Core, A Keyboard Story

It has been ages since writing about any new gear on these pages. At one point I realized I probably wasn’t adding much to the bloated conversations on tech and new things in general and slowed my pace to more or less zero. One more opinion just didn’t really seem all that relevant somehow, but today I thought it would be fun to jump back into this space and gush about a new toy that I am excited by and found myself totally in love with at first click. A mechanical keyboard.

I know I am pretty late to the game, and for ages I wrote off the trend as little more than another thing geeks could geek out about, a needless accessory, but this past winter when I was visiting Seoul I made the mistake of casually walking up to a hearty section of mechanical keyboards in the tech section of a bookstore thinking to myself “oh hey, lets see what all the fuss is about,” as I approached the table. It took all of 30 seconds to fall for the charm and addictive feeling of the clicky keys tapping away underneath my fingers. The subtle joy of the experience lingered in my mind for quite some time.

My casual brush with those keyboards planted a seed in the back of my head that slowly grew into enough of a curiosity to poke my head into a few user forums and watch a handful of YouTube videos to listen and learn more about this close knit group of keyboard lovers. Through this I discovered the many different switches, keycaps, build styles, and layouts available. Part of my initial distaste for mechanical keyboards was their size. I move around a lot and rarely have time to sit down in one work space for too long so I wanted something portable so I could put it to use while on the go.

Once I started to pay attention to the different layouts and varieties of keyboards available my interest peaked quite a bit. The 60 percent keyboards seemed small and portable enough for the most part and they do have a layout similar to what I’ve grown used to over the years on MacBooks but overall they were still a little big for a casual every day carry scenario where it would need to live in my backpack most of the time. What really hooked my imagination after learning more about them were the little 40 percent boards which were unique in a way that sucked me right in.

Tiny, adorable, but still fully loaded. The fact that most of the functionality lay behind modifier keys and layers seemed a little confusing at first but the more I thought about it the more I felt OK with it. I use a lot of shortcuts when using my MacBook and I have for years so what would be the big deal in learning a few new ones for less used keys like numbers and some punctuation.

Many keyboard lovers seem to consider these tiny wonders an outlier among the wider cinematic universe of mechanical keyboards, as thought they are maybe more of a novelty or strictly for light usage. While I could see that being true for the type of people that are the core demographic of this world, I myself found a perfect match in these tiny boards.

My needs personally are to have something well suited for writing posts, journal entries, emails, and other longer form writing. I am perfectly happy not having a row for numbers or function keys and the few odd punctuation marks used fairly often like apostrophes, question marks, etc. are not really all that difficult to get to and my fingers have adjusted to finding them when I need them.

Let me take a step back, I should mention which little keyboard I picked up, the Vortex Core. The Taiwanese manufacturer has a glowing base of happy users of their Poker line of 60 percent keyboards and when I stumbled across their adorable and affordable little prebuilt Core I knew I had found a perfect way to jump in, especially with its current cost which is quite a bit lower than they seem to have once been.

So how does it feel to use it? I adore it. Typing with a mechanical keyboard is like taking the side of my brain that needs something to fidget with while I think and feeds it with entertainment while I focus on writing. The feeling makes me want to write more because it’s such a joy to use and I find myself getting lost in the feeling. While reading about these before picking one up I kept seeing reviewers teasing the company for its slogan but I adore it, “enjoy your feeling,” its perfectly apt for a mechanical keyboard product and captures everything I love about it.

I will say this about the 40 percent style layout as it stands on many keyboards, I can’t for the life of me figure out why they could not have designed these one key space wider and included the apostrophe and question mark keys. While I have quickly gotten used to the new shortcuts I still wonder, as creative as this community feels to me why are there not a wider variety of PCB boards from different creators pushing possible layouts in more directions. The closest I have come across to what I would want in a perfect world are in the “ortholinear” keyboards which use an aligned grid of mostly single spaced keys, a layout I am curious about because of its flexibility, but I’m not sure how far down this rabbit hole I want to allow myself to go in.

It’s a hobbyists dream for sure and I completely understand the addiction some people have to having fun with the many different choices out there. Worth noting here also is the programability of the Core which is there, hiding on different user definable layers, but I have not thought of a reason just yet to experiment with this so I can’t offer any comments on this part of its functionality.

Which brings us to the little details about the Core, and perhaps mechanical keyboards in general, that I love so much, starting with the switches. Based on everything I have read what I really wanted was a version of this board that had Cherry MX Clear switches but had to compromise and get Brown switches instead. Both are whats considered a tactile switch meaning there is a second component of the switch aside from the spring which gives it a subtle, tactile bump as a key press is activated. The clears offer a slightly heavier feel and a little more resistance than the browns which is why I wanted them because I like the idea of having a little bit more weight to the keypress.  I like the nuance of the amount of pressure it takes to trigger the key so I am able to clack away quickly or type more gently when I need to be a bit quieter.

The sound of the Browns are just enough to be satisfying and give a nice, almost hypnotic ambience to the typing experience that I quite love. The reason I ended up with browns  because I could not find any Cores in stock with clear switches anywhere, most likely because they seems to be among the most popular switches overall for a lot of people and initial stocks must have run dry.

Then there are the keycaps. I like the vintage looking cream/beige colors and love that they took advantage of this being a prebuilt board with default settings so they could sneak in a cheat sheet for the modifier/fn keys on the front edge of each key. I hear there are versions of this set that also have the third layer of hidden keys labeled with additional punctuation etc. but again, I find myself quickly remembering where things are overall and the more I use it the quicker I get using it. They have a nice solid feel to them and just a slight texture that I like quite a lot.

My favorite part of this board in general though is the size, I am able to store it conveniently inside an old wireless mic bag for safe keeping and keep it around with me everywhere I go. Really, if it weren’t for these tiny bezel-less keyboards that are so easy to travel with I don’t think I would have ended up buying into the idea.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend this keyboard to anyone that does not like shortcuts or has trouble with them. It is almost guaranteed to frustrate if that’s the case, but if your like me and don’t mind this, I can happily give a glowing recommendation for this fun little keyboard. You can find them for under $100 now which is a heck of a deal considering the cost of components in general when building your own keyboard and the quality of its build straight out of the box.

Have any questions? I’m no keyboard aficionado but I would be happy to help if I can, feel free to leave a comment below if that’s the case. At this point I am only still writing because I love using this keyboard so much I don’t want to stop, the gentle clack underneath my fingers is such a weirdly visceral joy. It’s hard to fully explain but it sure does make typing feel good. I love that. Enjoy your feeling and I will see you next time.

No comments yet.

Leave A Reply

To whom it may concern,

IMAGES FOUND WITHIN FIFTYFOOTSHADOWS.NET ARE ©JOHN CAREY AND MAY NOT BE USED FOR ANY COMMERCIAL USE WITHOUT PERMISSION. 

DO:

• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share fiftyfootshadows.net with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.

DON’T:

• Post desktops elsewhere online.
• Share links directly to images.
• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics. (send a quick email to ask, I’m pretty easy going about this with permission.)
• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J

——

By downloading any content from fiftyfootshadows.net you agree to the following terms:

All of the images contained within this website, fiftyfootshadows.net, are property of, John Carey unless otherwise posted. The images are distributed as freeware but they are available for personal use only on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone as your wallpaper image. Any use of these images for any purpose other than this is a violation of these terms and anyone found using said images will be asked to either compensate the creator for doing so or be asked to stop using them immediately.

I ask that you refrain from using any images found on fiftyfootshadows.net to create physically printed material of any kind. This includes posters, photographic prints, fliers, etc. Under no circumstances may you make a physical reproduction without written permission.

These rules also apply for any artwork or imagery submitted and shown within this site which was created by an artist aside from myself. Any images submitted and shared as wallpapers are the property of the artist who created them and in the same manner as my images, you are asked to receive permission before using them in any way aside from their intended use. Any use of these images outside of for your own personal use as a desktop wallpaper image is prohibited without permission from the author of the image. Commercial licensing is available upon request. Please write with any inquiries.

When sharing images via your personal blogs I kindly ask that you link back directly to either the post the image was taken from or the base of the website at www.fiftyfootshadows.net and give a credit to www.fiftyfootshadows.net. Do not re-post full resolution desktop images anywhere without permission. If you would like to use an image for your blog background or something of the sort simply write to ask first. Support the artwork you admire! Also, it is greatly appreciated if you do NOT link directly to the zip files. This is more or less the same as re-posting them as it circumvents the tiny bit of support I ask of you which is to simply link back to the original post for others to enjoy the site.

It’s not fair to artists if you do not credit their work and link back to the original content creator. It is theft plain and simple and blogs that attempt to somehow be mysterious by not giving credit to the creators are simply hurting the artistic community as a whole. If you love it so much then please, support it! The artistic community on the Internet is based on trust. Without trust then what do we have? are you going to be one of the responsible users out there or will you be among the bottom feeders, stealing content and passing it off as your own to make a quick buck in ad sales.

Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)

fiftyfootshadows.net

fiftyfootshadows@gmail.com