I want to build an Aquarius Mechanical Keyboard that honors both the style of the original chicklet keyboard AND the rarely seen Aquarius II keyboard. It will be completely compatible with the existing keyboard format, but I will update the connector to use DuPont female pin headers rather than the terrible plastic ribbon edge connector.

One note: people keep asking if I can make an interface that allows users to plug in a standard ______ keyboard (USB, PS/2, Mac, etc.) to the Aquarius. I can, but that's not the project I'm working on. If you REALLY want to have a great typing experience on an Aquarius, use an emulator and map the keys to a "sane" mode that match your current keyboard layout. There are several USB/PS2-HID-to-matrix-keyboard products out there that could be adapted. Knock yourself out.

Development progress

  • I have sintered all the blue keycaps using white powder coat paint. There is some misalignment in the letters when I have to make more than one pass, so I'll have to develop a more secure way of holding the keys in the jig, getting a light dusting of powder on them, and being able to repeat the process without there being any significant shift between dustings/sinterings.
  • I'm working on a final PCB for the electronics, but I have to update the position of a couple components.
  • I will likely also use a PCB as the switch layer, as it's cheap and accurate to have a custom PCB serve that purpose (US$10 versus US$60).