My blank Das Keyboard Model S has pretty much had its last run. Purchased last March, it had seen the last of my days as a smoker and consequentially the switches have become a little gummy. Now that everyone and their uncle has a blank keyboard I pondered what would have the same level of bad-assery while being unique. Thanks to WASD Keyboards‘ custom laser etching and engraving it’s now easy and affordable for anyone to design their own keycaps and it didn’t take me very long to think of using bar codes.
WASD lets you choose from a selection of mechanical Cherry MX switches; I stuck with the Blues because they’re what I know and love. You also get to choose from a range of keycap colours; using their flash-based keyboard designer it’s easy to mix and match to get your ideal colour coding. The etched (contrasting colour) or engraved (indented) design can also be done in the flash designer but for full customization PDFs, Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw documents based on provided templates are accepted. This is the route I would have to take to get bar codes.
Not knowing anything about Illustrator before diving in, my alignments are a little off in some places but not to the point where it’s noticeable. To make things go swiftly I used a font rather than generating individual bar codes for each key. Since Code 128 requires start, stop and check characters (which would take up far too much space on many keys) none of these bar codes are scannable with a bar code reader but the font does create valid individual character codes. Ideally, characters should be converted to objects before submission but being useless with Illustrator I submitted the font in my order comments and the staff were kind enough to play along and install it. You can grab your copy at http://k-fox.net/code128.ttf
Much to my surprise my order was already being worked on the evening it was submitted and it shipped two days later. That’s some seriously fast turnaround for any sort of custom order. The keyboard itself is built like a tank and I’m overjoyed at the feel of my fresh, clean Cherry Blues!
Great job, WASD – you’ve landed a repeat customer.